Ten points if you can guess where that quote comes from… if you can’t, I will reveal at the end of the blog…
So, here we are, another year. Happy New Year! I really hope that whatever plans you’ve made (even not making any), come to fruition and that you have many adventures, love and laughter in 2013. And good health. We cannot forget that!
I was going to do a reflective blog about the year we’ve just had and then project forward with my plans for the next twelve months, when I had a change of heart. You see, tomorrow, January 9th, is my 20th wedding anniversary. Twenty years! Instead of writing about a year, I want to celebrate and share with you my twenty years (briefly, I promise) with the most amazing man on this earth – my true love, Stephen Ronald Brooks.
Not many people can say they met and married their true love – I can’t say with any conviction I even knew he was the day we were married in our Midsummer’s Night Marriage Ceremony on Big Hill golf course in Bendigo.
Oh, I knew I loved him – very much. I knew that fairly early on in our relationship. We met making a film, Ranko. Stephen was the leading man and I was the leading lady. The shout line was something like, “He’s going to fall in love, get married and clean up the streets” and the movie was touted as Neighbours Meets Mad Max. We had a ball making it, even if it was, as Stephen says, “highly unsuccessful”, I am so very grateful I agreed to be cast.
And, let’s face it, you have to love a man who, in order to get to know you better while dating, asks what your favourite books are so he can read them too. There were so many I could have chosen, but I told him Lord of the Rings. He read it and The Hobbit.
Proposing to me on my 30th birthday, Stephen only told one of his best friends of his intentions. This best friend (I’m looking at you, Grant), told him not to be stupid. You see, I was what’s known as “a package deal” – that is, a single mother with two kids. I was also older than Stephen. It didn’t seem the wisest of decisions for a young man to make.
Fortunately, Stephen didn’t listen to his mate (who was just looking out for him), and went down on bended knee in front of all our friends and, after giving me a pewter cup that was shaped like Galadriel’s face (from Lord of the Rings), produced a lovely little ring from his pocket (Galadriel is also the bearer of the second ring – and this was to be my second marriage – clever, hey?).
The wedding was a hoot – a dress up affair in which the kids and friends and family partook. I had a theatre background and all my wonderful theatre friends, Andrew Balnaves, Angela Rashleigh (White) and many others, helped. One of my best friends, Frances Thiele was a bridesmaid. The men wore shirts and stockings, Stephen carried a sword, and we all feasted and danced and made merry under the beautifully decorated hall, festooned with ivy and fairy lights and outside the moon glowed. Magical.
The next twenty years seem to have passed so swiftly, now I can peer back with hindsight, but what fabulous years they have been – and all because of who I’ve had the privilege to share them with. They’ve been a combination of hardship (struggling financially while I did my PhD, Stephen working to support us, the kids becoming used to a step-father, both Stephen and I to each other and married life in a new place – we shifted to Wollongong from Bendigo two weeks after we married and away from family and friends), and utterly fantastic moments. But none of them would have meant anything to me, or Adam and Caragh, if hadn’t been for one man… Stephen.
Some of the highlights of those last twenty years are:
- 1993. The scary move to Wollongong where with great difficulty we left behind (it was more like tearing ourselves apart) beloved friends and family. We lived in a place called Fairy Meadow in a street called Cabbage Tree Lane – great address J – which partly compensated and had the best neighbours in the world, Trevor and Maureen, with whom we drank ourselves silly the first day we met and every other week from then on…
- Meeting Kerry Doyle and Peter Goddard in Wollongong and having them enter and still be a part of our lives.
- Grant (yes, the one who advised Stephen not to marry me!) moving in with us for twelve months while he and Stephen (who was also working full-time) did postgrad studies.
- Stephen and Grant coaching the local winning football team.
- Delayed honeymoon to Thailand – was fantastic.
- Stephen’s 30th surprise party – a funeral. Yes, I gave him a “death to his youth” party as he was always giving me a very hard time about being older than him – Grant too, so with Grant’s girlfriend (now wife), Fiona’s help, we gave him a party he’d remember. LOL!
- 1996. Moving to the Sunshine Coast for my first uni position and again, being embraced by the community and meeting some terrific people (many of whom we still count among our best friends).
- Buying our first house in Mountain Creek – it had a pool!
- 1997. Stephen and I graduating from Wollongong uni (Grad Cert and PhD)
- Going on our first family holiday – a cruise in 1998
- Hosting two gorgeous Japanese teens, Keizo and Ayako
- Our beautiful pets, Cupid and Psyche having kittens
- My first book coming out in 2001
- Adam being given his first pet snake, Morphea
- Caragh illustrating her first book and being paid! She was still in primary school.
- Great parties and fun Friday nights with friends
- 2002. My 40th and second book launch
- Adam “coming out” – he and his dad just held each other. *sniff*
- Trips to Bali, New York, Las Vegas, Vietnam, Thailand, NSW, and VIC
- Driving the car through the garage wall and into the house and ruining two rooms – one my study.
- Caragh photographing me all distressed and laughing with Lesley who was staying with us. Our friend, Chris, the psychiatrist, running down the hill when I frantically called him (Stephen was at work) and asking me if I was “having a blonde moment?”
- Adam accidently burning down the kitchen while I was in the USA and Stephen and the kids going to mum and dad’s up north for a few days while the house was repaired and cleaned.
- Moving to Buderim and fully renovating our first house
- 2004. Stephen’s 40th and first tattoo – back to the 80s night.
- Too many Melbourne Cup and Grand Final parties to count.
- Trips to China, New York, Las Vegas, Europe, England, teaching and living in Maastricht, The Netherlands – twice.
- 2005. Caragh’s 18th and Adam’s 21st – Caragh’s a dress up, of course!
- Both kids shifting out of home and becoming fabulous, independent people
- Adam moving to Sydney and joining the Oaks group.
- More books released
- Invited to be part of the ABC show, The Einstein Factor (for four years)
- Working with Lisa on Consuming Innocence and studying Italian with the lovely Lauren.
- Another trip to Las Vegas, this time to say goodbye, along with my sister, Jenny, to my dying mother.
- My beloved grandmother passing away as a consequence of a house fire.
- 2008. Apply for job at Southern Cross University (promotion) and we move to Brooklet, NSW (three weeks after returning from three months in Europe) and Stephen starts renovating again.
- Caragh graduates. I’m made an Honorary Senior Fellow of Sunshine Coast University
- Caragh moves to Melbourne
- Wonderful visits from friends
- Caragh’s 21st
- Caragh goes to the USA and a short time later is married, making world headlines.
- We are given a rescue dog, the gorgeous “Tallow”
- My great friend, Jim McKay becomes my boss.
- 2009. Receive cancer diagnosis.
- Tallow is released to great success
- Have big series of ops in Sydney for cancer – overwhelmed by support
- Two years off work to heal. More ops. Keep writing my weekly column for Courier Mail and fiction books.
- 2010. Travel around South-East Asia on a cruise
- While we’re away, dad dies. Unable to go to his funeral, but do write the eulogy.
- Our darling Dante Primo dies from a tick
- Psyche, our 15 year old cat dies of cancer
- Dante Piccolo comes into our life
- Adam lands a fantastic job in Sydney with a terrific company.
- 2010. Sell house in Brooklet
- Visit Sara in Tasmania – she’s very, very sick.
- Make decision to join her and care for her
- 2011. Shift to Tasmania and rent seven minutes away from Sara by car.
- Stephen cares for me and Sara (his two wives) while Sara and I write our books – her, The Devil’s Diadem, me, Illumination.
- Loving friends visit – us and Sara.
- Stephen works with the refugees at Pontville.
- Stephen buys a Harley Davidson – a Heritage Soft-tail.
- Meet fabulous people, have wonderful and very sad times.
- Caragh comes back from the USA – single and very happy.
- Sara dies and we grieve. For a long time.
- After initially saying “no” (three times), agree to take part in TV show Location, Location, Location Australia to buy a house in Tasmania as Sara has left us her five cats.
- Take a family holiday (cruise) to New Zealand.
- Caragh begins a tattoo apprenticeship in Brisbane
- Move to Braeside, Feb 2012.
- Stephen begins to renovate
- We travel to Gold Coast for the marvellous Somerset Celebration of Literature and catch up with darling cousins and friends as well.
- I have a huge and horrid operation that makes me very ill for weeks.
- Stephen is so caring and wonderful, as always.
- Illumination comes out, I turn 50. 50!
- Stephen begins plans to start a business
- Make some fantastic friends here in Hobart.
- Go on amazing trip to Turkey, Israel, Egypt, Greece, Cyprus and Dubai.
- Stephen becomes a tour guide at Cascade Brewery – he is brilliant!
- Christmas comes and goes as does New Year and the Taste of Tasmania. Share all this with family and friends – wonderful times.
- 2013 is here. This is the year of a new book, a new business and the celebration of twenty wonderful years.
I know I have left stuff out… I’ll have fun recalling these times later. I know Adam and Caragh and Stephen will remember things too. But, just listing some of the highlights and lows of the last twenty years, what’s not evident but should be, is that every single moment was made all that more luminous and wonderful or bearable, because I shared it with my true love.
I cannot begin to describe or explain how utterly amazing he was and still is in his loving care, not only of me and the children over two decades, but our darling Sara as well. How he rarely loses patience with me (well, OK, sometimes!), but is always so compassionate, passionate, loving and caring. I am so very, very blessed and, as our anniversary unfurls, I remember this and every other moment I have spent with this beautiful man and wonder what it was that I did so right to deserve him. I thank his gorgeous mother every day that she raised such a magnificent man.
People often ask me what I wish for my children: the answer is simple. My wish for Adam and Caragh is that they too will find a love like this, like Stephen and I have. I don’t think it happens very often, nor does it occur everyday, but when it does, appreciate what you have because it’s more than rare, it’s magical.
Thank you Stephen Ronald Brooks for twenty perfectly imperfect years. Here’s to the next decades and beyond – per eternita.
PS. The quote above comes from our favourite film, The Princess Bride.