The G.O. and I have just passed the 25 year milestone since we met…
Regardless of not having been a Coffs Harbour resident since living there as a teenager with his grandmother on the family farm, whenever we make the drive about an hour from our home at Taylors Arm for business, shopping or recreation in the CBD, the G.O. habitually parks as he’s done since the 1970’s in the same street one back from the main road around the corner from The Coffs Hotel adjacent to the Coffs Coast Advocate newspaper offices.
Each time I step out onto the footpath, I marvel at the inscrutability of life’s journey.
About a year before I met the G.O. in 1990, I was at those same newspaper offices applying for a job on their staff. At which time the G.O. had been working off and on throughout NSW and Queensland for several years with the man who would become my Husband #2 and via whom we would meet.
At the time, I was married to Husband #1, living in the rural Hunter Valley coal mining town of Muswellbrook, had a good job at the local council and was studying part-time for a Bachelor of Business in Local Government. Husband #1 bored with his carpentry job decided to try his luck bricklaying with his cousin who lived on the Coffs Coast. He went over for a couple of weeks on trial, me tagging along on holidays, and decided to move over permanently. Seeing the job at the newspaper advertised, I’d tried my luck, scoring an interview but unsuccessful as I wasn’t a local resident.
Returning to the Hunter Valley, in preparation for the move Husband #1 & I bought and renovated a large-ish caravan, relocating to his parents’ farm from our nice rented town house to live in it, with our 2 Rottweilers & 2 cats, and quit our jobs.
The day before we were due to hitch the caravan to the ute and depart Husband #1 changed his mind. His parents were unconcerned. Husband #1 had been employed in the main by one or another family member so he simply resumed work. Their blasé attitude at my unemployed status suggested they were hoping I’d come to my senses and produce a grandchild.
I immediately applied for any job listed in the local newspaper for which I was remotely qualified, and took the first offer I got as a receptionist at the premier hotel in town mainly patronised by visiting sales reps, executives, managers, etc. for local industry.
I worked 2 shifts: 7 am-3 pm and 3 pm-11 pm week about. Days were routine. Nights were more interesting with a procession of various guests, diners and occasional local minor celebrities into the hotel and restaurant. The hotel, part of a group, was managed by a cultivated but eccentric middle-aged couple who mostly left reception staff to their own devices.
The lady of the house was inclined to airs & graces and if it could be managed liked to have a couple of pre-dinner cocktails then descend the curved staircase from their private quarters elegantly attired, fluffy dog in hand to greet the guests. At which point whoever was on reception had to simultaneously attempt to persuade her back upstairs and locate her husband.
I kept one eye on the positions vacant, several months later landing a job as office manager for the NSW branch of a heavy earthmoving equipment company. It was there I met Husband #2. Soon, riding the last wave of the excess of the 80’s I was at the same hotel 3 nights a week lavishly hosting guests at the expense of the company or hosted by corporate colleagues.
The G.O. also had been working for the earthmoving equipment company, but his visits to our site didn’t coincide with my presence. It wasn’t until the company and my marriage to Husband #1 folded, and I moved to Sydney in April 1990 that we met.
We discovered that over the preceding years our paths had come close but not connected numerous times; me holidaying as a kid on the Coffs Coast and the G.O. working in the Hunter Valley. And even once they did, it would take another 15 years, another marriage each to other people before the light dawned…
And with thanks to the commenters on my post out on a limb whose suggestions inspired ideas for several stories, this story included, and a ‘branching out’ theme short story which if I get time to polish it before May 29 might be a contender for submission to Country Style Magazine’s short story competition.