On Being Gracious

On Being Gracious. Full stop. Permanent marker. No returns.

The latest Aunties adventure began as it usually does… six weeks after the previous, eight months since the last, or tomorrow? There remains no plan or routine, just whenever we begin to feel desperately apart. It can strike, or not strike, at any time.

It possibly begins with a snarky text ‘when am I going to see you?’; a snotty email ‘why wasn’t I invited to that’; a hurried call ‘where are you going to be in five minutes?’; or a nagging dragging feeling in the heart.

Once all sisters agree talk turns to where shall we go. It can involved venue, dates, times or passions. Or all of that. Shall we revisit Dark Mofo? More wineries? No cash baby, wanna come to mine? Swirling like wind-tunnels a decision is made. Wherever it is it will be perfect.

How are we getting there… Some by car, some by train, some the night before, some want to fly in then out, some need to train then car. And then some change their mind. And some change it back. I’m told to be gracious. There is a full stop after the text.

A FULL STOP.

Then sleeping arrangements. This is a parallel discussion. There may or may not be sharing, how do you want to play it? I need a single. I need a double for one. I need a queen for two. No one needs the king.

The talking never stops, because when it does we know it means trouble.

All Aunties arrive before Aunty Lush. Fear in their eyes. The talking stops. Then starts again. What should we be doing when she arrives? What will she expect? Should we do the expected, or the unexpected?

Aunty Lush arrives before we have decided, and she hustles out the door to walk into the sunshine ’til evening. A pub will be involved!

We totally love each other. We really really really do! And we push each other and we hassle each other and we make each other laugh until we cry. And we put full stops after sentences to make a point!

Sisters! You got one? Want mine?

The Caddie

I was going through some old photos and came across this one of our dad. The patriarch, the one in charge (or so he liked to think) and our caddie for the day. Quick family game of golf? Is there any such thing? Usually golf is a strange game of numbers and no photos. What game gets talked about as much as this one? Especially the 19th?

This photo tells a story. What do you think our dad is saying?

Literally Nude. Figuratively Naked.

Tonight I am taking off all my clothes.

 

And dancing nude.

 

In public.

 

*wallpaper muzak aka thinking music.

Opening-Night-Cast-Call

Opening Night by Fagyn Gwyther-McCuskey

 

Shall I clarify? Aunty Mod here. The other Aunties are not, at this stage, naked. But I’m working on them!

Currently I feel confronted by the fragility of health, the shortness of life, the ephemeral of happy, and the endurance of love.

Translation: I have been prompted by grief and by impending acceptance into Crone Society*, and I am grateful to have the time to think, about who I am going to be.

They say the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, the next best time is now. (They are always so wise!). This is true of many things! So for me the time is now. To feel the full power of me. To feel keenly the sense of myself, to live up to my principles, to act on my politics, to air my personal philosophies and to take a stand.

So I cleaned out the house… out!

I drove everyone crazy, threw routines into disarray, through out years of accumulated bullshit (reread: I drove everyone crazy). And that provided some relieve and gave me time to review. How much bullshit is too much? How much stuff actually stops you? The things you keep because you might need them? Better in use now – by someone else!

But cleaning out the house didn’t do it!

I took up weekly dance classes. Oh how I had missed dancing. Not sure why I stopped? Life gets busy. But oh to move to the beat again, often. To close your eyes, to give control to your body, to just go, and occasionally go-go!

I revisited yoga and this time really listened to the teacher, Robyn, who showed me to listen to my body, that it’s not a competition, its about you and your relationship with your body. My learnings have been profound. Though I admit to still holding a little flame for competition. I blame growing up with so many elder sisters.

So I was literally already primed when I read an email about Trilogy by Nic Green. It was an invitation to join with other women dancing naked on stage in tribute to women’s bodies, celebrating the divine feminine and embracing feminism. Once I had confirmed Nic was a woman I was in. And wow what a woman Nic Green turned out to be…

Trilogy

I walked into North Melbourne Town Hall Arts House the evening of the first rehearsal. I sat in the foyer with other women, feeling a bit nervous but excited! What was ahead? If it was too much I gave myself permission to leave. Would we disrobe tonight? If I felt confronted I gave myself permission to leave. Would we dance? Love to dance. I wouldn’t need to leave. How much talk? I can talk. I wouldn’t need to leave. Look at all these gorgeous young women. If I was the only elder I gave myself permission to leave. All so self assured! If I was holding them back I gave myself permission to leave. If I was too cold, I gave myself permission to leave. To leave. To leave. To leave.

Then my niece walked in.

I was so surprised that I forgot to hide my surprise. Bron is a beautiful young ecologist with a bent for environment, difference, culture and art. We had always recognised each other as the independent women we were, are! My surprise informed me that I must have presumed no one I knew would want to do a naked dance! And maybe some who would love to, but lived too far away. My face had given this all away in a flash (no not naked yet!).

At the first rehearsal we talked, danced, laughed, danced, got to know each other, danced and did not get naked. There was talk and think time about what we were about to do. A gentle start, embracing, listening and working it all out.

On the street after Bron asked me if I was comfortable. She explained that she was happy to move into the second group if I was uncomfortable with her being in my group. So many women signed up for Trilogy that two groups were formed, to take the stage on alternating nights.

“Wow! No way,” I said “I love that we are together! Love it!”

Sometimes it takes a from ‘the mouths of babes’ moment to show you how you feel. Bron turned the permissions I was so liberal in giving myself to leave, into permissions to stay. Thank you darling Bron. I look forward to storming the front row with you side by side.

Aunty-Mod-and-nibling-Bron

Aunty Mod and nibling Bron, pre-show!

Of course I never believed that ‘naked’ would be part of the stand I was wanting to make. I’ve never been comfortable being naked, have never really shown much flesh, no short skirts, no low cut tops, always one piece bathers, not a bikini. Unless you count the time I learned to surf wearing only a bikini bottom in the wild abandon of my youth!

Not a prude so much as concerned how others would judge me. Time has shown me to be my harshest judge. And time is also showing me its time to take that judge to task. Time to drop my defences if I was really going to get a sense of my own power.

And we all need a challenge.

Aunty Lush is a constant challenge to all of us as she asks ‘When’s the last time you did something for the first time?” She usually can answer ‘Yesterday’.

Aunty Verve recently moved states and cities and has survived health issues that would floor an elephant, all with a positivity and practicality that astounds.

Aunty Darling has chosen ‘Pier to Pub’ a sea swim marathon that challenges her very heart and her fear of sharks (cue: Jaws music)

Aunty Beads is a bitch for real, and for creativity. Never taken a backward step, nor held her tongue, not a grand-stander but certainly a stander with grandeur.

I didn’t think I needed a physical challenge. I’ve been physical all my life through sport, performance and dance. I’d been told by a young Vietnamese woman at a ballroom dancing session in Hanoi that I, and my partner Ms Linh, had the music in us! That was good enough for me!

My challenge though in many ways IS physical; physical and emotional and spiritual; it is to love my body. Love the wear and tear, the scars and bumps, in spite of what kind of body a woman should have, ought to have, could have worked endlessly to have. My body has been through a lot and has only ever been judged, prodded, bound and decried. I have the power and insight now to change that.

Trilogy in Ireland

Trilogy in Ireland Source: http://nicgreen.wix.com/trilogy#!production/c8od

So I’m going naked for a public performance with a hundred other women, and my niece, to see myself as one, as every woman, to embrace my body and the fractious relationship we have had. To be in my body, to love it and not to judge it, but allow it to sing and move and wobble and dance for the entire world to see.

A few shows are already booked out so the world better hurry up and book. Finishes this Sunday 26th June 2016. Q&A Let’s Smash the Patriarchy Together Babe Five Generations of Feminism’ Saturday 2pm free but you need to book.

And the women I’m going naked with all have a different story, a different reason, a different age, a different background and a different take. However what joins us together is the need to act as a tribute to women, to women’s bodies and to women’s power. The incredible duo of Nic Green and Laura Bradshaw, directors and performers, have respectfully and beautifully draw us out like bats from a cave, into the light.

Tonight I have with me Queen Mary’s dressing gown (my mum) to wear backstage, and I’m also wearing Fagyn’s perfume (my gorgeous daughter who is so proud of me). I feel the connection reaching back and forward through time to my women.

And tonight, before we go on, Nic asks each of us to say why we are dancing. My answer was that at first I thought I was dancing for myself, and that’s true, but now I am also dancing for all those women through time who could not dance, so that we might dance today.

Here’s to the sisterhood!

Aunty Mod

(this week aka Aunty Nude)

 

The Women of Trilogy

Women of Trilogy Source: http://nicgreen.wix.com/trilogy#!production/c8od

*Crone Society: women who have stopped bleeding; wise women; cailleacha; hags; woman who are venerated for experience, judgment, and wisdom.

 

ADDENDUM:

So that was last night!! Wow what a trip! What a beautiful piece of feminist art.

Now I know LOTS of women who are prepared to go naked!

And I got my period again, what a perfectly perfect tribute, and means the Crone Society will have to wait!

Aunty Darling and the Snuff Box

It was proving to be the most talked about mission since the Moon Landing of 1969. The Aunties were going to Bright (snow country). It was early winter. The year was 2016. The Valet had gone on holidays, no doubt to escape what was coming next. The planning!

Cue: Aunty Lush newly job free, pumping on being the girls’ trip concierge of choice. Or so they thought.

Txts: 78

Phone calls: 35

Facey convos: 263

Emails: 379

Through all this Aunty Darling and I (Mod) could not be locked in. Would we travel to Lush’s then up the centre to Bight? Would we travel to Melbourne to meet up with Verve and Beads? Would we take our bikes? Who had a bike rack for three? What about yoga mats? Why isn’t there a train all the way? I’d take a train. Might take a plane. But I won’t take a bloody bus. What? How bloody far is it? Why are we going there then?

Scene set then for conversation #457

Aunty Mod: So Darling have we decided how we shall travel to Bright?

Aunty Darling: May I suggest the Fiat? We can share the driving from Rat City to the City with Go and have Lush take over from there!

Aunty Mod: My only stipulation for travel is prioritising comfort and speed. Does the Fiat comply?

Aunty Darling: Absolutely.

Aunty Mod: So it’s not the tin can you were driving last week?

Aunty Darling: Tin Can? Oh no! The Fiat is comfortable, speedy and sporty as well.

It needs to be said here that Aunty Darling and Uncle Darling are well known to go through cars as often as ordinary folk go through cheese. So you will forgive me for not knowing exactly what car she had.

However I trusted she understood my travels requirements. Clearly I was wrong, because Aunty Darling arrived to pick me up one of these…

2014-fiat-500-1957-caranddriverDOTcom

Fiat 500 source: caranddriver.com

And my face looked like this…

Aunty Mod perturbed by Aunty Darling (again)

Aunty Mod perturbed by Aunty Darling (again) by Aunty Mod

Because I thought we might be travelling like this…

Aunty Mod and the Stingray by Michael Gwyther

Aunty Mod and the Stingray by Michael Gwyther

Being the ‘just get on with it’ kind of girl I am, I grabbed my special ‘made just for me by Tamara‘ knee rug and hit the road with Aunty Darling.

Lets hit the road

Knee Rug – Check by Aunty Mod

We drove to Castlemaine and stopped for a coffee at Origini an Aunty Darling and Uncle Darling fave, and so I could sneak in a read…

Origini Read

Alice, Coffee & Atmosphere by Aunty Mod

However word from Lush on the txt was hurry the eff up! Origini though is frequented by the fabulous locals, and we saw our gorgeous friend the fabulous Miss Daisy Amazing and had to stop for a quick chat. Just look at those jazz hands!

daisy

The fabulous Miss Daisy by Aunty Mod

It was plain beautiful sailing/driving after that…

roadside

Beautiful Sailing if not a little foggy inside! by Aunty Mod

Until we hit Aunty Lush’s. Our feet didnt hit the ground until we and our luggage were in her roadster. She hit the road so hard and fast that I felt car sick within 15 mins. I hadn’t been car sick since I was 10, however Lush has a way of bringing the child out in me! So I got the front seat the rest of the way, even if I was already in the front seat.

lush-groovin-web

Aunty Lush grooves the way. by Aunty Mod

I’m sure the girls will tell you of our adventures in Bright in other posts. The Ukulele sessions, the bike rides and ensuing crashes, the wine, the women, the vignerons, the beer, the Big girls club, the hysterics, the pilates, the dancing, the billiards, the massages, the silly bike guy who didn’t adjust our hire bike seats, the fabulous chefs… and that was just the first day.

Aunty Beads lines up

Aunty Beads Sharks by Aunty Mod

Suffice to say, after a huge weekend, we made it back to Lush’s on the home journey, but the keys to the tin can were missing…

Aunty Lush helps Aunty Darling look for keys. by Aunty Mod

Aunty Lush helps Aunty Darling look for keys. by Aunty Mod

So we found ourselves travelling home in the dark with just ourselves for company.

night road

Night Road by Aunty Mod

With time to chat.

Aunty Mod: So Darling when I said to you ‘it’s not the tin can is it?’, and you said no, did you mean to say yes?

Aunty Darling: No! I meant no! What tin can? This eco cutie is no tin can. Anyway Dad always called it the snuff box so I didn’t know what you were talking about.

Thanks Aunty Darling. No really. Thanks.

I'll have what she's having. by Aunty Mod

I’ll have what she’s having. by Aunty Mod

Love Aunty Mod.

Stacking It.

Aunty Verve here, on the bounce!

I thought the snow falls were the end of my misadventures! Wrong!

It started as a pleasant bike ride with the Aunties. We were in Bright, Victorian Alpine Country, it was Autumn, perfect weather, perfect fun – or so I thought!

Wandiligong Autumn

We hired bikes for an afternoon ride out to Feathertop Winery.  Lovely ride there, downhill, taking pics, chatting, checking the views! Followed by a wine tasting, a platter of fine cheeses, salmon, trout, bread, dips. Oh and a bottle of Vermentino and some totally unnecessary (for other guests) raucous laughter.

We knew we had a 10k ride back to town, slightly uphill so we pushed off.

Hitting-the-track-by-Erin

So all the Aunties whooshed along the bike path racing for home. As we rounded a bend, a narrow bridge materialised.  Three of my sisters had already ridden over and had disappeared in the distance.  My turn.  I braked slowly and deliberately coming down onto the bridge

My mind wandered to my father-in-law who, at 78, had recently fallen off his bike, ironically after visiting a winery!  Apparently he had tried to navigate a narrow bridge and ended up fracturing a rib. How can that happen on an easy bike ride?

I pushed down on the pedals as I hit the bridge to gather speed. Uh-oh. My feet were free wheeling, the gears were not engaged, zero traction. I wobbled along the bridge to the very end when my handlebars caught in the bridge railing, hard left. I was thrown into the bridge then onto my right side. I ended up with the bike on top of my legs, with Aunty Lush looking over me, trying desperately not to laugh!

Donnys-Elbow-by-Donny

The outcome – right elbow scrapes and bruises aplenty. Ok, not too bad a result. I hadn’t ridden since I was about 12. Never be beaten, bounce back.

Merida-by-Donna

So my sisters talked me into getting my own bike! Please welcome Merida, isn’t she beautiful! Thanks to Bikeforce Docklands – there is no doubt I will be a repeat customer… particularly if there are more stacks!

Love a bruised Aunty Verve.

Intermediate beginner

This year on the snow I was like a giraffe at an ice rink.  That’s no big surprise probably, however this year my falls were spectacular.

It started when the ski shop assistant asked ‘Would you be intermediate skiers?’

Aunty Beads and I looked at each other searchingly, then back to the assistant blankly.  He offered a clue, ‘Well do you fall down all the time?’.

“Nooooo” came the immediate joint response, shoulders back, heads up, chests out.

“Right then, time to step up to the next level of skis. These ones won’t automatically come off if you do happen to fall”.

No problem! That sounded like us. We thought.

Off we went, flitting about, merrily enjoying the green runs (beginner slopes for the faint-hearted).  We met up with Aunty Darling. “Come on down the blue run” she cried out, “its easy, just undulating”.

Okay. Apparently, I’m an intermediate skier, time to try it out, confidence up.  The run was lovely but rather narrow.  However a blue run clearly is not a green run.

As I rounded a corner I happened upon a novice snowboarder pushing herself up off the snow, across the slope, her legs were sliding out backwards into my path.  I called out ‘On your right, on your right!’ I was mastering the lingo with aplomb.  But she was picking up speed, I darted around her thinking gosh that was way too close.

Then I heard clomp, clomp. Oh god. No. Her board had hit the back of my skis. Over I went, face planting the snow, banged my head and slipped down the slope head first. The skis never came off!

I finally caught up to our group at the bottom of the next ski lift, they were relieved to see me still breathing (hard).  We headed to the lift gates and, exhausted, I leaned into the gate to steady myself for the chair lift.  I felt myself moving, the gate had opened, and I was sailing through!  I put my hands up valiantly to fend off the lift chair which was swinging around the bend menacingly, but I was no match.

‘Pfftt’… I hit the snow again.  “Oohhhh” said the crowd as one.

The chairlift was stopped. Three assistants picked me up deftly and put me on the stationary seat. The crowd still peering at me from every angle. I lifted my chin proudly, smiled broadly, shoulders back, head up, chest out, but gee was I glad to sit down!

Once at the top I alighted without incident and decided it was time to head to the cafe.  I caught up to a young friend who was heading in the same direction, and, in what seemed like slow motion, she stopped dead in front of me. I fell straight onto my back. My ‘intermediates’ skis didn’t release! I was like an upside down turtle, in agony, flailing about, skis and feet pointing in different directions, knees another.

I had to be dug out by a man and his young son who he was telling “See son? You must learn to fall correctly!”  My skis still firmly in place.

You’ll be happy to know I made it to the cafe for a ‘hot chocolate’ and a gathering of my pride.

Every year a few of the Aunties head to the snow, for a few days.  It’s a fabulous break, the atmosphere so different I always feel like I have been away for a week. Getting about is so physically demanding even before hitting the slopes.  Getting gear on, walking in ski boots, carrying skis and poles, getting to & from, on & off the bus, getting gear off – are a real work out. Where is the Valet when you need him? Likely in the bar!

Well this time I felt I had been away for a month.  Yes, I will go again, happy to return to my beginner skis next season. Will you come?

Love Aunty Verve

Donna at snow

Aunty Verve vs The Slopes

Aunty Verve Stands upright, momentarily.

Mary & Ben

The girls have been very quiet for a bit, you see we have lost the elders of our mob, and the girls are heartbroken. Aunty Joan steps up to tell a tale about Mary and Ben, the grand royalty of The Aunties. Thanks Aunty Joan. Love the Valet.

Joan-McEniry

Aunty Joan

I was ten when I met Mary and Ben. It was 1955 and Ben had just bought the house next door to us in Hargreaves St, Bendigo. Ben would sometimes walk into our home for a visit and say hello. Mary was there occasionally at first and then they married in November 1955. I went to see their wedding at the Sacred Heart Cathedral. Mary was so pretty with her beautiful black hair and Irish complexion. Ben was really handsome. I was really intrigued by their accent, for me this added to their beauty.

Then they both lived next door. I loved to visit. I never felt I was intruding or a nuisance. They were always happy to see me. I had a Irish Nun teaching me in grade 6 in 1956. She was pleased to know Mary & Ben also. She engaged a school friend to teach me how to sing The Mountains of Mourne, then I was to go home from school and sing it to Mary. That all went well I am pleased to say. I think Mary had a little cry, but I was too young to realize why. I would now of course. Mary gave me a gift of a beautiful emerald green Bracelet. I am sorry to say I don’t have it now.

Mary & Ben were very much into gathering  all the Irish people to their home. I met many of their friends over the years. They would often take me to visit their friends. Sometimes I wanted to be their child, even though I had a beautiful Mum myself. Loved being around Ben, I can say it now I have the words, they both had such a incredible energy. I was so absorbed in their lives and they allowed it. Lucky me.

Joan-and-Kerry

Aunty Joan and Aunty Lush.

Then came their first born Kerry (Aunty Lush), a beautiful little girl. My Mum took me up to see Mary at the Hospital but as I was young I was not allowed into visit. In those days you were in Hospital for about 14 days, when you had a baby (crazy) and that was a long time for me to wait.  So Mary came to the window and waved to me with Kerry in her arms.  That is what Mary would do of course.

I spent much time over at Mary and Ben’s playing with the new Baby. As Kerry grew older I was allowed to feed her and rock her off to sleep, I was very good at this. Amazingly. I would clean out the cupboards and help with anything. I was doing the ironing one day and the cord caught on fire, without turning the iron off I ran out the back door and down the driveway screaming. Mary simply said you could have  turned the iron off.

I loved playing with Kerry. One day I was on Mary’s push bike and Kerry put her little finger in the chain. Opps that was not good. Lucky not too much damage. Mary was very understanding, I felt unhappy about it though.

Mary & Ben stayed with my Aunt Eileen & Uncle Arch at Edithvale in the early years. They became really good friends too. I had to have my appendix out one Summer, Mary was there to help out. 1959.

When Ben worked away sometimes I would stay and sleep with your Mar, so she had company. That was really good. I was so influenced by the Irish fun and laughter and singing I took up Irish dancing, and would dance for them when they had visitors. One Song Ben would sing and I loved was the Irish Rover. I loved it.

Johnny,-Joan-and-Kerry

Darling Ben, Aunty Lush and Aunty Joan

At my home my Mum & Dad played cards, and Ben and Mary would come to our home. My Dad used to cheat, I caught him out once. None  of that. So I continued to visit and bring Kerry into my house to play by now I was 12 years, and Donna (Aunty Verve) was born in the November,  then Colleen (Aunty Darling) and Siobhan (Aunty Beads) loved this name as they told me it was Irish for Joan.

Then Erin Margaret (Aunty Mod), Margaret is my second name too, this was all so amazing. By now I was grown up and  went to work and went out socially. Also my older sisters were married and having babies now too so I spent more of my time there.

Mary & Ben were always looking out for me regards a romance. In 1966 Tony McEniry came to work for Ben. Right next door. Brilliant! We began dating the following year. Tony used to take Tyrone (Uncle Tige) with him in the ute.

He really liked Tyrone, so much so that it gave me the idea that Tony would be a great father  to our children. I remember when Paul (Uncle Paulus) was born and went to visit at the hospital.

Ben bought a ski boat, the first one was Raheen, and the second one was Tiger Paw. So we all began our wonderful times out at Lake Eppalock learning to ski. Such great fun. Then the times we would visit when you were at the beach house in Rosebud.

Johnny,-Mary,-Joan,-Kerry

Uncle Johnny, little Aunty Joan and Queen Mary with Aunty Verve as a babe.

How fortunate was I to have such fun in my childhood.

Tony and I were married in May of 1970. Donna was one of my Bridesmaids.  We left Bendigo and moved to Kerang. We returned in the August of the next year

Mary and Ben moved out to Strathdale.  I think. We did visit a couple of times when they were there. Then they went to Ballarat, and we visited them there a few times. I think I just became busy with my children and our working life. This was all a bit sad.

Now. The last time I saw Ben was in April of last year when he visited us in Bendigo and took Tony & I out for lunch. We spoke to him on the Phone a few times. We didn’t get over to Ballarat in the later years though. Our loss.

Thanks Erin, writing this has been quite emotional. I am so grateful to Mary and Ben, I know they loved and cherished me, I hope I fulfilled a need  for them as a surrogate younger sister.

Mary and Ben  certainly left a truly amazing legacy in all of their children.  As you say Erin darling heart, I can hear Mary saying this.

Much sincere love to you all and many thanks for asking me to write. My life was truly enriched I will treasure it more for the rest of my life.

Love Aunty Joan

Mum Sayings

"I wonder what the poor people are doing?"
"Did you see anyone you liked better than yourself?"
"I've had that new coat forever."
"Go on, you deserve it."

Yummy Aunties…

We demand more Auntys reveal themselves... Email the Valet... valet@theaunties.com.au