A part of me feels like I’m not allowed to write about my uncle, because I had only spent two periods of my life with him.
But today, having learned of his passing, I feel a tremendous amount of sadness for my Mum’s family, while also realising that I am more than qualified to speak about him, because he inhabited some of the most meaningful and memorable parts of my life.
When I was 13 I travelled with my parents overseas. Being a fresh teenager, the thought of meeting family that I hadn’t met before was not exactly thrilling stuff.
And yet those 3 months ended up being the best of my life.
Our home base was at my uncle and aunty’s house, and so we would return there often for days at a time, sometimes weeks, in between our travels around Croatia and the neighbouring countries where our relatives lived.
I remember how much he and my Dad seemed to click. Both fond of drinking the hard stuff at 40%, they loved their grapes, their gardens, and their gadgets. Both natural handymen. It was never too early to ‘cheers,’ and they were often caught having a good ol’ chat.
I remember the garden, the vines above providing ample cover as good as a ceiling. I remember the swing there too, and the kittens that crawled along the roof of these vines, and how I looked up at them.
I remember the ‘bunker’ at the bottom of the house, and I remember the random spa-type apparatus that sat on top of the garage! Me and one of my cousins sat in the empty pool as it were, on a hot Summer’s day.
I remember them taking us out to ice cream in the main centre. I remember us walking the streets, and them telling us where the bombs had fallen, showing us the concrete scars they had left on the road. They showed us where their son had gone to high school and proudly pointed out the court he played basketball in.
I remember more vividly the second time I visited my uncle and aunty, because it was more recent… it was when Hubbie and I were on our honeymoon.
Although it wasn’t yesterday, the memories are far fresher. I had the opportunity to spend time with them, now as an adult, out of the wings of my parents, 12 years on. Hubbie and I sat with them. There was still the bunker, the 40% alcohol, and the cherished garden. And of course, the cats.
I think he had a soft spot for cats.
On the few days we were in town, he kindly played tourist guide, driving us around to see other family members. We saw his favourite fishing hole, and he spoke fondly of his own family, and of his memories with them.
I often found myself staring at him and being amazed at the likeness between him and his son.
But what I remember most, is the day he took us to the train station, as we set to depart from Croatia.
We waved goodbye, and I said we would see him again one day. I watched as he turned, his head bobbing down in a sign of resignation as he walked away.
But that day never came.
I think of all of this, and I send so much love out to my family tonight.
I hope they too hold their own special memories of him that they’re replaying in their minds.
It’s just another sombre reminder that we must grasp each and every day with all our might and all our love.
Today was the day that we said goodbye to our family home.
The home that my parents have lived in for 40 years.
The home that my sister spent growing up as a teenager, all the way until she got married.
The home that’s the only childhood, family home I’ve ever known… that I lived in for 25 years until I got married.
Goodbye, number 14.
It was an emotionally bittersweet day. Emotional because oh God, all of the above! So many memories are in every inch, every corner, every crevice of that house.
Through the rush to get everything out of the house this morning, I tried to pause every so often, look around, take a breath, and say a personal thanks to the house that made my years growing up, the best in the world.
Here is the emotional part.
I was reflecting on my life spent there as I walked around the empty rooms, a bit taken aback by the hollowness of it all. The furniture, furnishings, and all the photos and trinkets that made it such a loved home, were all gone.
But oh, those walls. If those walls could talk.
Those walls would speak of happiness, of laughter. Of sadness and shock, family coming together, and family celebrating to make the most out of life.
And love. SO much love.
Memories hit me as I walked into rooms, turned corners. Looked this way, that. People from the past resurfaced, along with people from the present.
In the lounge room, I saw myself sitting on the floor while my parents watched footy on the TV.
In the kitchen I saw my Mum cooking up a feast, our family sitting down to eat at the small round table, perfect for us in size, so perfect, to keep us tight and close together, as always.
In the garden I saw happiness. Friends, cousins, brimming around, enjoying a drink on a hot Summer’s day, folk music from the garage wafting over and adding to the festive atmosphere of it all.
The garage, ohhhh, the garage. Where so, so, so many parties and events were had. Birthdays. Milestones. Weddings. Day after weddings! New Years. And all of the Christmases that Mum cooked up a storm, catering for over 30 people like it was an absolute breeze, even though it wasn’t.
She made it look effortless.
Those were the days. Those were the BEST days.
The park next door. Hearing the squeals of happiness from our younger cousins as they took advantage of the play proximity.
At the front door, I saw my sister being led out in her wedding dress by my parents… then I saw myself, doing the same.
The dining room showed me all of us, our big family, as we are now. The original foursome, us, being my parents, sister and I, but now with our Hubbies and our kids, filling up the table, eating heaps, drinking more, and playing music off of youtube on the mobile until the late hours of the night.
In my bedroom. The bedroom that I spent 15 years of my life sleeping, dreaming and hoping in. I had another room for the first 10 years of my life, but I claimed this one, sister’s one, after she got married and moved out.
It’s always been the better room.
I sat in my old room. Took some photos around me. And then here, I began to cry.
I remember watching Video Hits for hours on weekend mornings.
My childhood cat scratching at my window, wanting to be let in, and then me opening the window to shoo her, upset she had woken me… but when she jumped down from the window sill outside, I thought stuff it, you’ve woken me now… and so I would call her back in (she must have thought I was a crazy bipolar cat owner) and she’d snuggle up next to me as I slept a little more.
I’d open up that window, and talk to friends through it.
I talked to SO MANY people, through it.
I listened to music for hours on my bed.
I had sleepovers in that room.
I had sleepovers in that house! On the lounge room floor, covered in blankets and sleeping bags.
When Croatia played Australia in the 2006 World Cup, Hubbie-then-boyfriend and I watched it, me running around the house with a Cro flag when Croatia scored a goal, and Hubbie running around the house with an Aussie flag when they scored a goal.
I don’t remember who won that game. All I remember is the memories.
All the people who came, and went from that house. It would be in the hundreds. Friends, family, people who I grew up with, grew apart from, so many people have touched base in that house, shared a laugh, a dance, a drink, and made a memory.
Even baby girl. It was the first place that she ever visited, after her own home.
Speaking of baby girl… My waters broke in that house! And my own Mum’s waters broke in there, when she was pregnant with me!
Both sister’s Hubbie, and my Hubbie, met my parents for the first time in THAT lounge room…
News broke. Secrets shared. Heavy discussions were had. Tears shed.
People were welcomed. People were greeted.
People came in, and immediately knew that there was love. They were safe. They were in a memorable place.
And so today, the time came. We walked through the house. We took our final photos.
And we drove off, for good.
That was seriously bitter, right?
Where is the sweet?
Well, it comes with the choice. How blessed are we that this was born of my parents decision to move closer to me and sis, and not because of a bad circumstance.
How lucky are we that we get to say goodbye, together, in the best way possible… and how lucky that we still get to take ALL the memories with us?
Including most importantly, the people.
I am so looking forward to making just as many happy memories in their new abode. 🏡🏡
But my heart will always hold a very special and dear place, for number 14.
It’s too late in the night/too early in the morning for me to think up a more adventurous post.
But today truly was about adventure.
People, places, memories.
The night ended with Hubbie’ s cousins over for a last-minute, impromptu visit… but aren’t those the best? The ones where the kids are screaming excitedly as they run from room to room, the grown-ups voices and the music from the speaker compete against each other, each trying to drown the other out, and where you go back in time, sharing memories and funny stories.
It was adventure in our minds.
The middle of the day had my sis and nephew pop over… and well that was a different type of discovery, but for them, not so much me.
Still, taking them around, and explaining the ins and outs of the town, showing them great locations… seeing the joy on their faces, made me share the journey with them as if it were the first time.
It was living thefirst-time adventure in our town, vicariously through them.
But I need to make special mention to the beginning, the start of the day…
Because that was adventure, in the true sense of the word.
We went to another place, we lived, we enjoyed, we explored.
We caught up with baby girl’s cousins at the Enchanted Adventure Garden, and it was a different kind of day, let me tell you.
Because it drizzled, almost all day. My hair was a bomb site through it all, and often we found ourselves in a maze, on the tube slides, or taking photos, all while a consistent stream of wispy rain came down.
It didn’t stop the magic though. Or the wonder.
It proved to me, that where there’s a will, there’s always a way. Rain, hail or shine… in our case it was definitely the former.
And if you wanna have fun, make the most out of the day, and make memories, you will.
It was finding adventure, fun and happiness, despite what life threw at us.
And you know what? The unexpectedness of rain made it that much more adventurous.
It’s been so long that we’ve actually had a playdate, I can’t even.
But surely, the day came today, amidst this post-covid-something-kinda-like-normal that we’ve been living recently (THANK GOD).
Baby girl’s cousin came over to play, and just as they ran amuck, painting each other’s nails, doing massive make-up test-runs, chasing Mister F, playing dolls endlessly, and jumping on the trampoline for what seemed like infinity, so too did us big girls have just as much fun…
Sitting. Talking. Tending to the little girls. 🤦♀️🤣
What is the only good reason to be woken by someone knocking the door in the morning?
Why, if it’s a surprise birthday package for you!
And what can be better, than enjoying a coffee break up on your balcony?
Well, enjoying the treats you got from your morning wake up call!
I was so surprised this morning to find a package at the front door. I guess you kind of expect a little bit of festivities and surprise on your birthday, even leading up to it… but today, I was like, what, more?
I mean, I do tell baby girl repeatedly that our birthday doesn’t just fall on one day… we can celebrate the week leading up to, the week after, and hell, while we’re there let’s just take the whole month and claim it as our own shall we?
My beautiful cousin helped us spread that much-needed iso birthday happiness a bit longer, by sending us an absolutely stunning bouquet of flowers, and array of sweet treats to match…
From one of my fave local cafes!
Like, how did she know?
Baby girl and I picked a couple of treats and took them up on the balcony today, trying to take in as much Winter sun as we could while we sipped our coffee/babycino…
And they were sooo good. Baby girl got this huge sugar rush afterwards, she just couldn’t stop laughing.
Laugh honey, laugh. There will be plenty more to laugh about and be happy for when this passes.
I’m so grateful for kind-hearted people that remember you, and try to lift you up.
What do we do at this time of world uncertainty, unease, lack and limitation, fear and even some would say, global crisis?
Why, you breakfast.
Now, that’s not to downplay anything anyone in the world may be going through in relation to this coronavirus bug spreading. It’s affecting a number of people significantly, yet it hasn’t reached an even larger proportion of people out there.
And let’s hope it doesn’t.
But there has been so much confusion and uncertainty surrounding what to do.
How serious is this virus?
Should we be worried?
Is this all going to blow over before we know it?
And as people fight for toilet paper in the supermarket shelves, clear the aisles of all tinned food, and start to self-quarantine, there is one thing that will never change.
We will always need to eat breakfast.
And what’s better than catching up with some loved ones over such a meal, for a bit of heart and happiness, while everything else around us goes crazy.
It is the most important meal of the day. You might as well start it off right.
A happy Sunday? How can the end of the weekend, where you have free time, catching up on stuff and doing what you like, sleeping in and going about life in a leisurely manner, how can a day that means the end of that, be good?
Ahh. If you have a public holiday the dayafter.
We went into today pretty happy with ourselves and the days ahead. Not only did we have my cousin’s big birthday, but knowing we were all off from work/school tomorrow, made it all the more terrific.
A couple pit stops later at my parents’ place and then sis and bro-in-law’s was then definitely in order to prolong the weekend and really feel the long weekend holiday vibes.
I don’t think I realised just how much I missed them all, until I saw them all today.
I’m talking about my family… my WHOLE family.
Cousins, aunties, uncles, kids, people who aren’t my blood technically but who I still faithfully call “cousin.”
And making it sweeter, having my parents, and sis and bro-in-law in the mix.
Age, gender, cultural ethnicity… it’s all irrelevant. We all blend and merge seamlessly into one. I talk to my younger cousins as easily as I do with my uncles, or the 3 year-old birthday girl.
We are all in such different stages of life, and it makes catch-ups like tonight that much more interesting. Either someone is plowing through work, looking for work, or thinking of finishing up work. Some are raising young kids, others teens, while others still are free now that their brood are independent of them.
Some are retired, enjoying the good life in the garden.
Some holiday a couple times a year.
Some are dreaming of their next holiday (um, us? 😂)
We get along, but we also argue. We shit-stir, and we agree to disagree.
And although there’s so much separating our very specific and individual lives, there’s one major factor unifying us all.
And that’s family.
We were together for a kid’s birthday today. And not ‘kid’s birthday’ in the literal sense… although there was rainbow cake, pink balloons, dress-ups and a jumping castle…
But there was so much noise. Rowdiness. Gee we can be f$#&ing loud! Anyone passing by outside would be forgiven in thinking it was anything but a kid’s birthday party.
We are passionate, yet we still have our problems. Health problems, kid problems, work problems and just generally, LIFE problems.
We share all this to lighten our load, then we smile. Eat some cake and drink some wine.