You children, go outside and play. This is grown-up talk and not for little ears.” Quietly but firmly the back door was closed and out of bounds. Tumbling around the garden, we soon forgot any desire to be indoors. There was more scope and excitement outside. “I don’t understand why they want togo so far away. It’s a foreign country away the other side of the world. They don’t have any friends there or know anyone out there. There must be a catch, how could it only cost £10; sure, the train fare to Helens Bay is £1." “That may be so,” I heard father say, “but they see no future here and have a young family to consider.
Sure, at times I have thought if you and I were younger, we would have packed up and gone. But it would be too much upheaval at our age, remember we have passed the two score years.” “There’s no work here, Mum, and Maggie doesn’t like me working in England and staying in digs. It’s not right to be away from young children for such a long time. Soon they’ll be school age and it will be better to have them settled. Children adjust better and take change in their stride as long as they are together.” “Oh son, far-off fields look green. You may not have good work here, but at least you have the support of your family and friends. It will break my heart. The very thought of you leaving and your little sisters not yet grown up.” “I’ve tried everywhere for work and there is no hope of any. Building sites don,t want ‘soft hands’, believe me, I’ve tried. We have both talked it over, looked at it from every angle and believe we are doing the right thing. Please don’t make it any harder. I know. We both know you have done your best for all of us, but this is an opportunity to achieve a new goal. We would be crazy to let it pass by. You have often said opportunity only knocks once. We want to grab this with both hands. Who knows, we could strike gold.” “Mum, be glad for us and give us your blessing. It’s not like the famine times. We’ll be back and sure, who knows, you and Dad might nip over for a wee holiday.” Us ‘children’ are now well into adulthood. Many years have passed since the back door was firmly closed and out of bounds. Many conversations held the question “WHY?” Why does he not write once in a while, why doe she not answer my letters, why doesn’t he send us some photos of the little ones. Is he ashamed of us. Your father and I did all we could? Don’t fret I hear myself say. People change when they go away. Some forget how time passes, always meaning to do and never managing to do. It’s a faster pace of life over there. You’ll see, some day he and the family will just walk in that door. All the hours, days and years you’ve spent wondering, worrying and praying will melt away. You’ll be so glad to see them, you won’t notice any changes.”
More years have passed, more than I care to remember, but then no-one can hold back the hands of time. I make the journey and I wonder. Why me? It’s too late to change my mind asI see the red sand and bleached scrubland coming into view. Bathed in brilliant sunshine, I do the tourist thing. Hop on a ferry for a trip around the bay. Ogle at the Opera House, “Nuns in a Scrum” my guide calls it in true Aussie humour. Walking around the ‘Rocks’ district, I am transported back in time. I hear the echo of early settlers who came to find a new life, their precious possession being only hope. I leave the ‘Rocks’ and the scavenging ibis who fear no stranger. Like the seagulls of home, their diet is now European. Darling Harbour is just that, a darling. A place for everyone, old and young. Water flows in every form. From cascading rapids to gentle rippling walkways, welcomed by the foot-weary and tiny tots. A calming oasis. The rigging of the Tall Ship - “James Craig” - beckons me. I wonder did it ferry convicts to Botany Bay. This ocean-going marvel, lovingly restored, is now anchored alongside the black and grey steel submarine “Whalers Drift”. I wonder too what calibre of men sailed beneath the fathoms in this old girl. No doubt, stories to be told and written, some embellished with barnacles. There is a buzz of life in this cosmopolitan city. A huge melting pot with vibrant energy. It’s easy to see how the young mark it in as a ‘must see’ on their gap-year. No longer the cry, ‘emigration is the curse of the Irish’. The underground shopping mall and food court is my next stop. Its air-conditioning a welcome respite for the unacclimatized like myself. A book on Gandhi catches my eye on the bargain rack. I flick through the pages and I read.................... “What you do may seem insignificant, but it is significant that you do it.” How true these words of wisdom from a truly great man.
A man from humble beginnings who never forgot his family. I wander through the Aboriginal Whispering Poles. The sounds unfamiliar though haunting and thought provoking, remind me in a strange uncanny way of my parents sighs and tears at the loss of a first son. Engrossed in my book while my coffee is cooling, I pause for a moment. There, only feet away from me, is my brother. No longer the dark wavy hair and handsome grin. Slightly stooped, with that familiar walk and a mop of silver white hair, he reaches for me. We embrace. Holding back the tears in his lined face, I see the sadness in his eyes. We hold one another, nod and smile simultaneously. “Tell me about Mum and Pops” I try to let him see into what was our world, a world separated by oceans and continents, trying to be kind and impartial. He reaches for my hand and sobs, “I could have gone to see them but I didn’t, I didn’t.” “Mum always loved your bouquets of flowers on her birthdays and Christmasses and Pop was pleased you remembered her......” Tears flowed like the rain forests as he looked at me and said: “You, oh my sister, you sent them from ME all these years.”