#869 Late night soccer

Just as well I brought the hat home last Friday.

It had been in my old room, at my parents house. Just as I have been purging and sorting through my own stuff, so too have my parents been trying to purge – themselves of my stuff. LOL.

I always said I would tend to the big pile of childhood and teenage accumulation and mementos that I had left at their place when I first moved out. That promise turned into a faraway and not very concrete date, and so my parents took it upon themselves to take everything out of hiding and line it up accessible and for me to see in my old room.

Every time I am there, I go through a little more. I came across some carnival hats that baby girl was enamoured with… I thought ‘fine.’ There’s many things I am bringing home, simply because I am not sure of what to do with it, but I feel that I should really be throwing it away.

The hat, is not the case.

Because the hat, is from the homeland. It holds my parents roots, and is an emblem of where I hail from.

The discovery of the hat was so timely, because I was able to hold it near and dear to me, during the viewing of the Soccer, very very late (or very very early, whichever way you roll) last night/this morning.


Croatia has progressed into the second round of finals in the FIFA world cup. I always said if they did get this far, then I would stay up/get up early, and watch. I knew baby girl having school holidays would make it easier – no early start and subsequent running around after a 3-hour sleep due to Soccer match… so very very early this morning, that’s what I did.

I had a preorganised massive blanket on the couch to wrap myself in. Little did I know it was the coldest night of the year, but I was all tucked up and cosy, the only light coming from the guys on the green field and the soft glow of our hallway.

In those 2 and a half hours, I learnt a bit. I didn’t think I would. I picked up strategies and things about the game which I had never noticed before. I got emotional, my head lifting from the pillow in anticipation when a goal was near; I whispered “damn!” at missed opportunities; and I also nearly fell asleep several times.

I am more sleep ambassador than a soccer one.

But it was the memories and the times I had spent watching the World Cup before, that led me to this night. I remember my Dad staying up late, and me sitting with him, trying to work out the game. Asking him questions. Things about the goalie, and how hard his job was. All of this came flooding back to me, the time I spent with my Dad watching this sport, excited about the rare late nights, and the bonding that I didn’t realise I was partaking in, ’til just last night.

And there was more. I remembered World Cup soccer parties at my sister’s place. The excitement of driving across town at midnight to watch the tournament take place. I remember sleeping in my bed at 3am, and the phone ring because Croatia had just progressed into another round, and my sister across town was calling to talk to my Dad, who was watching on our side of town.

“Sorry SmikG,” she said. “I’m calling for Dad.”

So casual, yet so novel. It was fascinating, how this event turned all our lives upside down.

And then when Croatia did make 3rd place in that same year, the happiness the people experienced and devoted themselves to, awoke something in me.

A deep curiosity for World Cup Soccer. Now, it was going to become a ritual.

Years later when Australia made the World Cup, remarkably it was Croatia they faced in one-play off. Although I couldn’t really lose in this scenario – ‘homeland’ team, playing ‘home’ team – I nonetheless went for the regional underdog, while Hubbie, then BF, was happily cheering for the land down under.

Our rules were: take a shot when your team makes goal. And run around the house with the national flag wrapped around you.

We did it.

Meanwhile on the other side of the world, my parents were in Croatia, their native home, watching the very same game. They would wince when Australia faltered, silently cheering and smiling with glee when they moved ahead, noticed by my uncle who said to them

“Why, you’re cheering for Australia, not Croatia!”

That’s because Australia was their real home now.

Or maybe it had to do with going for the underdog in their current location, just as I was doing, cheering for Croatia to win as I sat in my Australian house.

I never remember who won. I don’t even care. All I remember are the memories.

I am not a soccer devotee. I will not claim I know all the players’ names. I will not pretend to watch soccer at any other time for the next 4 years after this event.

But I am a fan of where I come from. And as long as Croatia will feature in this 4-yearly event, so too will I haul my ass out of bed in freezing cold Winter temperatures, and remember, the memories from before.

For those keeping score… my ass-hauling last night DID pay off. Croatia won. In an epic extra-time plus penalty shoot-out setting. They won on the last kick!

Incredible. And if all I remember from this World Cup is…

coldest night

reminiscing on the past

cuddled up on the couch

Hubbie joining me post 6am before heading off to work

and then cheering happily because they had won (and I was going back to bed!)

then that would be enough.

#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.