• Stephanie Hammond

Joys come unexpectedly

I am amazed and grateful how Life has have given me some wonderful opportunities for growth and joy. And I’m more amazed at how often I looked at those opportunities and screamed out “No!! Not me!” I’ve had the chance to reflect on these lately: the opportunity and my response.

My daughter Phoebe is writing her memoir about a family trip we took when she was eight years old. I’ve read her draft and my own memories of that wonderful time came flooding back. In 1974, we took our little family of two adults and five children on a caravan trip around Australia.

I was scanning the photos of our trip for her and every photo held its own memory for me. And to think we may not have had that experience, that I might not have had that experience because this was one of those opportunities Life presented and I said “No!!”. In fact, what I actually said at the time was: “Over my dead body!”

Phoebe says it diplomatically - “decisions in our family were not based on a democracy”. She tells of how surprised the children were to wake one morning to see a caravan in our yard. She didn’t know that that was the first I knew of it as well. My husband had decided it would be a good thing to do to buy a 17’6” caravan and a new Holden Kingswood Station wagon to tow it. He also decided it would be good to lease our home out for a year and set off with me and our five kids in tow and have a working holiday around Australia. This is actually well known as every Australian’s dream. And it was mine too - just not then, not with five children, the oldest of the youngest three not yet four-years-old. I’m sure he would have mentioned how good it would be to do such a trip. I’m equally sure I would have agreed. And that there was no further discussion - I’m equally sure about.

If you’ve read my other blog posts you’ll know I’ve lived a lot of life afraid of so many things that now seem to be such an easy and good part of life. I look forward to the adventures that come, in fact I need adventure to feed my soul. But in 1974 I hadn’t got there yet. I was 27 and the prospect of caring for my little brood in strange places freaked me out. I’d only ever been outside Queensland once before, by bus to Melbourne to my girlfriend’s wedding. I can feel the fear rise up as it did then at the prospect of meeting new people, being alone with only myself for adult company, without friends to help me cope. Oh I was aware that I got courage from being surrounded by and supported by others.

Six weeks after the first glimpse of the caravan, we were on the road. And I wasn’t dead. And I coped. In fact, the day to day caring for the family in a small confined space was easy. Meeting others wasn’t too hard while the sun shone and the children played with other children. Their parents were always willing to chat too. And I developed strategies for talking to others. I learned that about myself - my need for others was stronger than my fears.

And the joy that came. I look back on that year as one of the most personally rewarding of all my parenting years. I had time to play with my children, to read to them, to watch them gain new skills, to get to know their personalities and to watch their interactions with their siblings and others. And there, away from family and friends, I learned that about myself. I found joy in my children. I loved being a mum.

I missed my friends and I made other friendships. I missed my family, my mother and sister especially. There were things that I didn’t miss though. Like the endless cleaning house after the day’s activities of seven of us - for just one year I had no bathrooms, no laundries, no bedrooms, and no yard to clean and tidy. And I didn’t have any responsibilities outside the home. I was free to breathe the fresh air and to play and to discover myself as a mother. And I loved it. I’d do it all again. This wonderful year became another brick in the wall of my becoming more self assured and developing more courage to face Life’s wonderfully challenging opportunities with anticipation.

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