Well, it has literally been months since posting to my blog – how did that happen! So – to get back in to the swing of things I have chosen to start with a piece about my Easter celebrations.
Our family is not a religious family and to us Easter has become much more about spending some fun time together. It has almost become a tradition to sit around together in the sunshine, laughing whilst the children play in the backyard and enjoying the gorgeous weather of autumn. It is such a joy to see the four generations – great-grandparents, grand-parents, parents, and grand-children – enjoying time together. Typically, the weather will change in Tamworth any time from the end of April, becoming increasingly cold as our winter draws in, and Easter is our last chance to get together and enjoy the outdoors for a few months.
Just such a day happened yesterday – Easter Sunday 2017 – a day of perfect sunshine, warm temperatures, a few fluffy clouds in the sky and the hint of a breeze. We had a lovely time together with lots of laughter and games with Cooper and Charlotte – my two eldest grandchildren – and of course – there was plenty of chocolate!
As with any “Preston” get-together, one of our focuses was food, but this Easter I kept it very simple. This gave everyone the best chance of having time to enjoy themselves. The menu was as follows:
Nibbles – Just a bought dip and crackers (I love Coles supermarket)
Main – American Hamburgers with Potato Crisps (the recipe book said it was American, so I guess it was)
Dessert – Chocolate Cake with Cream (thanks Donna Hay)!
I put the burgers together in the kitchen and Cooper & Charlotte delivered them to the adults sitting at the table outside – and they did an excellent job. As we were eating, our newest grand daughter Lexie (just 3 weeks old) made her presence known from her capsule, but went back to sleep again quite quickly, allowing her mum and dad to finish their lunch.
It was a lovely time together; a great opportunity create memories and gather more family photo’s which are just so important, I think.
I am going to tell you all about being a teenager who put together a Hope Chest! In “the olden days”, a girl would take years to put together a Hope Chest, so that when she married, she would have a lot of the normal things needed to start her home. When I was about 19 years old, with no boyfriend in sight, Granma decided that I needed to start a Hope Chest. I have got to tell you – I had a fantastic time filling the box which was an old “low boy” cupboard owned by Grandad. A low boy was a small wardrobe for men, designed to hold suits and shoes, with drawers for undies, socks etc. and I filled it to the absolute brim over the following few years.
I had nothing else to spend my time, or my money on, as my only social activity at the time was going to church! I would hunt around, mainly in shops in Parramatta, for things that I thought I would like. Some of the items I had in the box by 1977 were:
A beautiful stainless steel coffee set, consisting of a tray with handles, a tall coffee pot, and a sugar bowl and milk jug. I still have this as it was one of my favourite pieces, and it sits in the display cupboard in the spare room
A couple of sets of towels in pale pink and pale green. Back then pink and green were very cool colours for a bathroom so don’t raise your eyebrow’s! Sadly – these are long gone.
A set of copper based saucepans which were very expensive as I recall. I paid about $600 for the set way back in the mid 70’s, as copper based saucepans were very new technology then. That set lasted me over 30 years though, and was only replaced a few years ago!
Two sets of beautiful heavy satin sheets in gold and very dark green – Man!! Were they fantastic to sleep in! Absolute luxury.
Another coffee set – but this one was a Royal Albert Country Roses one. It consisted of the coffee pot, little milk jug, and 2 types of sugar bowl – one with a lid and one without – as well as 6 coffee cups and saucers. I got the whole set on two separate layby’s from a jeweller in Guildford (Sydney) and it cost me around $98.00. Over the years I have added many pieces to my country roses set as you know. These days I have a full 6 piece dinner set which takes pride of place in my glass cabinet. One day I will be able to pass this valuable set on. Each piece is English made. When the Royal Albert factory moved to Asia I stopped collecting, as the colour of the crockery was a different white. Pieces from Asia are not as valuable as the English made dinner ware
There were tea towels, washers, table cloths (some of which were beautiful), a water set in copper coloured glass, entertaining dishes – 2 of which I still have. Both dishes, also in copper coloured glass, are used on the odd occasion and sit on the shelf under the dinner set in the kitchen cupboards.
Stoneware Dinner Set – Mine was Brown & Burnt Orange
An 8 piece, stoneware dinner set in a brown colour, with a thin chocolate brown ring and edged in burnt orange. I’ll have you know – these were very cool colours back then! If you think back carefully, you may just remember them. We had people up one Sunday and I used the entire dinner set. I chose to wash and dry it myself (before we had the dishwasher). After washing and drying the dinner set I stacked the dinner plates, b & b plates and dessert bowls on top of each other, and then lifted them to put them into the cupboard – and dropped the lot!! I did manage to save about a 4 piece setting out of the rubble.
A lovely 12 setting stainless steel cutlery set which actually had the same design – in miniature – as the stainless steel coffee set. This cutlery set lasted most of your lives to date, and I only replaced it with the current one about 4-5 years ago.
The cupboard was filled to overflowing with boxes of all different sizes, parcels in brown paper and moth balls dotted here and there. On the odd occasion, when I wanted to fit something else in, I would have to take everything out, go through it (just for fun) and repack it so that I could eke out a small place to add my latest purchase.
I used the contents of my hope chest long before I was married, as that’s just the way life turned out. When I lost my job in Sydney I moved into a flat with Aunty Kellie in Belmore Street, just up from the Family Hotel, and we used some of the things from my collection in our flat. I then moved into a house in Carthage Street and filled it with the rest of the gear from my hope chest. Not long after that, your dad moved in with me!
Do you know – I think girls should still put together a “Hope Chest”, just because it was so much fun. When I had no other monetary commitments beside paying board and my car payments, I could spend money on getting special things that just aren’t affordable later on.
Just so you know – Aunty Nony and Aunty Gwen both had them I think, but I think Aunties Kim and Kel only had the odd thing put together by the time they moved out of home.
One month down and a lifetime to go!! And just how am I doing after my first month away from work? Just brilliantly, thank you. The truth is – I feel calmer, happier and free-er than I have in all of my life. I truly feel liberated. It is as though I have just now become the person that I have waited a whole lifetime to be. How very lucky I am, but let me try to explain.
Firstly, I have a new found calmness that is the most deliciously warm sensation – one could easily become addicted to it! As many of you will know, I am not known for my calm nature, preferring to be a person that lives “on the ceiling” or “at the edge” for most of the time. This calmness, or perhaps it’s actually peacefulness, just sits inside of me all the time and helps guide the very flow of my day. I have used this new calmness to help me organise myself, so that I can feel like I have still achieved something positive each day. To others, these chores may seem trivial but to me they encompass the very style of life that I have always yearned for – that of a housewife. Every few days I have set aside time to do the very things that I was never fully able to cram into my two days off. Simple things like cleaning my laundry, tending to my herb garden, taking down cobwebs or going through all my family history paperwork, have become tasks filled with joy and purpose, and chores to take pride in.
The “happiness” side of things took me a little by surprise. I think beneath the surface I really was a little concerned about how happy my retirement could be. I have found that my happiest of days in this past month have been the days that I have been at home on my own, or the time I have spent with my family or friends – and lets face it – that’s the way life really should be. Before retirement though, it was difficult to fit “everyone & everything” into a weekend, whereas now I have the time to decide that I will go visit my children or grandchildren, I have the time to sit with friends and while away a couple of hours having a casual drink and laugh. The truly big discovery here though is that I am quite happy in my own company, I don’t miss the “press” of people from my working life which was filled with the noise of constant chatter, tears and raised voices. That is not to say there are not some specific people that I don’t miss.
Being a calmer and happier person has brought with it a freedom that I absolutely did not expect. The fear of trying new things has largely slipped away. Of course a fear of trying new things is really all about the fear of failure – honestly, what was I thinking? I have branched out with my cooking – a thing that I have always loved, but have never had the time to fully investigate. My hubby and I are enjoying at least one if not two new savoury recipes each week or fortnight and I am baking our own cakes and biscuits. We have always been adventurous eaters, but this has taken it to a whole new level. Lets face it, what’s the worst that can happen? If we decide we don’t like the recipe I just won’t make the dish again. I have also started learning to decorate cakes and although I have huge room for improvement, I have found that I love it. Who knows, maybe I’ll get good at it. This new found freedom has also allowed me to help my kids who are working hard, purchasing homes, raising children and finding there own way. As a young married woman I always thought that if I had just a little practical help that I wouldn’t be such a failure at “wife and motherhood”. Long story short – I can do ironing or clean a house to within an inch of life. This I can offer them, and it gives me such great joy to be able to help them.
“Helping others is the secret sauce to a happy life.”
Todd Stocker – Writer, Speaker and Pastor
So you see, these last few weeks have truly been an eye-opener, the best part of which is that my family have noticed a positive difference in my nature and outlook. I can only finish this by saying – retirement is nothing to fear, but something to jump feet first into!
Do not wait until the conditions are perfect to begin. Beginning makes the conditions perfect. –
Alan Cohen – Author
Well, here I am on the last day of my working life – 10 July 2015. Wow – has this been a roller coaster ride – or what!! Before we opened for business this morning I sat at my desk looking out over the waiting room and had such an overwhelming sense of excitement filter through me that I could hardly wipe the grin off my face! But immediately the smile appeared the thought occurred to me that I would never again walk into this familiar office, turn on the lights in the waiting room, start up my computer, greet patients or welcome the doctors as they come into the office, laugh with Cath – who not only worked beside me but has kept me sane all this time – and I experienced a split second of true and gripping fear!
The unknown has always been scary to me, being the creature of habit that I am, but I just didn’t have time for these feelings this morning as I had so much to do! I was nowhere near ready to hand over to Kierra, and I hadn’t told, or shown her nearly enough for her to get by. I don’t think I have ever put so much of my soul into any one day in my life, and I powered through the work. Do you know though – I’m not sure if I smiled at the patients, help them as fully as I should have or wished them well! I was so focused on the other facets of my work that I just can’t remember who came into the clinic today at all. I find that a bit sad.
There were many wonderful distractions throughout the day though: beautiful flower posies & arrangements arrived, well-wishers popped their heads through the door wishing me much happiness and voicing their envy of my leaving, chocolates and gifts were added to the counter behind me and cards with warm and fuzzy messages were handed over! I found the day embarrassing and humbling, filled to the brim with the well wishes of my friends. Funny though – over the years I have seen people cry on their last day – but not me – not a tear was shed, but it still does not seem real. What does retirement look like anyway – I have no clue.
In the end I was ushered out the door over a half hour early by these wonderful people. The days’ work had not been completed. Kierra had not been given the attention, nor the full information that I would have liked to have passed on. But my desk was cleared of my belongings, the closed drawers and filing cabinet sat tidy and surprisingly empty, and every surface was spotless. I had just a fleeting sad thought that my desk looks very bare.
As I added flowers to vases and placed arrangements around the house this evening retirement still does not seem a reality. To my utter surprise there are no tears or unhappiness to cope with, and the only true feeling, as I snuggled into my warm and comforting bed at the end of this very long day, is contentment – a quiet calm, which is ever so slightly covered by a wafer-thin layer of excitement. I am not afraid.
I think the concept of retirement hasn’t “sunk in” yet because it seems more like going on a holiday to me, but as I move forward it will be very interesting to see what emotions present themselves and what challenges lay ahead.
Retirement may be looked upon either as a prolonged holiday or as a rejection, a being thrown on to the scrap-heap
Simone de Beauvoir – 9 Jan 1908 – 14 Apr 1986 – French Writer, Intellectual, Existentialist Philosopher,Political Activist, Feminist and Social Theorist
Nobody ever told me that retirement would be an enormous upheaval in my life, and in any case, I would never have believed them. Today is 30 May, 2015 and I am almost a retired woman! For quite a number of my 43 years of working life I have actually looked forward to the day that I would be able to slow down, but now that I am “staring down the barrel” of that gun it is an entirely different matter altogether. I chose the opening quote expressly because it hints at the turmoil involved in coming to the decision to retire, but it is really representative of the extreme points of sentiments involved. There are many mid range emotions on the topic of retirement which sit snugly between those two poles, and I think I have experienced most of them.
Everyone retires at some point in their life, but on the whole that choice is theirs, and ultimately they are resigned to that fact. Perhaps my difficulty has come from needing to retire a little earlier than than I, or my hubby, had planned, not by a lot of time – only 12 – 18 months – but earlier none the less. It has not been a clear cut decision. There is no life threating illness, no life changing event, just a need to spend less time in front of a computer screen due to arthritis – how very inane! This single point leaves me in the unfortunate position of not being able to see through a number of plans I had for my career, and that really annoys the devil out of me!
My career has always been incredibly important to me. I chose to work in the Administrative field, putting into that choice all the thought and commitment that someone would show when deciding to study medicine, open a business, fly a plane or become an organic vegetable gardener. Every student or trainee that has ever come under my wing has been told that they should not “fall into” a job just because there is no other, and that they should truly think about where a career in Administration could lead them. Paper trails have always fascinated me, I thrive on contact with the general public, I am able to capably deal with crisis situations and I love working with children. These facts saw me leading a team of Administrative Officers in an Outpatient Clinic at our local hospital for the last 12 years, and they truly have been the most challenging yet satisfying years of my working life. I’ve loved every minute of it!
So, a fortnight ago the decision to retire was made after almost a year of increasing problems with arthritis. I have spent two or three days teary and crying, and I have spent a number of days filled with excitement, but there is a specific day that I should tell you all about. It was the day that I woke up thinking – What Was It All For.
The truth is – I haven’t saved lives, I’m not a political activist (actually I find politics a bit boring), I’m so far removed from being an intellectual it’s ridiculous and I have no idea about social theorems. I will have to leave those critical careers to others. What was it that I had achieved during my working lifetime that could possibly be seen as advantageous to anybody, seen as helpful. The funny thing is, it wasn’t a “poor me” type of thought, it was more a reflection, and the answer plagued me for a week or more before the answer presented itself. During that week or two I felt like I was in crisis, I was at a very low point which resulted in me being teary at the drop of a hat – something that does not sit well with me. I was devastated to think that I had spent nearly a lifetime, and may not have achieved anything. I simply needed to feel that I had contributed and made a small difference. That is only normal, isn’t it? I hope it’s normal anyway.
The answer came in the form of an urgent yet relatively simple problem that needed to be solved and it was almost a “light bulb” moment. How very daft I had been, not being able to see that this was the very reason I was doing what I was doing! Leading a fantastic team through difficulty, changing processes for the better, providing what we all hoped was a quality service to the general public under difficult circumstance, and finally helping parents organise the best healthcare outcomes for their children. Of course I had contributed! Organisation, Planning, Assistance – I have always known these are my strengths.
Knowing that I have worked towards a better service helps immensely, it fills in the hole. It will be interesting over the next 6 weeks leading up to my retirement to see what other emotions I will find lurking beneath the surface of my composure, what other thoughts will come to mind, and how I will deal with the transition to retirement – stick around – take the journey with me, and find out what retiring is all about.
I want to thank my eldest son, Lucas Brent Preston, for the most amazing discussion which took place in our kitchen last night. My husband Terry, Lucas and I discussed a wide range of topics from Gay Marriage to Politics and Boat People, and it was a wonderful thing to find that all three of us could have such varied ideas, opinions and beliefs and still respect each others point of view.
I was amazed to find that Lucas believed that it was time for the topic of Gay Marriage to be taken to the people of our nation through a referendum which was totally opposite to my view that Gay Marriage should not occur at all and which I base on my personal religious beliefs. Terry had another point of view altogether – that Gay Marriage should not take place, but from the point of view that – as a generational concept of the “the baby boomers”, it was not a socially accepted practice. Three opinions based on three viewpoints and none of them entirely wrong. Interestingly, we could come to a common ground – each of us thought that if the leaders of our country took the issue to the people we could live with the outcome. The benefit of a referendum would be in knowing that the people had spoken, and not a politician that was looking to further his career. I don’t believe a referendum could change my point of view on this topic, but it took strong discussion of this topic with my son and husband for me to realise that the power of this decision should be placed into the hands of the people who will have to live with the outcome.
We could come to no agreement on the topic of Politics, but on the length of time it takes to process the application of Refugee/ Boat People we did agree. It is inhuman to keep people, especially children, locked up in detention centres for years, but we could find no common ground on how to achieve quicker processing times, or in fact, a way to stop the boats from coming to our shores. What this topic did stir in me though, was a thought that we should be more vocal as a community about the processing of Refugee/Boat People status. Whether we believe that they should be sent back to their own country, or welcomed into our country does seem irrelevant, if we cant first decide how to treat their applications.
It has been fascinating to me to watch my child grow into an adult (a process which I firmly believe takes a lifetime), but it is profoundly humbling to have that adult challenge my view on the world with good and solid evidence to support his argument. What more could his father and I have hoped for in our son. He challenged me to think from a different point of view, to examine why I believed what I believed and to evaluate whether my belief “stood up” to critical argument. I love to listen to what others have to say on today’s important issues because I always learn something new. Sometimes that knowledge leaves me no other option but to change my way of thinking and other times I find that someone else’s thoughts support my own, but from a different view point.
My greatest joy in last nights conversation was in seeing Lucas strongly believe in things, but allow others to have their own opinions and listen to their arguments – wow!! what a night.
I’m going to tell you about one of my favourite pastimes from years gone by. As early as my memory will stretch back I remember having an embroidery needle in my hand, or the pedal of some type of old sewing machine under my foot. My mother was a seamstress by trade and her first job was to sew for a tailor in Parramatta. My mother thought that it would be a mortal sin if her daughters were not taught to sew. She believed that we would need the skill not only to provide for our own families, but so that we might also be able to earn money through sewing. My very earliest memory is of sewing buttons on a scrap piece of material whilst my mum sat at her sewing machine. In those days mum used a huge treadle sewing machine which was set into a very large wooden sewing table. I just couldn’t wait until I was old enough to sew on her sewing machine!
I was in 5th class at East Tamworth Primary School the year that I discovered embroidery could be so much fun. As we practiced stitches every week in sewing class many of the girls groaned and moaned, but I loved every new embroidery stitch we were shown, practicing the stitches at home on scrap material to get them perfect. The stitches we learned were the old fashioned embroidery stitches such as daisy stitch, stem stitch, satin stitch and bullion stitch. I knew about embroidery before that, as I had been playing around with it since 3rd class in Darcy Road Public School in Wentworthville, before moving to Tamworth. But in 5th Class everything fell into place, and those stitching classes started a lifelong adventure into the world of materials, embroidery cottons, colour and beads!
By the time I started high school I was making my own dresses, shifts, shirts and skirts with a reasonable amount of skill. They were good enough to wear to church, which is how the benchmark was set. My mum always decided if you had done a good enough job by whether the garment was good enough to wear to church, and have others see you wearing it.
My very first dress was a pale blue linen A-line dress with short sleeves and a round neck and it was decorated with a wide band of white lace which ran from the neckline to the bottom of the hem, in the centre front. I was so proud of myself when I first wore that dress, as it was the first time I had ever put a zipper into a garment, and mum passed it as good enough to wear. In fact, that beautiful dress was my favourite for a couple of years, until I grew out of it. I also remember an apricot floral dress in a “baby doll” style with short puffed sleeves and a round neckline. It was really pretty, and I’d made it a bit shorter than usual which mum didn’t like very much, but short dresses were all the rage at the time.
When I had my sons I used to make their shorts and t-shirts, which lasted until they both discovered that it was much trendier to buy clothes than have them made by their mother!!
I also really enjoyed making stuffed toys, starting with a pair of stuffed rabbits. The first set I ever made was for my girlfriends daughter when she was six or eight years old – maybe about 1986-1988 – and she loved them at the time. I then went on to make another 3 sets for various people at work, making sure that I dressed them all differently so that each rabbit couple was totally individual!
All along I embroidered bits and pieces – in 1994 I stitched a garden sampler which I had framed and now hangs in the computer room. I loved it for the verse about family, and the fact that it was done in a different kind of thread than I had never used before. It was called Flower Thread.
In 1995 I made a lovely fringed doily which was decorated in my first attempt at Hardanger stitch. When our dear friend Pete passed away I stitched a cross stitch sampler in his memory, which is also in the computer room these days. I also embroidered a family tree, which was freestyle and very creative! I was really proud of that piece.
Then there came the time in my life when I discovered quilting, which was about 2004, when I made the famous “Chook” quilt, much to my children’s disgust!! I, on the other hand, loved it because it reminded me of my very early years on the chook farm at Toongabbie.
Next there was a floral quilt done in pink, green and cream – just to prove a feminine point in a male dominated household which I must admit is still toasty warm.
But my personal favourite is the black, green and cream one that I have never finished (must get to that one day), and of course the Christmas table runner that comes out every Christmas and sits on the dining room table, usually with some sort of Christmas candles sitting on it.
Well, that’s the story of my love of sewing which is, and always will be, a very important part of my life.
Well, Christmas is just around the corner – AND I’M NOT READY!! But I read something this morning that made me reflect upon the true meaning of Christmas.
I sit here and worry that the Christmas pudding isn’t made and I haven’t decided on a stuffing for the turkey yet. Yes – a whole bird for the first time! And really, it will all get done and be ready on the day. Aren’t we the luckiest family in the world. We will all be together on the day. My grandchildren will be over excited and very noisy (just the way it should be), we will share drinks before a sumptuous feast of baked turkey and ham, mouth-watering salad, and simply to die for deserts. We will share love, laughter and gifts – making us the richest family in the world.
The quote I read was:
At this festive season of the year…..
it is more than usually desirable that we should make some
some provision for the poor and destitute, who suffer greatly
at the present time…..
We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when
want is keenley felt and abundance rejecoices.
I know how busy it is in the last few days before Christmas, but today I am going to try to make a difference, giving of my time or my money, to someone who is having trouble making their dreams come true. I would encourage everyone to do the same.
Merry Christmas to you all. May you spend a wonderful time with your loved ones, and may you all be blessed to experience the true meaning of Christmas
I have been busy over the last few months writing a series of letters for my son’s, to tell them of all the wonderful memories I have of my childhood. A number of my most treasured memories revolve around my beloved brother Douglas Norman Di Salvia who was born 28 Jul 1943, and very sadly passed away on 16 Jan 2008. As I sat there late one night tapping lightly at the keyboard, drafting a memory letter to Lucas and Brett, all the happiness and laughter that Doug and I shared over the years flooded back, filling me with a warmth and joy that is very hard to describe in words. Suffice to say that these memories are immensely important to me, so I decided that I would share these memories with everyone as a tribute to a wonderful brother who would have celebrated his 71st birthday this month.
Doug was a bear of a man, even when he was young – say in his late teens and early 20’s. His hands were huge and roughened from hard work, and he was as strong as an ox, and I loved him to the moon and back (as the old song goes). I guess though if I remember the truth of it, he was quite short and a little bit overweight, but to me he was just a teddy bear. Doug could be gruff and sometimes “point blank” but he lived his life on his own terms and made no apologies for that. He was an honest and loving man and when all is said and done, what more can you ask of anyone in their lifetime, what greater legacy could he have ever left behind?
I don’t remember Dougy living at home with us. Doug was born in 1943 so he was about 13 ½ years older than me, and nearly 15 years old when I joined the family. Apparently, when I first went to live at Bogalara Road with the Di Salvia clan I would have nothing to do with him, or Dad either for that matter. But mum, Gwen and Nonny always told me that Dougy slowly worked his way into my heart by feeding me my bottle. If I wanted my bottle I had no choice but to take it from Dougy – clever, don’t you think!
The earliest memories I have of Doug are of him coming home for a visit from Dubbo, where he and Gwen lived in about 1962 – 63. At that time he worked for Bonny’s Pest Control. I would always be snuggled up in bed by the time he arrived as he would drive from Dubbo to Sydney after finishing work on a Friday night. The first thing he would do after saying hello to mum was walk into the bedroom I shared with Kim and Kel, put his massive hands either side of me on the mattress and then bounce it with all his considerable strength. I was wide awake in an instant, seemingly flying through the dark night air and squealing with delight. Then, when he was sure I was awake he would scoop me up and take me out to the kitchen to join in with the family. After seating me on the kitchen chair he would go back and start the process again, and I would listen to the joy in the laughter of one twin, and then the other, as Dougy delivered each of them into the kitchen. Of course, the twins would hear the ruckus when Dougy woke me, but they would lay quietly and stock still pretending to be asleep, so that Dougy would “just have” to wake them too!
Such a silly thing to remember, but what a joy it was over the years. When we moved to Tamworth Doug’s routine changed just a little bit. He would pick us up out of bed and instead of sitting us in the kitchen, he would throw us into the pool, pyjama’s and all! The first time he threw us into the pool was a bit of a shock to the system, but once again the memory is filled with the shear joy of having his attention.
The other thing I loved about my brother was his “bear hugs”. Often when Dougy said goodbye to head back to Dubbo he would give me a bear hug that crushed the breath from my lungs. Did he know his own strength? Of course he did, he just loved to see the twins and I squirm this way and that as we called out, laughing and pleading for him to stop. He would give me a kiss on the cheek and head off in his car, and I would wait for his return so that I could fly through the air, laugh with childish abandon, and have the very life nearly crushed from my lungs, all in the name of love.
He loved to drive fast cars
One day he left me stranded on the aviary roof by stealing the ladder, even though he knew I was terrified of heights if I was on my own
He loved the country – wide open spaces and the red and brown colours of the outback
He loved shooting
He doubled me on his bike one day and I accidently got my foot stuck in the wheel spokes, wrenching my ankle – he felt very bad about that!
He adored his wife and children
He worked for a time in New Guinea
He was a builder by trade, but also worked in the pest control industry
He brought us home a baby Joey for a pet. He had hit the mother Roo with his car on the way home, but gently saved the Joey
He had a very bad car accident near Albury around 1970, in which he broke some ribs, hurt his right arm and cut his face
He liked camping, cooking on a campfire and staring at the night sky
Doug in Christmas Play
Doug and Dad fixing the pool – Summer 1975
Mum, Noeleen, Doug & Gwen in Anzac Park Tamworth
Doug as a very young man
Doug and Barb Di Salvia (nee: Arendts) on their Wedding Day – 22 Feb 1978
Of course the time came when he would arrive home to visit us from Dubbo, and the twins and I would be sitting up waiting for him. We simply grew too big for him to just “throw around”, but I never think of my brother without recalling those wonderful times spent laughing with him.
For a short time after he married Barb they lived on a small property on the outskirts of Tamworth – at Daruka, but then he got a job with Agrospray and spent 12 months at North Star. After North Star Doug, Barb and the children – Glen, Tammy, Troy and Mandy, moved back to Narromine and for about 3 months they lived on a property by the name of Cabundi, before buying their lovely period home in Merilba Street. Doug and Barb put a lot of time and effort into renovating the old home and I remember they added a beautiful large kitchen and dining room to the back of the house, whilst Doug continued to work at crop dusting.
Barb told us that she first noticed a change in Doug when he was about 55 years old. He was changing a tyre on the truck, and simply couldn’t remember how to do it. They went into Dubbo where Doug’s memory was tested and he initially did really well, but only months later he couldn’t remember how to draw a circle for a clock face, and he was ultimately diagnosed with Alzheimers. By 2003 Doug and Barb felt it would be better if they moved to Cessnock, where Barb could be closer to their adult children. Progressively, Doug’s Alzheimer’s got worse. He lost the ability to do practical work, but he could still have a great conversation most of the time.
One day, a friend of Doug’s took him to work with him, but at the end of the day he told Barb that he was feeling “awful”. He was taken to hospital where he was found to have blood poisoning. He was treated with antibiotics and, after a month, was allowed to go home.
Only a month before his death Doug went in to a nursing home, but the blood infection came back and made him very ill. Sadly my brother Doug passed away when he was just 64 years old, from blood poisoning on 16 January 2008. He was too young by far to leave this life, and I miss him every day. Doug is buried in a beautiful quaint church cemetery at Brunkerville, where he will always be able to look over his beloved “bush” and the gentle rolling hills of the area.
For Mother’s Day I wanted to share with you something that I love to remember about my own mum. When I was growing up it was very common for a lady to wear a brooch on a warm woollen coat or on a special dress or winter cardigan. Brooches were worn all year round of course, but more so in the winter months, and it is the winter brooch that Madeleine Di Salvia wore to church that holds the most significant memory for me. Every Saturday morning our family would get ready for church, yes I said Saturday, we were Seventh Day Adventists.
Getting ready for church was always a hurried event in our house, people busily flying from bathroom to bedroom to get dressed in their very best clothes. Mum kept her brooches in a little glass jewellery bowl which sat on her dressing table and I recall seeing the brooch sitting delicately on the right shoulder of her church cardigan or dress from about the time I was eight years old, although I have no idea where she might have gotten this pretty little cut glass item from, or from whom.
The first time I really took notice of it was quite magical to my “little girl” eyes, and took place in the winter of 1964. It was a clear and very crisp winter morning, so cold I could see my breath turn white as I spoke, the steam drifting away into the air around me, as I joined the other children in the church hall. I would arrived at the Church in Vera Street, Tamworth with mum and dad and head off to what was called Sabbath School. This was very much like school scripture lessons, although generally speaking, it was far more fun. Sabbath School was filled with children’s laughter, lots of singing, stories, colouring in and the joy of time with my friends. You must remember that as I was growing up I was not allowed to invite my friends to our house, or play sport on the weekend so, apart from school, church was my only social activity.
That cold winter morning after Sabbath School I walked into the church and took my seat on the cold, hard wooden pew beside mum, ready for the Service which was the main event of the day. There was a very ordered way of seating on the Di Salvia family church pew. Firstly there was my dad, he sat closest to the isle as very often he would have to leave us to help collect the offering with a couple of the other men from the gathered group. Years later I was to learn that this was a very responsible position within the church, but at the time I saw it as some old man taking my hard earned pocket money for no good reason. Beside Dad sat my mother as second position on the pew, followed by me. Many was the morning that I rested my head on Mum’s shoulder and fell into a light sleep during the very tiresome and boring drone of the Ministers voice. Between me and the wall, together as always, sat my little sisters Kim and Kellie.
On this particular morning the whole church congregation had risen from the customary position of prayer – the knees – and were taking their seat on the pews, when a tiny flash of pink and yellow light caught my eye. The coloured light was dancing on the ceiling of the church and instead of listening to the wise words of the Minister, I was craning my neck this way and that, to see where the beautiful light was coming from. Mum was very good at aiming a quick whack to the leg if she thought you were misbehaving in church, and she could cork a muscle better than anyone I would ever meet in my whole life, and that is just what she did to me that morning. It hurts to have a cold leg corked, but as I rubbed the fabric of my dress over the cork sight I watched the light flow over the surface of the ceiling, and that’s when I worked out that the light was dancing from my mother!
It took a while, and lots of sneaky movements, to work out that the watery winter sunshine was hitting mums pretty brooch, and throwing playful coloured lights to the ceiling in one of nature’s prettiest and most delicate displays. The beauty of it had me spellbound for what seemed like hours to the eight year old me, but in fact it would only have been as long as it took the sun to move slowing across the pale blue sky, leaving the surface of mum’s brooch behind.
I can’t tell you how pretty the light show was. There would be different shades of pink, blue and yellow, mauve, blue and green dancing like fireflies against the stark white celling, and I found myself looking forward to this beautiful show far more than I enjoyed any other aspect of going to church. I never told mum or anyone else about the pretty light display I would watch play out on those cold winter mornings in the church. I’m truly not sure why, but it is most likely that I didn’t want people to think I was just plain silly, or naughty for not listening to the Sermon.
This early experience taught me to enjoy beauty in all that I see. Every day, to this very day, I try to see beauty in at least one thing around me. It might be as simple as the beauty of a frost covered sporting field, the delicate shape of a bird in flight, the scent of a pretty flower or the feel of a smooth shell found on a beach, but I let that piece of beauty seep into my day and fill it with joy. I am contstantly amazed at how much more relaxed and happy I feel when I am surrounded by any of nature’s gifts.
When Mum passed away in November of 2000 I was honoured, and filled with joy, to be able to take possession of her beautiful Sabbath brooch, which I plan to pass on to my own granddaughter in time. I have worn the brooch on my winter coats numerous times over the years and often feel that Mum is just that bit closer when I have it on. It is one of my most treasured possessions, not because of it’s worth, for it it only a piece of dress jewellery, but because of the beautiful memories I have of the pretty light display which shone from my Mum.