She is up, up and away!
Hazel Bagel, third oldest of the Tremendous Ten grandchildren, is off on a three month long trip
of a lifetime Down Under, with a stop off in Hong Kong and a visit to Bali thrown in for good measure. She will be away for her 20th birthday though I am quite sure she will celebrate in style.
Her mother, Youngest of the Darling Daughters, knows exactly how she must be feeling - just over twenty-five years ago she, too, headed off to the other side of the world, in her case for a whole year. There was no email,
way back then, no FaceTime or Skype or Instagram, no way of keeping in daily touch. We waved our daughter farewell at the airport, knowing we wouldn’t see her again for a whole year.
How hard that must have been, our daughter wonders now. Though nobody could say I wasn’t prepared - a year in Australia had been one of her dreams from the age of twelve or thirteen, when she was introduced to an Aussie pen-pal.
She was utterly determined in her pursuit of her dream. She would need, she knew, at least £2000 in savings, over and above the cost of her air ticket, in order to be allowed into her Promised Land. So, there she was, at the age of thirteen, litter picking
for the local parish council - her territory was the playing field opposite our house and woe betide any friend or family member who dared to drop even a scrap of rubbish in the playground. It wasn’t the most glamorous of jobs but then there weren’t
that many opportunities in those days to earn an honest bob or two (we are talking pre-decimal money here, maybe google if you aren’t sure what a “bob” is? We had such entertaining nicknames for our currency in the Olden Days.)
Later she took a Saturday job in a furnishings shop which was even more boring than picking litter, her mornings at work only enlivened by being sent to buy cigarettes for
the shop owner. Every penny she earned from this and other part-time employment went straight into her Australia Fund. I can’t begin to tell you how proud of her I was and how much I admired my daughter for her sheer stickability.
Now, all these years later she is revisiting her Australian diaries (she wrote in exercise books which she sent home to us for safe keeping every month or so - oh, the excitement
when a thick package with an Aussie postmark landed on our door mat!) and remembering “the best year of my life.”
Somewhere in our loft we have
a map of Australia which Mr B and I pinned to the wall in our living room, using pins and coloured ribbon to chart her progress Down Under. Round the edges of the map we pinned the many closely written postcards she sent us; now consigned to albums, they,
too are up there in our loft. Next time she comes, maybe we will venture up into the giddy heights in search of them.
Every week I wrote to her, crossing
my fingers that my letters would reach her, especially those sent to Poste Restante addresses - remarkably only one letter went astray all year. I still wonder whether there was any news of particular importance in the missing letter. My daughter says her
diaries are not as earth shatteringly interesting as she thought they might be and I am pretty sure the same can be said of my letters.
One of my worst fears was
that she would meet a handsome Aussie hunk and decide to make her home Down Under. Hazel Bagel has taken her boyfriend with her so hopefully this is one thing her mother won’t have to worry about.
When the Youngest of the Darling Daughters came home, that long year later, the whole family gathered at the airport to meet her, all of us bearing aloft signs reading “KAREN BALL” - just in case she might have
forgotten what we looked like. And I tied dozens of yellow ribbons on the buddleia bush in the front garden to welcome her back home.
I’m so glad she had
that splendidly carefree year in Australia. It was hard, indeed, to see her go but how could I not be happy to know she was living the dream she had entertained since she was just a child. Now she is happy and excited to see her own daughter following in her
footsteps, knowing just what an amazing time she will have, creating memories that will last for ever.
Enjoy your Trip of a Lifetime, Hazel Bagel, what stories
you will have to tell us! Take care, have fun, come back safe and sound.
Just like your Mum...