||A clear memory. Newcastle-upon-Tyne in England. A family in a car.
My father is driving. My mother beside him, the nurturer who turns to my
brother and I on the back seat to give us chocolate and smiles. We are
all chatting. We are a family who talk.
The car passes under a flyover. Soon we will go over the Tyne Bridge.
The patterns of the city bounce off the windscreen. "What would you like
to be when you grow up?" my father asks. I do not think for long. "Content,"
I say. We are almost on to the bridge. "That may not be as easy as it sounds,"
my father says. He looks at my mother. They smile.
I was a loner as a child. I had an imagination that thrilled to be
cooped in my bedroom, creating lives for fleshy pink dolls with blonde
curly hair and too many outfits. I read vast quantities as soon as I knew
how. Without a book I became depressed. With one, I was able to inhabit
hundreds of different worlds. I did not notice that friendships were lacking
in my life. At ten I realised that mixing was a social must. Friends were
I also began to realise that friendships were not static. Sometimes
Jackie was much more friendly with Naomi than she was with me. Sometimes
Jackie was altogether too friendly with the naughty boys who played where
they shouldn't. If relationships are the river which bears us through the
journey of life, then the changes within these relationships are the swells
and currents of that river.
It wasn't just friendships that amazed me by their ever changing fluidity.
My brother kept changing. How small the time-span between him being'the
runt' (as I called him), a small-for-his-age boy, with a dubious taste
in shirts, and him being a popular young man with a loyal and constant
gang of friends and later, girlfriends. He ceased to hit me when I baited
him. He had moved on; he merely ignored his serious, square sister.
Without relationships we have no life worth living, yet they are never
preserved like a straight line. They bubble and froth, and sometimes they
My early twenties was a time of independence. Yet I spun around the
earth's axis on my single stream as though I was in a bubble. The bubble
was a preservative. It kept me safe but it did not let too much in. The
course of my stream was aimless. I yearned for that elusive contentment.
In Gibraltar I metthe man who is now my husband. It's an interesting
but I'd need a few hundred words more than I've got to tell it properly.
Suffice to say I came to Australia to be with him. He took me to Sydney.
We tramped the city until we came to the Queen Elizabeth II Park. It overlooks
the Opera House, behind which is the bridge that looks almost the same
as the Tyne Bridge in Newcastle-uponTyne. He asked me to marry him.
This is a time like no other. I am bobbing down the river with a glorious
companion. Stronger in this relationship, I hope it will steer me through
the course of my life. The river is smooth and peaceful. Ahead I see flooding,
and I don't doubt that there will be rapids hidden beneath the boulders
that guide us. I have found profound love, but that does not mean easy
contentment. Relationships need constant care.
I like the bridge analogy. Figurative, yet real, those kinds of markers
are important beacons in our journey. And bridges have always been useful
for crossing wild waters.
Sarah McDonald, UK/Australia