#127 The tape cassette – voices from the past

It’s 1976. My Mum is back in her homeland, with my sister who is 7ish. My grandmother – my Mum’s Mum – is unwell, and my Mum and my sister, along with a couple of aunties and one uncle, have all gone back to visit her and various other loved ones they left behind when they went to try their hand in the ‘lucky country.’

My Dad is not there. I can hear my sister, so little, her voice warbled and strewn out the way mine was when I was that age, talking about leaving her cat behind. She’s saying that she hopes Dad is feeding him. She was sad when he said he wasn’t going overseas with her and Mum. She was silent, curious at his statement. He explained to her that if he went, they would have no one to feed her beloved cat.

He also added, that he wants her to eat well while she is away. Because if she doesn’t eat well, he will know, and therefore won’t feed her cat well. And if he doesn’t feed the cat well, well God forbid, the cat could get sick or possibly die! Shock horror.

This is all relayed with much laughter on the cassette. I can hear my Mum’s brother and his wife laugh and joke over what Dad will do with her cat. She calls out “laze!” (liar). I tear up, fascinated by my sister’s voice and character back then. I wasn’t around. I perhaps, wasn’t even a thought. Until 7 years later.

It’s the present day. Thursday June 30, 2016. I am in my parents lounge room, and due to some unspoken, unexpressed, deep-seeded need, my Mum has spontaneously put an old cassette tape with writing all over it, into the player. She said “n0!” when I threatened baby girl with leaving, as she was being cheeky and getting into all sorts of things that she shouldn’t.

“Here’s Baba,” my Mum says suddenly as a new voice enters the speaker after a distinct break in recording. “Your Dad’s Mum.”

I listen ardently, straining to make out every word through baby girl’s bouncing and racket behind me. She is sending many happy wishes, positive words and sweet thoughts to the whole family. She wishes her son were there with them too, but adds in a glass half-full fashion that even seeing my Mum and my sister is dear and touching enough.

She starts to tell him, through the cassette recorder, in between countless kilometres of earth and sea, that his daughter is a joy. She is such a happy child. She ran to her without hesitation, yelling “Baka!” (Grandma). I tear up, hearing the way the woman I never met speak about my sister. I try not to look at my Dad, knowing what I will see; but I can’t help it. I look back to him sitting on the couch, and his face is a wretched twist of emotion. Gone, but his eyes and the tears are speaking ‘never forgotten.’

Baby girl jumps in front of Mum and I, trying to touch the player. I hear my Grandmother’s voice, and with sharp clarity realise the start contrast of life. I never met any of my grandparents. Not one of them. Yet baby girl shares the most beautiful bond with my parents. I wonder if she realises how lucky she is.

I’ve always wondered what my grandparents would have thought of me. Would they have been proud of me? Would they have loved me? I hear my Dad’s Mum speaking about my sister, and my heart swells with joy. I know my doubts are ridiculous. I can hear the love in her voice. But still, I was never there when they were. I always wonder ‘what if?’ Do they see me now? Do they care? I hope and pray that they are one of my Angels watching over me… maybe even baby girl.

I listen to my Mum on the tape. Her voice is so youthful, so beautiful. She is sitting there near me, and I can hear her now as she intermittently explains who has just spoken… but as her voice comes through the player, man oh man do I wish I could see her then. See her vibrancy, her beauty, her naivety at all that is still to come. The desire runs deep and wild.

The emotion that one little cassette tape can bring out, is unbelievable. I’ve always wanted to record my own parents on cassette tape, to capture their stories from their childhood, teenage years, how they met and then came to Australia, and everything thereafter. I guess everyone thinks their family history is pretty fascinating, but there have been times when I’m listening to my parents tell me something that happened 40 years ago, and I can just see the picture: it’s there. It’s playing out to me, LIVE, and it’s the most fascinating story I have ever seen.

Today’s unexpected recorded moments have lit a desire in me. I don’t know how I will manage it, but I want to somehow record my parents life stories. I have a cassette tape recorder, and with it I will buy time if I have to.

There’s one thing that gives me comfort in never having met my grandparents. I think of my grandmother’s voice, her glass half-full view on things… I remember what my aunties have told me, about how I share her physical stance, her disposition. And I think, even if I never met her, or met any of my grandparents for that matter, they all live on, in one way through me. There is a part of them, in me, right now. And that’s pretty damn cool.

And I really could convey what my Grandmother was like from just that little brief moment of listening to her today. I am grateful to the tape cassette, for it brings people oceans apart within ears reach, and brings those who have never met into each other’s hearts.

Those voices, long gone, were very alive today.

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#126 Burgers with bestie

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It wasn’t particularly the burgers that made today such a standout moment for me (although they were fairly delish, and will be making an appearance in an upcoming Food Review post on SmikG… at this rate in about 3 months time); no, not that, but the fact that I was sharing them with an old, tried and true, loyal and devoted bestie, is what was the icing on the cake (or should I say bacon in the burger).

Bestie and I have been in each other’s lives for about, oh, 24 years. Going on 25. We were in the same class in grade 2, and though we shared a different set of friends, we always had mutual respect and gave kindness to one another even back then.

It was in high school when we really started to have each other’s backs. Being the bottom of the pecking order, and knowing very little people upon entry other than those who had also come to the high school from our primary school, we learnt very quickly that we could rely on each other through thick and thin. We could trust each other with our deepest secrets, and build each other up when the other was down.

We sure could laugh too. We’d sit in the back of class and cack ourselves stupid with private jokes about really random shit. And the best part was, we got away with it. We did our homework, we never really disobeyed our teachers, so they couldn’t say boo. We laughed our way through the whole of high school.

We had a lot of shared interests, but even through our varied creative endeavours (she was into music and dancing, me writing and creating) we supported each other and had a tremendous amount of deep of meaningfuls for girls our age. We were so incredibly deep, dissecting Bon Jovi songs, looking between the lines of Prince lyrics, and even trying to make up songs ourselves! The goal was, I was going to be her songwriter, and she the singer who performed them.

Then school ended. We both went to uni, studying different interests. We both finished with different degrees. We both sought out work in varied fields, luckily for us though, in our chosen places of employment. We both succeeded. We both had guys, and married those same guys (ha ha). I had a baby girl. And yet, through all this varied work, and study, and PLAY, and widening directions, we’ve still remained in each other’s lives.

Today was so evident of that. We haven’t sat down across from each other in about 5 months. It’s been a long overdue catch up. I left baby girl at home with Hubbie, to get some much needed alone time, but also so I could dedicate myself properly to the task of catching up with my old bestie.

No. Correction. My still bestie.

And it was great. We had burgers. They were brilliant. The surroundings were cosy. For two and a half hours we gasbagged. I think if we had stayed there ’til the sign on the doot turned around to ‘Closed,’ we still would have been talking. Put us in the car park, and you could have found us chatting into the night in our cars.

Back in the day, after spending the day together at school, we would still call each other at night, talking more about the days events, what we felt about this, what we thought about that. We just talked. I wish I could listen to one of those conversations, but I have no recollection about what we spoke about. I can only guess… Boys. School. Friends. Music. Pranks. Annoying People. Crushes. All of the above and so much more.

Two and a half hours is not a lot of time. But time is never enough when you’re with a loved one. I was so happy to see that after all this time, we could still talk each other’s ears off, and if we were to spend time with each other for the next week, month, year,  even lifetime, I think we would constantly find new material.

And that my friends, is the sign of a true friend 🙂

I’m grateful that I have a friend like this. When you have one like this, you don’t need many more.

 

#125 Intimate Wiggles show

Flashback 15 years ago. I’m 17, at my first concert. I look up at the stage, squealing like the crazed-genre teenage maniac I am.

“He looked at me!” I grasp my sister’s hand, and she laughs. “Ricky looked at me!”

The Ricky in question, is of course one of my fave singers, Ricky Martin.

I was lucky to have been going to what would eventually be one of my constant never-changing fave singer’s concerts, as my first concert nonetheless. I was lucky that he had looked at me. And I was lucky to be 10 rows from the front, which is how he came to look at me in the first place.

Fast forward to today. I have an addition next to me – baby girl; on the other side of me, the same sister, but she also has an addition, her youngest son. The man in the blue costume makes his way up the side of the theatre towards us. He comes as close as 2 rows behind us, and I look back at him, waving and smiling.

He looks at me, and waves, smiling.

In my head, with much amusement I think ‘Anthony looked at me!’

Minutes later, and I’m waving to a man in a purple costume a few rows in front of us. He looks up and at me directly in the eye, returning the wave.

‘Lachy looked at me!’

I don’t say this out loud, like my 17 year-old self did so many years ago. I know it’s tacky. I know it’s juvenile. Yet still, I get a lot of satisfaction from thinking it, and amusement from seeing how my life has progressed since then.

If you have come this far and you still don’t know who the hell Anthony and Lachy are, you clearly don’t or never have had kids.

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If you do have kids, you’ll appreciate that I’m talking about the kids sensation, The Wiggles. If you have had kids, and even if you’re not from Australia, it’s still very likely that you have heard about them, since they have been around for over 20 years, and are known quite well abroad. You will understand then, my sentiment.

And if kids are not yet in your life – yet – well then get to it. Being at a Wiggles concert while your toddler loses her shit dancing and spinning around to the music, well that’s almost worth having kids to experience that.

Baby girl is two months shy of 3. As I revved her up for today, telling her where we were going and with who, she was excited. She’s at an age, where she really knows. Not just ‘knows’ shit. But really knows shit. And she got excited for a reason. The concert was brilliant. My sister and I enjoyed it just as much as our kids. Baby girl threw herself into it, dancing along, and completely exhausted herself by the end of it. It was such a joy to watch and experience, seeing her so happy, made even more so by the fact that it wasn’t one of their huge arena concerts – it was a smaller, very intimate, you-can-see-everything-from-up-the-back (and we should know we were there) type of concert.

I absolutely loved it. So did baby girl. Here she is, at one of her (very short) rest periods.

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You have to understand. A parent will go to great lengths to ensure their child is happy. Because when their child is happy and at peace, so are they.

I am grateful for these shows, and these performers, who provide a space for all to be happy.

Winning on both counts.

 

# 124 The warmth of work

People don’t talk about their appreciation for their work places enough. So much of our livelihood is tied up in the place we frequent daily, which makes it that much more important that while we are there, we are happy.

It’s very true that there are cold, unfriendly and hostile work environments out there. I know, since I have personally lived it myself. However there are too many people that adopt a blasé hipster attitude and take for granted just what their work brings for them: yes, it’s hard to get up; yes, it’s difficult commuting in; and yes, it’s frustrating to deal with somewhat annoying people, day in and day out.

But just think of what else your workplace provides for you… if we’re just talking the basics: self-worth, a steady income to live, a new arena of colleagues, and a respectable sense of responsibility that makes you feel good about going there and getting things accomplished.

But today, my work gratitude? The warmth.

It was sooo cold walking in to work today. Like, the air was actually ice. I briskly walked the 10 minute path there in 6 minutes, knowing what was waiting for me. Not just shelter from the cold. Not just a kitchen where I could make my oats. Not just internet access that allows me to log on and post gratitude posts from my blog to you all (tee hee hee).

It gave me much needed heat. It’s so apparent and much welcomed, as I immediately jump on the escalator, it taking me up a level, as I rise so too the temperature around me heading me in an upward direction and enveloping me in a much-needed heater hug.

It’s that escalator rise, every time. It softens the hard walk over. It softens my early-morning tiredness. It softens the Winter.

In case you haven’t realised… it’s the little things.

All the little things are so important, since they make up the greater whole.

#123 Leftovers

I talk about food a fair bit here, which makes sense since I eat out kinda frequently, yet still enjoy expressing myself creatively in the kitchen. Also, my food reviews over on my parent site are another indicator of this foodie’s slight obsession.

Having said all that, there’s nothing quite so satisfying as having leftovers and not needing to cook at all.

Following my mammoth feast yesterday, the knowledge that I will not have to do much else for the next couple of nights, either than cut up some salad ingredients and put the steamer on, is awesome. You need nights off. And on those nights off you feel that much better when you remember how you nicely killed yourself to pieces to put on a table spectacle on the weekend.

I’m appreciating the cooking break indeed.

#122 Food like this on the table

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It’s always a great night when you have a variety of food on the table. You know it’s a better night, when you have this much on it though.

You also know, it’s most likely a Saturday night.

I love to entertain. But most importantly, when it’s for my nearest and dearest, I take great pleasure in bringing to the table all of my love, and all of me with that love. That was what tonight was about.

I am grateful we can do things like this. I love it.

(Clockwise from top: frenched lamb chops; garden salad with creamy dressing; vegetable and lentil soup; Sarma (Croatian dish courtesy of Mum); steamed corn; bread rolls from Baker’s (all gone now); sausages from Hubbie’s work; Jamie’s cucumber and olive salad; roasted semolina potatoes in duck fat; Kentucky style chicken tenderloins; and in the middle my saucy rice… we are all full, my job here is done 🙂 ).

#121 Hot Rakija

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This is the stuff I grew up with. About as common to me as milk, cheese and bread. Of course, being an extremely high volume alcoholic drink, I didn’t drink it, although that didn’t stop my Dad when I was about 4-5, with a few of his male friends, jokingly telling me to dip my finger in the shot glass and taste it, chuckling at my grimacing face when I did.

That story there, is quite indicative of the backgrounds of those who grew up with this drink.

Rakija. A spirit. Specifically, a fruit brandy, popular in the Balkans that is typically made from grapes or plums. Most rakijas average at 40% alcohol. The most well known Croatian rakija would have to be the “Sljivovica” which basically means ‘plum drink,’ as it is derived from plums.

Other country versions and comparisons can be found in Macedonia’s Mastika, a drink made from mastic, which is the natural resin of a small Mediterranean tree; Turkey’s closely named Raki, also composed of grapes but with a touch of anise; and Greece’s Ouzo, made of similar ingredients with the additions of various other herbs and berries.

But enough on the crash course of alcohol in Mediterranean Europe. I grew up with this stuff all around me – and as is usual, when that happens, it’s not very interesting to you. People around you, friends and those who don’t share your similar background, freak out that your parents have this drink, let alone would let you have a sip of it… and you’re 14. But that’s the relaxed European standard. That’s the way it was done. It is done.

I drink alcohol now, but this stuff is strong. I have it on special occasions. I ‘cheers’d to it with my parents the morning of my wedding day. I’ve had it on many other special occasions, not questioning whether I should or not, because it is ‘a special day.’ You don’t decline rakija for a big event. That’s like telling the person serving you that you will not accept happiness. It’s like ‘what now?’

I’ve also learnt that you can’t just have ANY homemade rakija. Yes, it can be homemade, and most of it that I’ve tried has been just that. But homemade doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better than store-bought ones. Homemade ones can be burnt in the distilling process, burning your throat as you drink it on the ‘X,’ and others load it with sugar. You gotta know your supplier, you know ?

😉

Hubbie decided we were having one together last night. As I’ve reiterated, this isn’t my drink of choice or something I have a lot of, despite it’s strong presence in my upbringing. But not one to say no to drinking in company (we are so bad) I agreed, and in response asked him “before, or after dinner?”

It was to be before. But, being Winter, it was to be heated. You should really ALL try this at home:

First, get yourself some Rakija. Dan Murphy’s sells loads of brands, but I recommend a plum derivative.

Second, pour two shots of the spirit (for two people) into a little pot and add about a teaspoon of sugar.

Third, bring to the boil, keeping a close eye on it. It’s meant to boil and bubble and foam, rising to the top. You can turn it off as it rises, or you can lift the pot up, letting the bubbles subside, and then return the pot to the heat, letting it rise again, doing this about 3 times.

The rakija can’t burn you, even when it’s this hot. The worst that will happen is like me, you will be fearful of it burning you, and in going to slowly and tentatively take a sip of the hot drink, you will in your mouth inhalation actually breathe in more fumes than necessary and cough like a dickhead. That is all.

This warm drink, is amazing. I think alongside my regular red, it will be my ‘occasional’ (it is 40% after all) drink of choice in these cold months.

I’m grateful that after all this time, I am rediscovering a drink I have had alongside me this whole time, and appreciating its qualities in a completely new way. It’s like discovering treasure. I am that friend now: ‘what? You have rakija? Get out!’