Volume 3, Number 9
By Fiona Jane
Last week, I went down to Melbourne to visit my family. I returned full of knowledge about the true strangeness of my family.
My mother has a broomstick. Not one of those commercially made ones, a real branch and twig thing that looks like it's only used for short journeys when parking may be a problem for her (and having seen her drive, I know parking is always a problem for her).
She was planning to take a day off to spend with me, but being a high-flying exec (sans broomstick) she had to go interstate to work, which put an end to our quality time together. Still, she has a great house, and I had a wonderful time working out which of the furniture I'd keep/move/burn when I inherit.
Her absence duly noted, I then went on the usual retail therapy spree that we normally do together. I bought so much stuff that it took a concerted (and at this stage drunken) effort to shove, squeeze and bully it into my groaning bag. I guess I shoudn't have put the cat at the bottom.
On Tuesday, I had an interesting lunch down at Southbank with a long time family friend, where we discussed many of the idiosyncrasies in my family life. While she has known my mother and step-father for well over a decade, I'm sure she wasn't aware just quite how exceptional I consider it is that I have grown up 'normal'.
I told her of my plans to have both my father and step-father walking down the aisle with me when I get married. I dearly love both Ross and Trevor and would never describe one as 'my real dad'. It sort of makes me feel that I believe the other is a pretend dad, which could not be further from the truth. We decided that with all the family members I've notched up over the years, there'd be little room for guests (or even a groom!), but I assured her that there'd always be room for her and her husband.
A marriage for me, is years away, but I've actually started my family on the preparation course for it. Some of them truly hate each other, despite having spent years together at birthdays, holidays and other family occasions.
I think that's why Ross has such a great wine collection - family get-togethers are just too painful without a good white. And red. And port. And congac. Actually, come to think of it, we travelled down that path the last time we went out to dinner together and I can still remember the bout of alcohol poisoning that resulted. His liver and stomach lining must have done well to survive my adolescence.
His new (and third) wife doesn't drink that much, which is probably a good thing. I can just picture how excited she gets when he tells her that I'm coming up for the night. "Oh goody", I bet she thinks "another night I go to bed at 9:00 while they sit outside and drink until they can't". Sorry Linda.
She's actually pretty good about the whole thing, and even has a drink or two with us at dinner. In part, I'm sure, it's to slow down our alcohol consumption. The more she has, the less we can! Still, I bet it must be pretty punishing for her going to bed while Dad and I stay up drinking and laughing far later than we ought to.
The last time I had dinner with Dad, I actually got alcohol poisoning. Maybe it was the pure volume we drank, or maybe it was the mixing of drinks, but whatever it was, I know that I was sick as a dog the next day. I had to ring up work and tell them that I wouldn't (couldn't) be coming in. Dad soldiered on dutifully to his work, but then again with thirty years more drinking experience than me, so he should have.
I spent all day in bed that day, rising sporadically with my bile, then staggering back to bed in the hope that somehow I could sleep it off. It didn't work, of course, and by the time I found my way to the train station I truly thought that I may not live through this hangover. The trip home was pure agony, and I have to admit that I was a little pissed off that none of my fellow commuters even asked if I was OK.
My grandmother rang me early the following morning, as they do, and I told her that I was feeling a little unwell. She was most horrified when I told her of my theory that my wine had been spiked with alcohol. She told me that I should be very careful as there are all sorts of wierdos around and even rang up my Mum in Melbourne to tell her. I don't know what they put in wine when Marnie was young, but Mum rang up laughing (loudly) and unsympathetically informed me that it was self-inflicted and I would live through it. Guess she's been there before.
It's actually even worse when I get drunk with my Dad in Melbourne, as I always run out of cigarettes, and end up puffing on one of his pipes. It's not until the following morning that I remember how disgusting it is and how revolting it makes me feel.
Anyway, I obviously did survive the experiences, and learnt two valuable lessons from them. Firstly, don't try and keep up with your father when drinking heavily and secondly, family sympathy for daughters with hangovers just doesn't exist.
PS. Happy Father's Day Dad.