Rather than taking leave of my forties at a stroll; turning 50 was a commando roll. In the midst of plans & preparations for our move to Taylors Arm November 29 snuck up on me as the focus suddenly shifted to celebrating my 50th birthday, which until the light dawned -literally- on Sunday morning, seemed notional.
In preceding months the G.O.’s question of what did I want to do for my birthday was met with varying answers all of which I suffixed with “but I don’t know’. Fortunately Dad had thought about it.
Dad’s suggestion to replicate his February family birthday gathering at Lifeboat Seafood at Brooklyn on the Hawkesbury River was the solution staring me in the face. He made some calls. I made some calls, and Dad made a booking for 15 for lunch. In the week before 2 opted out and 2 others, my best-friend-may-as-well-be-family Mrs S. and her husband opted in.
My intrepid Melbournite landlord-sister decided to take advantage of discounted fares and try the overnight train from south of the border, arriving in time for breakfast Sunday morning at our-her apartment before getting onto another train to take us to the Hawkesbury River. En route the rest of the Sydney contingent, Mr & Mrs S (actually from the Blue Mountains & Canberra) and my aunt & uncle, found us in the pre-agreed third carriage… the first and last designated quiet carriages being totally unsuitable.
Most of Hunter Valley group travelled en famille in my youngest sister’s new 7 seater 4WD with my new niece whose cuteness
stole my limelight garnered everyone’s attention. Waiting on a couple of stragglers we, in customary family style, reshuffled tables to accommodate 11 of us in an adjacent shady café and settled in with drinks to catch up.
We seated newbie Mr S. next to Dad for traditional gentle hazing and passed the time playing pass the
parcel niece around the circuit of laps until my brother & his partner arrived and we crossed the road to similarly annex the restaurant. The waitstaff struggled to make themselves heard over the conversation but they produced glasses & beers, my uncle produced a bottle of chilled white wine and the party got started amidst musings over the fresh, local seafood menu offerings. My youngest cousin, last & solo, roared in on his motorcycle, settled himself in the midst for a while until musical chairs quashed any thoughts of seating proprietorship.
Quiet other than communication necessary for passing and sharing food reigned briefly once the meals were distributed… it had gotten a bit loud trying to figure out flathead-blackfish-snapper-grilled-battered-prawns-crab-chips-salad and who ordered oysters?
Hours later my voice was hoarse, my sisters had gone off with my niece in the pram hopeful of her falling asleep (not a chance!) in search of ice-creams, and we were almost done I thought when Dad reminded everyone why we were all there and my stepmother produced a container of gooey cream cheese iced carrot cake slice. We parleyed over big-small-half pieces, and then had to move in order to walk it all off, took half an hour to finish conversations and say goodbyes before the Sydney-bound train was due.
We commandeered a generous section of train carriage then chatted around my sister who’d finally succumbed to her interstate travels and fallen asleep, made plans for future meet ups before half got off half-way and the remainder headed back to the inner city for a stroll along King Street towards home in time for my sister to revive before we walked her back to the train station for the overnight return trip to Melbourne.
The G.O. and I arrived home finally, did what we had to, enjoyed a peaceful glass of wine, showered and went to bed. My last words for the day were “I’m so pleased it’s another decade to my next zero birthday”.
The morning following my birthday, Monday the 30th the first day of the rest of my life, I felt merited a kindness to myself of an extra hour in bed. Start as you mean to go on.
Birthday out of the way, we’re on the countdown… off to Taylors Arm this weekend to make enough space to fit in the contents of a one bedroom Sydney apartment. The removalist truck is confirmed for the 15th. New tenants move into the apartment on the 19th.
“Go back?” he thought. “No good at all! Go sideways? Impossible! Go forward? Only thing to do! On we go!” So up he got, and trotted along with his little sword held in front of him and one hand feeling the wall, and his heart all of a patter and a pitter.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien,