No matter how busy I was, or how exciting the challenge of the day, the slightest thing would send a stab of anguish through me. When I looked back into my previous life, I seemed to remember a feeling of completeness. I wasn’t naive enough to believe every day was bliss. There were days when I hated my job and our frenetic life-style. But I still felt as if I had a choice. I had a sense of purpose and I felt a whole person. It didn’t matter that I was a couple of kilos overweight or that I would never be marketing manager, or a good painter or writer. It was good to have those dreams, but in my heart I knew that’s all they were. Dreams.
Perhaps they were a part of me that only my family could bring out. Maybe in addition to grieving for my children and grandchildren, I was also grieving for that part of myself that was a gift from them. I needed to become an axolotl and grow a new head.
But moving on, one of the big perks of Vaughn’s job was his company car. As we didn’t have to pay for petrol, we were able to go out every weekend and explore Melbourne and its environs, without spending a cent. Each Friday I baked biscuits or muffins for mystery picnics, and on Saturdays we loaded up the car with hiking boots, towels, flasks of coffee, cameras, a bird book and a map. We took photos and carefully sent only the most attractive ones back to the family in South Africa and England. I managed to paint a colourful picture of life there without indicating how desperately I missed everyone.
Which is why, when my daughter Abi emigrated to New Zealand, she felt pathetic about the number of days she felt really depressed. She compared herself with the false impression I had given her of my strength. When she read my journal and discovered the truth, she urged me to write it all down, because a grieving process seems to be normal among all the female migrants I have spoken to. Emigrating is an emotional journey across continents, through which there are no short-cuts.
We bought a book called 200 kilometres around Melbourne, and by the end of our first year we had been to almost every place mentioned in the book. Often people would ask me if I’d been to Sydney, or Perth, or Alice. I’d reply, ‘Not yet. But have you been to Noojee?’ Many of the local Melbournians I spoke to had never heard of the place.
At Noojee we walked across the 102m trestle bridge which once carried a railway line to remote logging towns.
We walked through a lush mountain ash forest to the Toorongo Falls, by which time we were hungry, so headed back into town.
Noojee can barely boast a couple of small shops, but the Outpost Inn and its associated Toolshed bar were packed. Once inside we could see why. The corrugated iron Toolshed contained a roaring log fire and the most diverse assortment of old farming gadgets I’ve ever seen. There was everything from stuffed possums to rusty old scythes. And when we saw the size of the meals being carried through, we knew we would be making the journey back to Noojee again and again.