I’m lucky to have parents who were significant influences, with both my Mum and my Dad doing the hard yards to raise my four siblings and I.
My parents are both strong personalities in their own right, which is probably a good thing because they ended up with five children and a sheep station to run in the middle of Western Australia.
Living on a sheep station, the daily ABC radio Country Hour at midday was part of our lunch time routine. There was often a fair bit of chatter at lunch times, with as many as five children, a worker, a governess and my parents at the table. However, one of the golden unspoken rules of lunch time was that you never spoke during the news, and YOU MOST CERTAINLY NEVER SPOKE DURING THE WEATHER FORECAST SEGMENT OF THE COUNTRY HOUR! Approximately half way through the Country Hour a representative of the Bureau of Meteorology would provide a more detailed weather forecast for the coming days than was available anywhere else. This was the headlining act of the Country Hour, and whoever the Bureau of Meteorology rostered on for the day the star of the show. Unfortunately sometimes myself or one of my siblings would lose track of what was happening on the radio in the background and commence babbling about something or other at normal volume during the weather broadcast. The rest of us would be making cut throat gestures and desperately but silently urging the foolhardy soul to stop before they received a swift reprimand from Dad.
With five of us growing creatures around I imagine my father copped a fair few questions on an incessant basis. When one of us asked my father what he was doing in the shed, sometimes he’d just reply with the famous old saying, “I’m making a wigwam for a goose’s bridle.” Unfortunately, this sounded suitably impressive to me. I should have immediately picked up that he was actually talking complete nonsense, but at the time I thought that perhaps he was undertaking a legitimate task that I would only understand when I was a bit older.
My Mum very much made the whole show work, because without her my Dad most certainly would not have been able to raise five children, look after staff and run a sheep station.
I realised how valuable our functioning mother was on one occasion when all of us were still primary school age. The whole family attended a wine and cheese afternoon at the recreation centre in our closest town. For us it was just the usual opportunity to hang out with other kids who had come in from surrounding stations. I’m not sure if my Mum missed out on food, but she had a few too many wines and they went straight to her head. As a result she ended up totally shit-faced by late afternoon. This was definitely not the norm for my Mum, with my father the one more likely to enjoy quite a few drinks on certain occasions. I remember late in the piece suddenly becoming aware that we were facing a bit of a crisis, and a no nonsense father instructing all of us to walk back to our station wagon to go home. Dad drove and Mum slept in the front passenger seat all the way home and I’ll always remember how unusually quiet we all were lined up across the back seat. When we got home Mum pretty much went straight from the car to bed and stayed there until the next morning, when luckily things got back to normal.
My Mum has many adorable qualities. One of the quirkiest of these is that she gets extremely immersed in television shows and movies. All of us would be lined up on the couch with a villain inevitably about to strike as we reached the climax of an infamous crime movie, when my Mum would exclaim, “look out!!!!” We would all go from almost crapping our dacks to laughing with relief at my Mum’s earnest desire to help the hero.
When I look back I’m not sure how my parents did it, and how my Mum didn’t go and get herself totally shit-faced all the time.
My parents raised five children, and they started parenthood a lot earlier than many people do these days. There were no grandparents around to help, and on sheep stations there is no such thing as a next door neighbour who can just pop round to help out if they’re needed at short notice. They did it all by themselves, and often in the most difficult of circumstances.
I’m just glad they did it anyway.
© Annemaree Jensen 2019
The awesome photos used in this article were taken from the amazing website pexels.com except for the photo of the child eating cereal and the photo of the wigwam which were taken from the fantastic website pixabay.com.