Nothing is forever

I’m glad to have the day off, but Good Friday must be the most boring day of the year. In a way, it’s good in that it forces you to slow down and attend to the simple things. In celebration of that, I didn’t climb out of bed until nearly 10 am. Later, I’ll check on the footy perhaps, though I expect a dull match, or do some reading or watch a diverting movie. There’s always housework, and then there’s my writing – I have to get to that.

It wasn’t always like this. There was a time I loved Easter. I recalled it yesterday as I took Rigby for his second walk of the day. This time, we went in the direction of the beach. It was a warm and sunny afternoon, and around the time, I thought, when once I would have been gearing up for a long Easter weekend away.

For many years, the extended family would gather at the property at Yarck at Easter to celebrate the relationship between us. It was a lazy, easy long weekend. If the weather was cool – and I always reckoned Easter marked the seasons’ turning – then the pot-bellied stove would be on non-stop. We would sit around, reading in recliners or playing board games at the dining table. There’d always be drinks come around 4 o’clock – beer and then wine; and often a glass of sherry over lunch. Dinner was an extravagant affair, with each family group responsible for separate days, and all of it washed down with the best wine.

There were occasional day-trips, and most years, we’d make it to the Mansfield fete on the Saturday. There’s a picture of me riding a camel there, and one year my sister bought a pet goose (which later disappeared).

On Easter Sunday, naturally, there would be an Easter egg hunt. In the early days, the young adults, like my sister and her husband, my step-sister and me, would take part. I won every year for some reason if winning is to be measured by the most Easter eggs collected. Later on, it was exclusively for the kids.

Orchestrating much of this, and exuding delight throughout, was my mother, who took an extraordinary pleasure in having her family around her. She was the life force that made Easter such a memorable occasion for all of us, for her delight would infect us. Beside her was her husband, my step-father, who found late in life the same pleasures as my mum took, and because of her. He would stand by watching, a smile on his face, urging and supporting.

For me, it was a serene period of rest and reflection. I would try to get away early on the Thursday before and drive the 130 kilometres (about 2 hours) to be there in time for dinner. In later years, I slept in the log cabin in the corner of the property. I loved that. I would retire to it late at night, coming down from the house and likely taking a piss in the bushes on the way. In the morning, I would have a coffee in bed reading before heading up to the rest of the family.

I would read a lot – maybe 2-3 books over the weekend – and would take the time to think about life. What I thought about, or who has passed from memory, though I do recall occasions when I’d be struck by a passing conjecture that I’d wonder at through the day.

There was always work to be done too, and tasks allocated – gardening perhaps, cleaning up the tennis court, or mending a fence, or chopping firewood – there was always that. But then we might spend an hour in the spa with a bottle of bubbles, or have a game of pool.

There’s so much in this I miss. I miss my mum and, just as much, I miss what she represented. I miss my step-dad, who I loved and felt loved by. I miss my step-sister, K, who I lost after my mum died and the family exploded. And I miss the meaning of all that, the love and affection, the casual joy, even the sense of tranquillity, which is entirely absent these days.

It was always a bit sad returning to Melbourne at the end of that. The property at Yarck was like a sanctuary for all of us. It was a place outside of the world in which we could be ourselves and together. It was much commented on how calming and restful it was just to walk in the door. I felt safe and happy and loved there, always, and I think it was the same for everyone.

On the drive back, I would follow the familiar road feeling relaxed by the weekend but already looking ahead to the week ahead and returning to regular life. Another year gone, but Easter would come again, and so too would Yarck – until one year it was no more, and nothing left of that life.

Looking back, it feels like the fall of an empire. When you’re in the middle of it, you can hardly imagine it ever ending. Then, afterwards, you realise that for every beginning, there is an ending, and though it endured for about 15 years, nothing is forever.

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