Gathering: 1995 Swan Hill Gathering

Author: Jan Brady - speaker at the Gathering. This poem was told as part of the women's stories at the Gathering.


I was thinking over old times, now over 40 years ago,
As a family, we were poor I suppose,
But playing on the scrap heap or the clay pan,
We weren't told, we didn't know.
On the clay pan we'd pick out dry cracked mud
That looked like maps of Australia.
We went skidding and skating when it rained,
In muddy knickers or Sunday Best, no care for our regalia.
The only time Mum ever strapped us,
Was when we wallowed in our brand new thistle singlets,
She gave us a whack when we came back,
In the bathroom, tears and grime and shock,
And mud in our ringlets.
Do you remember those hell-sin days,
That just seemed like yesterday,
But tinged by yesterday's haze.
How we pretended to be film stars,
We'd squabble over Mum's grey squarmy nighty,
Fight about who would wear it.
We were Elizabeth Taylor, Virginia Mayo, Susan Haywood,
We used to strut and pose, so beautiful we couldn't bear it.
Remember pinching the workman's bike,
We'd creep and then go like hell,
When we knew we were out of sight.
And how we hurt our private parts,
On that boys bike's cold hard bar.
Swinging on the railway gate, head thrown back,
Waiting for the jar.
Playing in piles of tyres,
Or jam tins made into stilts.
Creeping up or statues, spinning around and getting dizzy,
Till the stage where the whole world tilts.
And wasn't Mum the most beautiful mum in the whole wide world,
We used to brush her thick black hair,
Ten of us around the fireplace,
They'd talk about the old days,
We'd sing and recite, on their knee or against the chair,
The excitement of Christmas,
We'd count the days of November.
The happiness of Christmas morn,
Showing and sharing our presents hours before dawn,
Each Christmas the best we could remember.
The love security and happiness of those early childhood years,
I shut my eyes, I feel them, through a mist of tears.
The gems of our memories, the happiest family agree,
For that's the way we were blessed, or so it seems to me.

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