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U3A Writing: Crossroads

When you start to recall the decisions you have had to take on reaching life’s crossroads you suddenly find that you are launching yourself into autobiography, as Joy Shapter reveals.

Decisions! decisions! decisions! Our entire adult lives are befuddled by them. Childhood was amazingly simple - just one long picnic really - with others making decisions for you. How easy life was - full to the brim with loving care. A clear straight road ahead with lots of enjoyment along the way. When an intersection appeared, one was guided either left or right, in what always seemed to be a natural part of the trip, and of no consequence whatever.

In my late teens, I never had doubts about anything or anyone - blithely sailing through each day, week, and month. Always smiling, excited, spreading happiness, good cheer, love and consideration to all around me. Family, friends, parties, picnics, sing-a-longs, tennis, riding and dancing - not a single crossroad anywhere!

But, then - what pops its head into the picture? What else, but 'Coming of Age'. In retrospect, what a dire description that was. No wonder they gave us such great celebratory parties. They knew what the road ahead would probably be like, and all about the tricky speed bumps, intersections, and rocky roads - in short - crossroads. We young ones didn't have a clue, and merrily took off towards our first crossroads at full gallop.
During my late teens my largest decisions were, 'What dress will I buy for the annual tennis dance - which boy to go out with - should I leave this job for the new job being offered to me? But, after twenty-one, we're into deeper water, where bigger decisions have to be made.

'Will I marry him?' But even that was easy. Of course I would! World War 2 was in progress with Japanese armies bent on invasion. Menzies' infamous 'Brisbane Line,' the New Guinea campaign where my cousin, Keith, was so badly wounded, my brother, John, caught in Tobruk and the thought that we might all be dead in the near future, all contributed to a different outlook on life. 'Let's grab life by the tail whilst we can.'
Hopefully, we can make it through the war and back to peacetime jobs, wedded bliss, roses around the cottage door, and those spectral four little boys I wanted, happy and laughing in the garden. However, reality proves to be different to dreams. Problems constantly confront us. Those damned crossroads!

Two children have now arrived with a consequent need for larger living space in a rented cottage. Larger? What? Where? Real Estate men suddenly become deaf. In 1947 larger living space was an endangered species, and rented cottages existed only on other planets. Of course, key-money was the magic word that solved the problem. Our budget did not recognise this item, so alternative methods had to be found. I firmly believe that this era brought forth and developed both my communication skills and powers of persuasion. After two years on the prowl for a rented house, I found a forty-year-old, topsy-turvy, weatherboard and fibro, three bedroom gem.
It came complete with a run-down orchard and tennis court, a white cat named Prince Charles (born on the same day as the Prince), a cranky Alsatian dog, and 568 empty milk bottles. We spent several months cleaning, mowing, repairing and painting, (some sections needed up to five coats of paint) before we found the benefits of 'Silvafrost' as an undercoat. With the help of a goat (aptly named 'Sweet William' after surgery) to chew down the blackberry bushes, and a sweet - natured Dalmatian dog to keep us sane, we settled down to get the tennis court fit to rent out. Then we made vegetable gardens to make us self-supporting in that department. My, how Sweet William loved those vegies!

When we caught out breath after nearly two years of toil, do you know what happened? Another crossroads of course - new car and a block of land. But no worries. By this time everyone had accepted the 'Mum will fix it' theory. This time the solution was for me to return to the workforce. Because all my previous work experience had been enjoyed in the atmosphere of various executive offices of leading companies, my first post-natal venture was quite a cultural shock. 'Make money by making cushions at home,' said the advertisement. 'What a wonderful idea,' I cried enthusiastically.

After being shown how, and various costly adjustments to my mother's old sewing machine, I received my first assignment. After three days of hard labour, I delivered my finished articles to happy cries of 'Oh, lovely work.' I received the princely sum of eight shillings and tuppence for my efforts. Midst cries of 'wait for your new order' I strode off vowing 'back to fhe office, Joy,' even if I typed envelopes at seven and sixpence per hundred, which I could do in an hour. And so I arrived back in my old environment, but not typing envelopes. Another crossroad was conquered, this time successfully, without rocky roads. The successful career girl solved all the problems, negotiating all the intersections, and diminishing the crossroads to manageable speed bumps and categories.
After a long period of time we reached another crossroads. Retirement. But that's another story of another era. Even though I thought I had bought the patent for solving dilemmas, I find this is far from true. Twenty-two years after retirement finds me facing the biggest crossroad of all. Please keep your fingers crossed for me, and hope that I haven't lost my skills.

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