Almanac Life: One of those Melbourne lockdown Saturdays

Maybe I could get used to these Melbourne lock-down restrictions, lazing around on a Saturday, doing bugger all!

 

It’s six hours since I rolled out of bed, and what have I achieved?

 

Showered
Back into the night attire, dressing gown and slippers
On to the computer for email updates
Collected The Age from the front porch
Dragged Marshall out of bed and reminded him of his morning activities
Made a Nutribullet of blueberries, mango and banana
Prepared and eaten breakfast
Read the newspaper for a couple of hours
Set up the AFL games for today on Fox
Watched the Broncos lose again
Played a Handel Oratorio and shed a few tears
Spoken for 50 minutes to a dear friend in Sydney – helping with the all–important perspective, and
Tackled typing some of the 10 (out of 400+) remaining letters between my mother and father between 1943 and 1945 when my Dad was in the Army and, for the first time, allowing myself to react emotionally. Well, allowing myself isn’t quite apt. I didn’t seem to have a choice. The tears just formed and wouldn’t abate.

 

As I was typing these words, written by my father in May 1943, it reminded me that dreams are simply that – nothing but dreams. And, somehow, those words written 76 years ago have conjured up thoughts of these pandemic times, and how dreams will now no longer be fulfilled.

 

“….Continuing in contemplative strain, I now endeavour to look into the future. I can see us – after this bloody holocaust is concluded and men regain their senses – on board ship, the three of us (the third member being a curly head lad with the hands of a pianist) en route to sunny Italy, or perhaps America, en route to our future and the realisation of all our dreams. And most important of all, the realisation of your ambition: an Opera Star. You have all the necessary qualifications: voice, musicianship, interpretive power, production and personality. Such things must not be wasted.

 

Also, my darling, the surrounding of our child by such musical and artistic traditions that are to be found in Italy, will have an important and necessary influence on his or her future. Dearest, I will not be content with anything less than a future Beethoven or Caruso.

 

What a full life we have ahead of us. Dreaming along such lines is essential, but must be backed up by careful planning and foresight. And to that end I will devote all my energies. Not that we can do very much under the present circumstances. The dice are stacked against us at present, and all we can do is keep on dreaming and hoping. After all, as a wise philosopher once remarked, “When things are at their darkest and all hope appears to be lost, then is the time the tide will turn, so never despair”. So, let us, my beloved, take courage from our erudite philosopher; never let us despair….”

 

My parents’ dreams never eventuated.

 

The “curly head lad with the hands of a pianist” turned out to be a straight–haired little lass – me (their first child, born six months after his letter), and although I played piano as a child and teenager, I certainly didn’t fulfil my parents’ hopes and aspirations. Seven more children followed in nine years, my parents’ lives were tumultuous, and Italy and Mum’s career remained a far distant dream.

 

My father visited there not long before his untimely death at 57 years of age, and while I was living in London in the seventies – and just after my father’s death – I gave my Mum a ticket on the Fairstar for her very first venture outside Australia. Italy, of course, was on the agenda.

 

By then, 30 years after Dad’s letter of May 1943, Mum was in her sixties, and her dreams and high hopes for her singing/pianistic career had long been shattered. She carried her frustrations and sadness to her grave, and never burdened her children with her thoughts.

 

It is only now, or in the past 18 months, since I have been transcribing their letters, that I have learnt more about my parents than I could ever have hoped. And as the 412th letter is completed, sadness has struck me. Sadness that their dreams were never fulfilled. Sadness about their sadness. And sadness that I never really got a chance to share any of their hopes and dreams with them.

It is said that a good old cry can do the world of good. That might be the case, but it hasn’t quite worked for me today.

 

Two hours have passed, and I’m now playing Mozart’s Requiem. I’m trying extremely hard to concentrate purely on the musical genius of Mozart, but as soon as the Mezzo Soprano voice is introduced, that’s it!

 

For 15 years after Mum’s death I was unable to listen to a woman’s classical singing voice. Too sad. I thought I’d overcome my emotional reaction, but today, well, a few more bouts of sadness and tears can be excused, I think!

Reality needs to surface. The afternoon is nearing night, and there’s footy to be watched. No Swans today, so all emotion will be put aside. As if I haven’t had enough, already!

 

So, could I really get used to a day like today – doing bugger all? Perhaps I need to reassess my meaning of ‘bugger all’.

 

In fact, it’s been a pretty full-on day.

 

 

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About Jan Courtin

A Bloods tragic since first game at Lake Oval in 1948. Moved interstate to Sydney to be closer to beloved Swans in 1998. My book "My Lifelong Love Affair with the Swans" was launched by the Swans at their headquarters at the SCG in August 2016. www.myswansloveaffair.com

Comments

  1. polly courtin says

    lovely story of you and parents and lifes hopes and tears and feelings and thought!!! thankyou for the tale!! x polly

  2. Lynn Baker says

    Beautiful story Jan .

    My thoughts went to beautiful times spent with my parents . There was always music in our home .
    My grandmother was a talented opera singer in Scotland, but her career was cut short ,when her parents and nine siblings immigrated to Australia .
    I can still close my eyes and hear her beautiful voice and that of my Mum’s , aunts , and uncles , all of whom sang in choirs .

    Thank you Jan for your story , hence , bringing back so many happy memories of times long ago spent with my family .

    Stay well and take care .

    Cheer Cheer

    Lynn

  3. What an emotional day. Reading your words brings tears to my eyes. Lost hopes and dreams, tough day? Take care.

  4. Julie Cattlin says

    Our lives.
    Some short. Some long.
    Dreams. Hopes.
    Disappointments. Successes.
    Happiness. Sadness.

    Live life to the full, I say. Show kindness. Smile. Be generous.
    Plan and dream. Laugh and cry.

    Keep living.

    Thanks Jan for this brief look into a life, our dad’s.

    Julie. Xxx

  5. “sunt lacrimae rerum et mentem mortalia tangunt” Virgil

    Very powerful piece thanks Jan. All the best to you. Let the tears flow, I say.

    All the best.

  6. And while it’s in my mind, here’s a choral piece I return to often – when in the state of being/frame of mind you describe:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pB_3rG7KZyU

  7. Raw; poignant; honest. Whatever happened to prevent your dad’s life dreams being fulfilled – his intentions were spot on.
    Like my golf game – a 10 for strategy; a 2 for execution.
    Thanks for sharing.

  8. Peter Fuller says

    I found your reflections very moving Jan, thank you for them. I’m pleased for you that you have the letters, which offer such an insight into your parents’ hopes and dreams. It’s understandable that the poignant aspects of the gap between what they envisaged and how life played out for them is distressing, but I hope it’s consolation that they have obviously achieved so much, raising a family of fine citizens is a significant achievement.
    I find I can relate to your story – though sadly no cache of letters,- as my siblings and I were born 1940-1950. I always think of the way in which our parents’ lives were blighted by their coming of age during the depression, and then enduring the cataclysm of World War. You have stimulated my own reflections with this splendid story.

  9. Thank you everyone for your very kind words. Much appreciated.

    Only about six letters to go, then hours of reading through again, checking, and off to the graphic designer – the one and only Julie (the third sibling). It will end up as a book!

  10. Jan poignant, powerful and v moving thank you

  11. Luke Reynolds says

    Wonderful words all round Jan. Thanks for sharing.

  12. Jan
    You have far better taste in music than football teams :) I could listen to Mozart’s Requiem for ever.
    Seriously this was a beautiful and thought-provoking piece, thank you.
    I’d like to think that your labour of love in sharing your parents’ letters might help readers realise that COVID-19 is not the first (nor the worst) crisis that humanity has experienced. Yes, the pandemic will cause some dreams to be unrealised. But twas ever thus. JTH’s Virgil quote is very apt at this time. A not-so-literal translation is “The world is a world of tears, and the burdens of mortality touch the heart.”
    Gee, I’m getting gloomy. Richmond must have lost on the weekend!

  13. Many thanks Rulebook, Luke and Stainless. Your words much appreciated. Take good care

  14. Shane Reid says

    Thanks for sharing this Jan. My daughter is in grade two and one of her remote learning tasks today was to write a letter to one of the residents at a local nursing home. What a lost art this is, and what a gift you clearly have in your treasure trove. I studied music at the Victorian College of the Arts, I remember an orchestration class where we listened to the Requiem as part of an assignment. A few minutes in, our lecturer abandoned the whiteboard and told us to “put our assignments away, books on the floor, close our eyes and just get lost in it…” Words to live by!

  15. Daryl Schramm says

    Another ripper, heartfelt story from you Jan. I love your work. Best wishes.

  16. Judy Courtin says

    Indeed Julie – lives…..
    And Jan, dreams and hopes…….
    Some get more or less of each.
    It’s the recognition and appreciation that counts – and the almost spooky power of music that seems to help bring it all about.
    Keep writing Jan!
    And thank you.

    Jude

  17. Shane, Daryl and Judy: Many thanks for your lovey comments, much appreciated.

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