These are particularly personal tales charting a turning point in someone’s life with a song to match. There’s no hard or fast topic for the stories featured on Changing Tracks, just “a song that was playing when your life changed tracks.” Send in yours.
The year my life changed tracks was March, 1970, a few days short of my second birthday. My sister was 6 and my brother was 11. Our house packed up, we were off on a road trip from Melbourne, to go and live in Sydney. My father worked for the Bank of New South Wales, which later became Westpac. And this was some kind of promotion.
We got as far as Wangaratta but stopped and stayed at a motel because Mum became unwell with debilitating headaches. My siblings remember her sitting on a park bench, head in her hands, in pain and distress.
My brother recalls being perched on his knees at the end of my travel cot, hands over the edge, watching, as the ambulance pulled away. It would be the last time we saw her.
My Mum Beverley – had some kind of brain haemorrhage, went into a coma, and died a couple of days later. So there we were. Halfway there. What to do? Go forward? Go back? I guess Dad made the only decision he could – to return to Melbourne.
Dad settled on a home in Forest Hill. Soon, in fact only 9 months later, Dad remarried. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for him, it must have been difficult, I can’t fathom how he could marry so soon, but I try not to judge him.
The lady he married was nice enough, and had no children of her own, but she was a working woman, so we continued to have a string of housekeepers. Apparently I picked up some colourful language from them and one was so deaf it was easy to help ourselves to the cookie jar.
Dad and his new wife were quite social. He worked in the travel department of the bank and his wife Connie worked in Qantas Reservations. They were good parents and provided for us, but I don’t really remember love and affection. I know they did love us, I just don’t think they knew how to show it.
Three doors up, lived another family with 3 daughters Catherine, Georgie and the youngest, Bec, who was the same age as me. I quickly became good buddies with Bec. We went to the same local primary school, us girls walking to and from school each day.
I spent a lot of time at Bec’s house – sleepovers included, and became very much a part of their household. We moved house again, just one suburb away, to a slightly bigger home. Thankfully this did not impact my friendship with Bec. We biked to each other’s houses taking our lives in our hands each time we crossed Springvale Rd. The constant refrain from Bec’s mum was “be careful crossing the road.”
Bec and I headed off to different secondary schools – but luckily on the same train line. Tertiary studies were at different institutions, our lives were busy, but we always found time for each other. We decided giving blood regularly would be a good way to catch up. It meant we had a good 45mins to chat, and then enjoy the sausage rolls they offered ‘back in the day’.
The next 10 years we both moved about. Bec went to Hobart, Perth, Tanzania and Sydney. I moved to Perth, back to Melbourne and to Sydney. Then came marriage and kids for us both, making life even busier. Bec settled in Adelaide and I settled in Melbourne.
Through all of this, our friendship has remained and strengthened. We have been friends since we were two. That is rare, and we both value it. We haven’t lived in the same state for years, but we talk regularly, discuss parenting joys and challenges, and see each other whenever we can.
I would give anything for my mother not to have died all those years ago. But what came from that tragic event, was decisions that led to meeting Bec – my best friend. I can’t imagine my life without her friendship. It has been a steady rock in the changing tapestry of life.
When I reflect on this, I am struck by the conundrum of wishing my mother back, but possibly missing out on a friendship so valuable and integral to my life. And so to my song from the movie Beaches.
I identify with the themes: best friends/changing lives/the death of a mother too young. And so when I watch it, I am usually a blubbering mess by the end.
Bette Midler has Lindy’s Changing Track, “The Wind Beneath My Wings.”
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