Remember Toys? No. Not Gameboy, or Playstation or the Wii or the PSP. You know-toys? My friend Susie and I were relishing a scene similar to this set up by her youngest boy just the other day. From the time Gabe got home from his house yesterday he disappeared into this world. I should have made him go to bed sooner. But really? How do you put a lid on this kind of beautiful, creative process?
While on our trip in Australia, I made some lists. What? You thought just because I was on vacation, I would stop making lists? Never!
The first list began after we ordered lunch at a Subway in the Sydney airport. I asked for spicy mustard. The girl making my sandwich looked at me like I was speaking Chinese. So, I tried again. "O.K. , just regular mustard," I said. Again-blank stare. "We only have honey mustard," she said. "O.K. skip the mustard and just give me oil and vinegar." "We only have honey mustard," she repeated. And so began our list of "Things We Miss."
Things We Miss
3. Free refills
4. Fountain Drinks-with lots of ice
5. Fry sauce-or at the very least-ketchup (none of this paying an extra .10 cents for a drop of "sauce."
6. Pepperoni-not salami
7. Mexican food
8. Real grass and green lawns
10. Smaller spiders
To counter that, of course, we created the "Things We Love" list.
Things We Love
1. The Muttons/Belinda
2. Lisa-Jayne's potato salad
3. Dale's stories
4. Red Rock Chips-especially the Soy Chicken and Spicy Chili
5. The birds
6. Colorful money
7. Pancakes always served with ice cream
9. Sis. Mutton's beautiful yard
10. Cool city and road names like Beerburrum, Coolangatta, Noojooloo Road, and Mooloolaba
11. The ocean
During our layover in the airport, I noticed that the background music was a mix of 80's music.
Interesting, I thought. I wonder who was in charge of the music today. Then...rental car music stations-80's music. Food court at the mall-80's music. Before the movie started in the theatres-you guessed it-80's music. So began the next list: Things THEY love. THEY being the Aussies. And 'loving' in this case relates solely to the sheer volume of usage we observed.
Things They Love
1. 80's music
3. Pies, pasties, sausage rolls
4. Thai food
6. McDonald's/McCafe (serves coffee drinks and-what do you know-pastries!
7. Beer. Lots of beer
8. Freeway speed cameras (Will the rental car agency send us the ticket?)
9. Pokies (I still don't know what this is-slot machines?Poker tables?)
10. Cordial (the liquid version of Kool-aid)
And finally, on our first outing to the beach with the Muttons, little Jordan told Gabe to go get his bathers on. Gabe looked panicked. He had only brought a swimsuit. For the rest of our trip, he thoroughly enjoyed using the word bathers (with a grin and a snicker) every chance he got.
Hence, our last list: Things They Say
Things They Say
2. How you going?=How's it going?
4. Trolley=cart-as in shopping cart
10. Carpark=parking lot
11. Mobile=cell phone
13. No worries
14. Full on=as in "that little stinker of a boy is full on."
Our trip to Australia started, unbelievably enough, in Fiji. Our huge, new, Qantas plane, had to make an emergency landing to provide immediate medical attention for a passenger having a stroke. Little Fiji, and it's likewise little runway, was not big enough to get us back up in the air and so-a dinner and lodging (till our wake up call at 1:30 a.m. ) on Qantas. Beautiful, tropic island with lots of bugs. Our stay was just long enough.
After 2 days of traveling, we finally arrived in Adelaide, South Australia. We were met by Dale and Lisa-Jayne Mutton and their kids. Dale and Jordan were childhood friends until Jordan moved to the States when he was 14. You know what they say about first impressions being lasting impressions? Well..I'm sure the sight of us after our long trip will leave a powerful-not positive-lasting impression. Good people that they are-didn't even looked shocked.
In our family we call Christian the dog whisperer, the sheep whisperer, and now we can add- kangaroo whisperer.
One of the neatest things about this trip was the opportunity for all of us to connect with a little bit of Jordan's Australian family history and heritage. It gave the kids a fun insight into a lot of their dad's quirks. A lot of things finally made sense. Like how Jordan has always had a propensity for talking (what I always thought was) baby-talk. But in reality...that's how they talk. They love to shorten everything and put an 'e' sound at the end.
Before Uni I'm going to get a milky for my brekkie. During the summer, I always wear my sunnies and put on my lippies. Translation: Before classes at the university, I will get a chocolate milk for my breakfast. During the summer, I always wear my sunglasses and put on chapstick.
Hello, my name is Jordan. This was my Primary School.
This is my buddy, Dale. Dale likes to try to beat me at everything. I like to let him think he can and then prove otherwise. (Some things never change.)
This is my boyhood home. It had a little pool in the back where I learned to swim by default. (After being pushed in by older brother was left to own devises.)
This is my family now with my Uncle Joseph and my Aunt Rosina with cousins Alfredo and Oriana. After they moved to Australia from Italy at my dad's urging, Oriana would have to translate for her mom. Now her mom is a translator herself. (For at least 4 different languages).
This is Uncle Tony. After owning his first home at age 77, he discovered a love of gardening and thus owns the only green, pretty lawn in what seemed to be all of Adelaide. (There has been a severe drought with very serious water restrictions-Uncle Tony's house is hidden from water authorities behind a large hedge.)
This was my kid's backseat entertainment during our drive down Memory Lane.
We rang in the new year with the Muttons and their friends.
Jordan's mom is a real lady. She always has a hankie at the ready. Ironed. Apparently, the Americans never did figure out how to make a good hankie and this is the mall in Adelaide you go to stock up.
The view from Jordan's parent's apartment in Adelaide looks out onto the beach at Glenelg. I would think that people who are privy to that kind of breathtaking beauty every day have less stress and more peace in their lives.
This is Lisa-Jayne. The hostess with the mostess. For a solid week, she put her life on hold to be tour guide, chef and friend to all of us. She is an amazing mother of 4 kids. Jared, her 16 year old, is autistic. After 20 minutes of watching her try to prepare a meal having to lock and unlock the padlock on the refrigerator, step in to keep Brittney from being 'hit', pour drinks, turns lights back on that keep getting turned off, reassure him about our presence and find and set up Disney movies at the asking, I was exhausted. Bringing her whole crew and coming to visit us in the States, for her, is not a realistic option. I found myself aching for what she has had to give up to care for her son, but more and more I see all that she has gained. Her other children have learned empathy and selflessness in a way that cannot be taught-only experienced. She has an inner strength that rallies and succeeds at every challenge (everything must seem minor in comparison), she has become fiercely independent and courageous as both her mom and best friend have moved away and has a great sense of humor that keeps life's challenges in perspective. I found myself standing close to Lisa-Jayne that week, hoping to let some of her greatness rub off on me. When we talked as a family about what we would miss most when we left Adelaide, "The Muttons" were the clear winner.
Week 2 was spent in Queensland. They don't call this 'Surfer's Paradise' for nothing. For my non-surfing family the crazy, intense waves were more like being in the spin cycle of the washing machine.
After a day at the beach in the 'skin cancer capital' of the world, we became likely candidates and opted for a day away from the water. Steve Irwin's Australia Zoo was just the ticket.
Christian can't seem to get enough of the kangaroos.