Last weekend Alan and I went up to the Gold Coast for my brother’s wedding. I flew up on Friday, and then Alan joined me on Saturday (we figured both Hazel and Nanna would cope better if they were eased into the no-parents-around thing; it seemed to work). Apart from a few moments of intense panic (I’m going to miss my flight! This hire car is a manual! My dress is stuck halfway on, and we need to leave in 10 minutes!), the entire trip went very smoothly and ended up being very fun, though exhausting.
It was strange being on the Gold Coast again; I lived there for around 10 months after finishing school, so it’s a bizarre mix of familiar and foreign. While heading to the beach on Saturday morning I found myself on a road I recognised and decided to drive past my old place in Bundall. It was weird. I can think of no other word for it. The Gold Coast seemed prettier than it did when I lived there, although maybe it was always pretty, and I was too self-absorbed and confused to notice it back then (I’ve remembered the Gold Coast as being superficial and awful, but I think now that was just me). Despite its prettiness, I don’t miss living on the Gold Coast. Nor do I miss being 18.
(I do miss Gold Coast radio, though; it acknowledges how awesome music from the late 1990s/early 2000s was by playing LOTS of it. There were at least four songs on the radio over the weekend that I hadn’t heard in yonks, including this one, which I found myself humming and then singing along to while the rest of me tried to figure out what year it must have been big, and how it was that I was able to remember the lyrics:
Also, I was very aware and very appreciative of the fact that I could turn up songs like this without them being interrupted by a little voice from the back saying, “Can we please listen to my music now, Mum?”)
So I arrived on Friday and picked up our snazzy pink hire car (it was tiny! I LOVE driving tiny cars!) and found my accommodation and chatted to our host and when I told her I couldn’t remember the last time I’d slept in a bed all on my own and woken up whenever I wanted to, she gasped and said, “I’m so excited for you! Look, I have goosebumps!” (She didn’t actually show me her goosebumps, but I didn’t press it.) And then she ordered me to go to the beach, and I obeyed. I spent a couple of hours wandering at Burleigh and reading my book and listening to a podcast, and then the next morning I slept in until 7am and ate my breakfast while reading in bed, and it was glorious.
And yet. I was reminded of this quote from The Divided Heart: Art and Motherhood by Rachel Power (on page 2):
“Like a magnet, simultaneously repelled and attracted, to be a mother is to be mired in contradiction. We can love our children while resenting their impact on our lives; our bodies sing out for theirs when we are away from them, yet our minds can strain away in boredom or frustration when they are near.”
After wanting so badly to get away on my own, I’d been gone for less than 2 hours before I noticed myself craving Hazel’s cuddles and wanting to share everything with Mo (Jellyfish! A cool-looking park!). It makes no sense.
So my little brother (Chris) is married now, which was a big and emotional deal I hadn’t at all prepared myself for, having been preoccupied with organising how to get us up there and finding shoes and earrings and writing lists and packing bags and checking lists and rechecking bags to make sure I’d remembered everything important. It wasn’t until we were at the wedding and the walking-down-the-aisle music started playing that a voice in my head piped up with, “HOLD THE PHONE: My little brother is getting married!” And that’s when I started to bawl. I really should have scheduled in time to think it all through earlier rather getting to the actual day and crying off half of my carefully-applied eyeliner. The wedding was beautiful and Chris looked gorgeously happy, which made me tear up afresh every time I looked at him (and every time I look at their photos now on Facebook). I also have a new sister-in-law now, who I love.
(The chairs are empty because by the end of the ceremony all of the guests were hiding in the shade. It was seriously hot.)
I do this thing when socialising where I ask a lot of questions of the people I speak to and they talk and talk, and I do this mostly because I’m genuinely interested in who they are and what they’re saying, but it’s also partly a way of me not having to talk about me. And then eventually it becomes a test to see if they’ll notice what I’m up to and turn the focus around for a bit. When they don’t, I take it as a sign that they can’t think of anything to ask me and therefore must find me incredibly boring, and in doing so they confirm everything I already believe: I am not interesting. No one cares. That part of the wedding was less enjoyable, but there was a help-yourself table full of lollies. So. Swings and roundabouts.