We couldn’t visit the Gold Coast without a trip to Point Danger Lighthouse. It was always our first stop. As kids, my sisters and I thought it was very cool that you could stand with one foot in Queensland and the other in NSW.
Mum and I stood in the middle of the lighthouse platform, with one foot in each state and looked up, taking in the impressive height of the structure.
“Do you think this is the most phallic lighthouse you’ve ever seen?” Mum asked, laughing.
“I’m not sure; I haven’t seen many,” I said.
“Are we still talking about lighthouses here?”
Other tourists were now taking a wide birth around us because we could not stop laughing. Very few people could make me laugh till I cried. Mum was one of them.
“Sure is a beautiful view — isn’t it,” I said. Trying to pull myself together.
“It sure is,” Mum said.
“You’re here!” Kylie yelled from her front door, clapping her hands as we pulled into her driveway. “Did you drive past your old stomping grounds?”
“You know me, can’t drive all the way up here without driving by the lighthouse, my old flat and Cooli beach,” I said.
Kylie made her way over to the car and gave me a big hug. I patted her very round belly gently and said, ‘You look like you’re ready to pop.”
“I am, any day now. Thanks for noticing.” She laughed.
“Hello, darlin’,” Mum said, “How’s Lynne?”
“Mum’s doin’ it a bit tough, Aunty Dolly. For her, not being here for the birth is almost as bad as having Chemo, I think. I know she feels better knowing you’ll be here.”
Mum gave Kylie an extra squeeze.
“Where’s Kenny?” I asked as we unpacked the car.
“He’s gone to the shops to pick up some groceries. He’s doing his
Tuesday Night Bakey on Saturday night just for you two.”
“I love Tuesday night bakey; he is the only one that gives your bake dinner a run for its money Mum.” I laughed.
“I know, but don’t tell Kenny he’ll get a big head,” Mum said.
“Too late,” Kylie and I said simultaneously, laughing.
As it turned out, little Lochie took my entire two-week holiday to come into the world — ten days late. When we weren’t helping Kylie try to find ways to hurry him along, Mum and I frequented cafes and shopped in as many thrift stores as we could find while we waited.
Being with Kye and Ken was an honour as they became a family of three. Lochie was perfect, but because he was in no hurry Mum and I had to leave them the day after he was born. I had to get home to work.
I was home for two days when Bren rang and asked if we could catch up on the weekend. He was thinking of Black Head Beach on Saturday. He was single and wanted to take me out. I said yes.
One week after our first date, he surprised me at Mum and Dad’s. It was 7 am. He had just surfed Crowdy South Side and said he couldn’t drive past our house without calling in. He hadn’t met Mum or Dad yet. Today seemed like the perfect day to fix that.
I was still in bed and heard his Volkswagen Beetle pull up outside. Heart thumping, I knew I had about 30 seconds before he knocked on the door. Mum would answer and stall him. I jumped out of bed with wild, Crowdy hair sticking up in all directions. I never could find a hairband when I needed one.
I could hear Mum and Bren chatting on the veranda as I dashed about madly, holding.
my hair up in what would have been a high ponytail if only I could find a bloody hairband.
“Cal, it’s for you,” Mum said, not quite yelling. The house wasn’t that big.
Bugger! Shit! Piss! I walked to the door, still holding my hair up with my hand. Bren’s eyes grew wide when he saw me. He was probably thinking, shit, what have I done. Then they crinkled at the edges, and he smiled.
“Hi,” he said.
“Hi,” I said.
I stood before him, holding my hair in a bandless ponytail, smiling like a crazy person in my oldest torn and tattered nightshirt. I had owned it for exactly half my life. Navy and white stripe with a red line drawing of sleepy beside a deep v-neck was threadbare, full of holes and had one sleeve hanging on by a thread. I was very attached to it — I’d bought it with my first pay cheque when I was fifteen. It fell to mid-thigh and showed off a pair of tanned and toned legs. That I wasn’t unhappy about.
We ate coco pops on the veranda of Mum and Dad’s little fishing cottage, looking out over Crowdy Bay, chatting about how we would spend the day. Dad wandered out to say hello. For two men of few words, they made easy conversation.
That was it. Bren had met Mum and Dad and already knew my older sister Sue, her husband Mike and their four gorgeous little girls. Actually, he knew them before he knew me. He would meet my younger sister Deb and her boyfriend Andy in a week or so when they came home from Sydney. He was family from day one. We had been ‘officially’ dating for one week and were inseparable from that day.
Almost a year after Bren met my parents, I met his Mum and Dad. He was competing in his first short-course triathlon, and it was a beautiful, crisp morning in Port Macquarie. His Mum and Dad had come to watch him compete. I was too nervous to notice how well he had done in the race because I was worried about meeting them. Bren had forewarned me many times in the months prior that they would take a bit of getting to know me. I told him not to worry — I was great with parents.
When the race finished, Bren ran up to me and gave me a sweaty bear hug — he said, ‘that was fun,’ and shook his hair, making sweat go everywhere, laughing as I dodged it. We were still laughing when his Mum and Dad walked up to us.
“This is Callie,” he said, beaming. “Cal, this is my Mum and dad, Margaret and Len.”
They smiled and nodded in my direction. My smile stuck on, so no one saw my nervousness; I listened intently to the conversation as Bren was asked many questions about the race. He asked if they wanted to join us for lunch, but they couldn’t. Len had to return to feed the farm animals, and it was a one-hour drive home. They hugged Bren goodbye and left.
“Well, that was painless,” he said as he tucked into an orange quarter, balancing two more in the hand he was pushing his bike. Swinging a backpack onto his back, he loosely wrapped his free arm around my shoulders as we made our way to the car.
“Yeah!” I said, my smile still frozen in place. “Pretty painless.”
This would begin many awkward moments over the next few years as we got to know one another. I often felt like I was on the back foot with Bren’s family. A square peg in a round hole. I found it hard to fit in. I berated myself many times after visits for being too chatty, not chatty enough, too opinionated, and not having enough to say. I couldn’t find my groove in their tight-knit group. It felt strange — I considered myself a people person but felt I was coming across as unlikeable. I didn’t know how to fix it. Or if it was even me that could fix it.
“It’ll be hard for them to get to know you if you’re not being yourself around them,” Bren said. We had been together for over a year, and I had just met his sister and brother for the first time. They had come home for a pre-Christmas get-together as neither would be home on the holiday. Bren was absolutely right; I had to be myself.
“I know,” I said, “I just get nervous around them. After all, your Mum and Dad think I broke up your imaginary wedding.” I grimaced as I spoke. “It would help if they knew that wasn’t true.”
“I shouldn’t have to tell them that. They should know I wouldn’t cheat. Anyway, I’m glad your oldies have been easy,” he laughed.
“Yeah, well, they’re unique. They’ve always been easygoing; that’s why they can’t get rid of us. And Crowdy — Crowdy’s a good drawcard to get you out there for a visit.”
“Yes, it is,” he laughed. “The main drawcard.”
“I thought I was the main drawcard card.”
“Depends how big the surf is,” he said, grabbing me and tickling me till I yelled for him to stop. I have an adverse reaction to being tickled, and the tormenter in him loved that reaction.
“Your family really liked your Ex, yeah?”
“Yep, you’re the boobie prize,” he said, laughing as he took one in each hand playfully — jiggling them as much as he could a B-Cup. “My favourite kind of prize.”
“Thanks — I think?”
“They’ll love you just like I do, eventually, promise.”
And there it was! The L-word.
Everything would be alright.