This morning at ten to six, Mum left town on the Bathurst Bullet. Because I came home and went back to bed, this feels like yesterday, or some other dreamy incident in the past. She was here for a week, and Steve was away at the ranger conference, so it was just Mum and me 24/7. It was one long pot of tea, really, and the telling and re-telling of stories, some with striking variations depending on point of view, some with suspicious holes in them, some we’d be proud to announce to the world, others – the juiciest, of course – that mostly live in the dark. And others not mentioned. Thought, maybe, but not given voice.
We were carless for the duration, so a lot of this was conducted at or near the kitchen table. We spent the last two days working on a scrapbook called A Day in the Snow, Now and Then. The pictures were assembled according to the following themes:
- Cars arrive in snowy territory.
- A snow ball fight.
- The making of a snowman.
- Putting the snowman on the bonnet of the car.
- Seeing how long the snowman would last before melting/sliding off.
The Now photos were taken on July 7 this year at Mount Canobolas near Orange; the Thens were taken in the winter of 1972 near Thredbo. Everyone’s laughing, smiling, having fun in the snow. All sorts of other stuff was happening on both occasions. For example, in July I was in the middle of chemo so my head was bald. But you can’t see that in the photos because it’s beanie weather and everyone’s wearing beanies. My little nephew was in a bad mood from his epilepsy drugs (or just a common-or-garden bad mood, who knows) but you’d never know from the pictures how much he had to be cajoled to look at the camera. The photo of Dad back in 1972 shows him breathing out misty vapour; warm air from his lungs condensing in the freezing air of the Snowy Mountains. It adds wonderfully to the “it’s cold” effect. Only it’s not what it seems. “That’s cigarette smoke,” says Mum, giving me a new way of seeing an old photo. And other stuff. Layers and layers and layers of other stuff. But the fact is that we did all do those things on those particular days, and the photos are there to show for it. We all saw snow, had a snowball fight, built a snowman … and everyone had a different day in the snow.