One piece in the jigsaw of my birth story.
It was the first week of February, and school would start tomorrow. Yesterday, a Sunday, we had celebrated my eighth birthday and I was going to be in Grade Three!
Today – well today, it was hot. Too hot. This was Melbourne, in drought.
Outside in our back garden, the soles of our feet scorched as we walked – and not just on the concrete path. You felt your feet sizzle even when escaping onto the grass!
“Remember this day!” Mum said suddenly.
We had retreated into our cool kitchen. Our house was closed up against the sun, and inside, we relished the shade and stillness which conquered the heat. Having moved to this double-brick place in Camberwell the previous October, we were still getting used to the luxury of a cool space to retreat to on very hot days.
“When you get older you can say it was 113 degrees* the day after you turned eight.”
Mum was wilting. She never liked the heat. Even on days not nearly as hot as this she drooped like an overheated pansy in the sun. Her movements were minimal, and her words came in short grabs.
“It was a day like this Jen,” Mum continued.
I looked up at her. Questions written all over my face. What did she mean?
“The day before you were born we moved into our Heathmont house.” She was cooling down, but her face seemed to go warm-pink at the memory. “It was because we moved that hot day that you were born the next.”
Looking outside through the shimmering heat over our backyard, I connected the dots. Eight years ago, when fully pregnant, she and Dad moved house, and she had wilted like a pansy then too. All the life had been drawn from her – including me.
No wonder we moved to Camberwell in October – a long way from January. I always wondered why we’d moved house mid-term.
“Remember,” she said.
But it is only now that I understand.