Two days before my birthday my sister June gives me a special lunch. “Shall we say Grace?” she asks? “You say it Patty.”
“No sis, off you go.”
She bows her head, we hold hands. She begins...
“For what we are about to receive may the Lord make us truly thankful. Please bless Patty, who has been a real pain for most of her life, and smile gently upon her this year.”
My sister June loves me with such passion her voice breaks as she speaks.
I say nothing, (too stunned to speak) apart from Amen, and I bless myself. I obviously need all the help I can get!
There’s a spotlight shining right.between my.eyes. It’s 4.10am and the local kookaburras are creating their daily dawn service. In the old white house across the still-dark valley, someone has left on their backyard spotty, and it’s keeping me awake. I lay still, burying my face in the marshmallow pillow, and begin to plan buying a gun, raising the scope to my eye and gently squeezing the trigger.
I just shot someone. I re-think the situation. Maybe not using bullets, perhaps pots of black paint, yes, that’s it, I’ll shoot tins of thick black, gooey paint at the spotlight.
It drips slowly down in the darkness, just as my evil half-awake, half-asleep mind plotted. Revenge is mine! I snuggle into the darkness once more. The kookaburras run out of puff, and the dawn chorus baton is passed to the magpie family.
I watch the continuous slideshow of colours behind my eyes until finally my lids spring open. I’m awake. Its 4.30am, time to rise and start my birth day.
Chris suggests croissants for breakfast, and I readily agree, sounds perfect. I grab a few more minutes of needed sleep as he drives to the shops, and prepares them for us. To my surprise, when he comes into the bedroom with our food, I find he has also pulled the cork on champagne. Irresistible! We toast to each other, and sip greedily.
9am. Driving my old 4wd to the local café, my car whines like a whelping dingo. Everyone hears me coming before they can lay their eyes on the annoying noise. Walking toward the Java Lounge, I see her first. Fiona. Tall, strong, athletic body, her cropped brunette hair hangs just above her eyes in an enticing fringe. We have been friends for over 21 years, saving our lovely birth hospital together, with another mate, CJ.
We laugh and hug gently: “I’m sick!” she pleads, and she coughs for effect and blows her nose. CJ is late, of course, but we know and forgive her, it’s her signature. What on earth would we do if she was on time? It’s unfathomable.
Hot tea in large red polka dotted cups, cappuccinos, fresh juice. We discuss the Queensland floods, the weather in general; most of the world’s problems and very few of our own. We discuss in great detail why men grow beards until finally wikepedia is researched, and the answer is inconclusive. Deciding it’s simply because they can, other topics are discussed in detail. Our Christmas cooking, decorations, and the funeral of a close, loved friend. We enjoy each other’s company, and the three of us take turns to cough and hack and blow.
CJ has made me her best shortbread kisses, beautifully presented in a candy striped pink gift bag, and a card which reads: “Ain’t no mountain high enough”.
I questioned her. “What does this mean?”
She sings the song: Ohh, Ain’t no mountain high enough, ain’t no valley wide enough, ain’t no river wide enough, to keep me away from youoooo.
“Always a song in your heart” says Fiona.
I love these women.
My phone rings. My Blackberry tells me it’s my old friend Graham B but I’m praying that it isn’t, as I attended - and filmed his funeral - last year. I must change the contact profile to his wife’s name! During breakfast I answer more mobile calls and respond to the sms birthday messages friends and family leave me. We take photos, we finish breakfast. We look for pearls in shop windows, and finally go our separate ways home.
11.30am. Sofa shopping in Freedom. I stretch out on a red leather lounge I can’t afford.
I hand my phone to the sales girl: "Can you take my photo please? It’s my birthday,” as if that excuses everything. My oldest friends Sue and David ring me, and I sit at the table on a white leather chair I would never buy and chat to them for a good 20 minutes. They have dodged a flood bullet in Rockhampton, their property is safe from the mighty Fitzroy River - so far so good.
"I have two words to say to you David: Levy bank!"
It’s great to catch up and hear their familiar voices, Dave softly chuckling in the background, as is his way.
12.45pm. On the phone to my sister June. My front door bell rings with urgency. Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! A uniformed delivery man stands there grinning, holding a large bunch of stunning yellow lilies. Curiously, each stem is wrapped in its own plastic bag, to retain the moisture and keep them fresh.
I take a photo of this, after I read the card – To Mum, Happy Birthday, Charlie and Michelle.
So sweet, thanks.
1pm. Lunch with my eldest son. We take umbrellas to guard against the huge blue spot on the weather radar. It’s beginning to rain heavily, and I note with dismay that I’ll probably be mopping out my downstairs bedroom by the afternoon. We drive to the Black Cat Bookshop, parking right outside. Walking in, both Lockie and I turn to each other with huge grins; this bookshop is a place of many memories and happy times. We hug unaffectedly in delight.
I’m a little confused, as there are 6 people in black behind the café counter, and not one of them seems to know what they are doing. Two men huddle over a docket. One woman looks at us both, and turns away. Where is Diane? Who are all these people?
We both choose Moussaka, and when our orders are placed the young girl looks blankly at me.
“The what…? What do you want?” she asks. “Moussaka, please. Two lots, thanks.” and we point just to make sure she understands.
“Oh, that stuff? I’ve never heard of Moussaka!” she mutters. We try not to giggle at her.
Eventually we sit, and chat. I rub my nose in conversation…is that a pimple? Rushing to the bathroom, I give it a quick squeeze, and it bleeds like a stuck pig. I have to wet a paper towel and hold it to my face for a good three minutes, trying not to burst out laughing. So silly! Young enough to still get pimps! *sighs
Later, at home, Lockie offers to blow my driveway and courtyard in exchange for a glass of champagne. Deal!
The house sparkles with his love and attention. I take photos of him working. Happy days.
He presents me with a beautiful silver Parker pen. ‘Every good writer deserves a good pen” he tells me.
5pm. My mother tells me she loved going for morning tea this morning to celebrate her Birth Day too. We laugh and I love how she engages with my day, it’s her day too and the joy continues.
In the evening with Chris; Spanish tapas, bookshop exploring, Rose wine with roasted garlic.
New experiences for he and I. We buy tickets to see The King’s Speech movie, and are delighted in our enjoyment of it. Night time at home, after chocolate Belgium gelato at Rosalie, I watch Fiddler on the Roof.
It’s been a wonderful day, thankyou all so much for being such a special part of it for me.