Happy 8th Birthday

September 20, 2017

My dearest sunny son,

All the happiest, happiest best wishes that I can possibly muster from across the galaxy I gift to you on this your eighth birthday.

Yet again I am astounded that another year has passed in your life; you’re older, sweeter, smarter and even more loved.

This past 12 months I have watched and wondered as you have completed a year of Australian schooling and started a second.  You have shown a wonderful aptitude for numbers and patterns; I have lost count of the times you have set me a maths question, and somewhat embarrassing for me, I’ve had to work out the answers on paper, or even resorting to a calculator!  Your experienced and quality Year 2 teacher, Mrs Morgan and I, are very pleased with your progression in reading and comprehension.  Listening to your adorable voice read stories to me is a job every day.

You are a fast runner, not bad at swinging a baseball bat and an awesomely expressive dancer.  Your love of music and movement continues unabashed and I hope stays with you for life.  You remain uncompetitive; you won’t join a team, you won’t participate in any activity that may pit you against someone else.  I sometimes joke you were born with a non-compete clause!  There’s nothing wrong with your preference, though I do hope one day you might change your mind about team sports or activities, there are benefits in team work that are not readily available elsewhere.

This year you’ve had some great experiences- climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge with your Oma for her 70th birthday, learning to ride a bike, swimming in the rock pools at Caves Beach and hosting a very fun laser tag birthday party (which I was pleased to note was attended equally by boys and girls and kids of different ages to you.)

Your independence is helped by learning to ride that bike.  You can now visit your friend’s homes and go for rides in our neighbourhood, unaccompanied.  Or further afield, for longer distances, with Pappa.  Pappa was very cheered when you whizzed past him after conquering riding, exclaiming; “Sorry I didn’t want to learn.  This is the best!”

My darling I’m proud of your blossoming relationships with a great number of people from varying parts of your life.  Your love for Granma and Grandad is so apparent and returned in equal measure.  I know you still take people at face value with your what-you-see-is-what-you-get approach.  You’re open and trusting and wonderful.  Never change that part of you!

I’m eager to see what the next year holds for you.  I’m sure you’ll make it yours in the ways only you can; your unlimited imagination, your ready energy, your mile-a-minute talking and your big ideas.  Be bold, I’ve got your back!

Faithfully, your unswerving and devoted, Mother.


Dear Persephone,


Our very strongest best wishes to you on this your tenth birthday- the first of double digits!

I have begun this annual birthday letter to you quite a few times now.  I want to get it right, by which I mean I want to be sure I express to you how much you are loved and valued and cared for, and how so very, very proud I am of you.  (The consequence being I am pretty late from your actual birthday date.)

Your ninth birthday passed half a world away.  Since that time, you’ve travelled over that half world, flying way above the North American continent and across the Pacific Ocean, landing back in Oz to the home and life you left a third of your lifetime ago.  I remember you were worried that no-one from school would remember you.  A day later we spent a few hours at our local playground and park.  Oh my, not only were you remembered, you were feted!

Returning to Oyster Bay Public School in year four was a challenge on a few fronts which you have met with aplomb and success.  You were last at this school for kindergarten, and the mis-match between north and south hemisphere school years meant that you missed the last third of year three and the first term of year four.  Nevertheless, with good application and positive instruction from Mrs Cuthbertson you have made up the difference in missed time and different methods and curriculum.  Your concern about having no-one remember you and having to make brand new friends again proved short-lived.  You were very much welcomed and made much of for at least a few months, before the novelty wore off.  In this time you also met and have become fast friends with Zoe, another new girl, also from North America.

I know you have struggled at times with the irritating behaviour of some classmates and kids at before and after school care.  I know, too, that my response hasn’t always been what you sought, or the most helpful.  I can only say that I really do feel your distress and frustration; I will do what I can.  Remember though, sometimes in your years you will come across a person or two who just doesn’t get it.  Who doesn’t realise that what they do and say is hurtful or wrong, or just plain stupid.  Once you’ve exhausted every other option I still think a sharp right jab to the nose may finally get your message across (you do have a wicked punch!)

Your tenth year has seen some other significant gains and lessons.  After wondering if baseball was much of a sport in Australia we found it certainly is around our neck of the woods.  You played with accolades for the Jannali Comets.  Your bike riding has improved immensely as has your swimming.  You’ve taken a cloth bag and our cash to our local shops alone or in company with Tally and returned with the grocery list fulfilled, sometimes even with change! You are halfway through reading the Harry Potter series, for the second time.  You read a lot.  Just recently you asked me if I had any Austen you could read, and complained that there’s only one book remaining on your bookshelves that you haven’t read.  I invite you to read anything on any shelf about the house.

The house has gotten yet smaller. It was small to begin with, but with the back couple of metres being demolished we’ve had to squeeze into yet less space.  I appreciate your good grace in sharing the space with us and particularly with Tally.  The patio is not really free for play and the front yard isn’t the size you had in our rented yards in Canada.  Just a few more months, darling, we’ll have more space than we’ll know what to do with!  For the first time in your life you’ll have a bedroom of your own.  I hope you don’t freak out!  Just joking, I’m sure you’ll love it and love making the space uniquely yours.

I thank you for adapting to having two parents working full-time.  It hasn’t been easy for any of us.  You are learning and growing more independent.  You don’t particularly like being called on to make more decisions for yourself, or to take more responsibility, but you’re coming around to it and trust me, you’ll appreciate it as the years go by.  You being trustworthy equals you being more free from parental supervision and interference!

I have loved watching you grow this past year.  It’s a true joy to see your imagination at play; the concoctions that go on in your brain and in all the bowls and ingredients you’ve nicked from the kitchen and bathroom and mixed to a wonderful mess outside. The stories you write with ink and feather quill.  You still fight with Tally (that’ll be a lifelong thing, eh?) but you also hug him and hold him and read to him and play so nicely with him.  I can tell, really truly, you love him.  Sometimes you’d scoff, but I can tell, really truly, he loves you too.

You’re up to my shoulder now, you can wear granma’s shoes, you use pappa’s camel hydration pack when cycling, you can walk the dogs yourself.  This past summer you revelled in the Australian surf and tanned a deep nut brown while your hair turned more and more golden.

You are my golden child.  You are light, laughter and perfection.  I can scarcely believe a decade has gone by since you came quietly into the world and changed mine forever.  I love you my golden, free-flying girl.  Supporting you as your spread your wings in the next decade, and all the ones after that, will be my greatest happiness.  Let’s see where those wings can take you…





An odd re-re-start

September 23, 2016

I started my first maternity leave from a career in the satisfying and challenging town planning sphere in mid-March 2007, not quite (obviously) a decade ago.

The learning curve for new parents can be pretty steep.  For instance, how do you get a month-old bub to sit up and still and not smile for her first passport photo?  Or what do you do when living in a country whose entire food supply you don’t trust, yet bub is now six months old and probably ready to start eating something other than breastmilk?  And when do they sleep???

A couple of years later I did it again and this time enjoyed over a year out of my career simply because, then as now, child care places were next to impossible to secure.

What this boils down to, career-wise, is that for the past nine and half years, what with throwing in some travel and moving country a handful of times I have been in paid employment either part-time or not at all.

Until this week.  This week I was offered full-time employment, not once, but twice.  How’s that?  The first offer came from an unexpected source- the asset management branch of the NSW Department of Education.  This quite appealed because I care very much about public education and the opportunity to plan and deliver quality new, well-located, schools and effective upgrades to existing ones is a process I think I could do well and enjoy.  Everything was set last week for me to begin this week Monday.

Spanner in the works time…

On Friday I took a call from the NSW Department of Planning and Environment offering me a job for which i had interveiwed for over a month ago and which I had largely given up on.

What to do?  What to do?

Actually it was quite simple… the Education job was offered as a temporary contract for eight weeks, the Planning job was offered as a temporary full-time senior position for eight months (covering maternity leave, coincidentally.)  I accepted the Planning job and rang the recruiter handling the Education job to explain that I appreciated his work on my behalf and even though I had accepted the position and was due to start the very following Monday, I must now back out, essentially because I got a better offer.  Quite easily one of the most difficult telephone calls I’ve ever made.  (We spoke about open and honest communication and respect, and maintaining relationships, and not burning bridges; I haven’t heard from him since, despite his affirmation he would call me on Monday.)

Now I was due to re-enter the paid workforce, with the state department of planning, where I had previously worked when taking that first lot of maternity leave, on Monday.   Wow, more than four years after leaving the paid workforce entirely I was diving back in full-time!  Except as it’s working out, more wading in from the shallow end than diving…

Late on Friday, Planning called and said the paperwork just wouldn’t be ready in time, could I postponed starting to Wednesday?  Ok, sure, why not?

Wednesday morn I turn up at the appointed time, get a security pass, have my mug shot taken, fill in reams of forms, hand over my passport (and get it back), take a tour of the building, though I do recall it well from when I was last in it, and then meet my new team!  After a day and half work stops.  The boss orders pizza, we drink the wine left in the fridge and start to pack all our files etc into boxes.  You see, the department is moving to a new location over the weekend.  Was it me?

Additionally, we have booked and paid for a week away, next week.  Meaning my full-time career replug is actually three days, a week off and then a long weekend Monday, and also a Friday off as we have tickets to Taronga zoo’s 1o0th birthday party that day, so another three day week.  I’m sure the full weeks will hit me like a mack truck when they do happen, I was already quite tuckered out just yesterday!

All-in-all I think calling it an odd re-re- start to my career is not inaccurate.  Wish me luck!


P.S.  I am extremely thankful to all the people that got me over the line to this point; Andi Daniels, Sarah Graham, Tina Harris, Chris Hilliard, Elizabeth Kinkade, Tim Archer, Norma Shankie-Williams, Emma Booth, Emma Cain, Amanda Jackes, Belinda Morrow, Berlinda, and of course Paul, Percy and Tally.

Happy Seventh Birthday, Tally!

September 22, 2016

Dearest Tally,

Welcome to your eighth year!  The past seven have been such a joy to spend with you.  There’s a number of particular things worthy of mentioning about your seventh year.  It’s been one of big changes and some really special efforts from you.  I am very proud of you.  So let’s get started…

Shortly after your sixth birthday, celebrated at tranquil Crow Lake, you started grade one at Thornhill Woods Public School.  This was a big step from kindergarten with the change of classmates, teachers, playground (no more kindergarten pen.  Never did like that term.) and expectations.  You began to make solid progress with maths and reading.  Your pattern recognition was exemplary and your creativity always off the chart!

At the Christmas break we went to visit our family in England.  Do you remember?  We had a great time playing with your little cousins, you were very thoughtful and gentle.  We went to Paris for a few days where unfortunately you weren’t feeling well for one day.  You recovered enough to enjoy Nutella crepes and hot chocolates!  Wasn’t that delicious?  We also spent a day at the Harry Potter studios outside London.  I think you really liked that present from your aunts and uncles.  It was amazing, hey?  You recognised a lot from the books and movies.  Then we went on to Iceland for a few days.  How weird were the hot pools and the nearly freezing air?!  You insisted on going down the water slide, in two degrees in Reykjavik.  Lucky the pool at the bottom was geothermally heated a lovely warmth.  And very well spotted you- seeing the Auroa Borealis out the plane window on the way over!

Back at school you were working hard on your school work and making friends.  We often walked home from school with either Kiki or Geri.  I know you liked playing at Kiki’s house and particularly liked having Edwin visit us or meet at the park.  We all liked when Geri started babysitting you and Percy sometimes.  I think she was lots of fun for you guys.

Then in April is was time to pack up, live in a hotel for a week and come back to Australia.  I know it hasn’t been the smoothest transition between schools and friends.  You have struggled and had some problems.  The important things to remember is you tried really hard, to be kind, to be patient, to be fair.  The rules are different at this school to your Canadian one and we just have to adapt to that.  Trust me, the ability to cope with change and be adaptable will be on the most important things you can learn and have throughout life.

I’m very proud of your improvement in reading.  You still say you can’t, but you’re not fooling me!  The more you practice the better you’ll get, and then you’ll not be beholden to having the stories you really want to read, being read to you.  I know you tire of me repeating myself to you, nevertheless it doesn’t get less true for the repetition- there is all the knowledge, all the adventure, all the truth and all the stories in the world, as well as many from off our world, contained between the covers of our best ever invention, the humble and the brazen book.

Tally, for your seventh birthday you asked if you could celebrate at home with a few of your friends, eating treats and watching a movie together.  I’m not sure how much of the movie got watched but the floor was carpeted in popcorn and the trampoline for a good work out.  That’ll do.

You’re seven now.  I hope the silliness and the affection and the questing that have brought you this far will continue to take you to many amazing places; physical, figurative, imaginative, emotional, with family and friends.

Happy birthday my talented, terrorising, tenacious, talkative, tender, terrific Tally!


what she wrote

June 15, 2016

i’ll just correct a little spelling and grammar but the words remain hers…

“what i wear was different and everyone laughed at me.

my language is what they call funny.

they dislike where i’m from, they say i might have died because there’s not enough water.

they teased me because my skin colour is darker.

but then there were people that did not do this and helped me.

they were my first best friends

we created a club called ‘no-one can stop you’.  the main purpose of our club is that people from all around the world should show themselves and stand up against bullying.

then they all started to change one day.

and that’s how this school is the best school.”

(prying around in your kids stuff can pay big dividends.)

Happy 9th Birthday!

April 8, 2016

The last of the single digit birthdays!  Oh my, I can barely believe the time is going past so fast.  Another year, and you are brighter, smarter, taller, sweeter, lovelier and more loved than ever.  (It was pretty hilarious to see that you are now as tall as Rosa, eh?)

What a year of growth you’ve experienced (and not just physically) as we’ve spent another twelve months living in Canada and seeing a bit more of the world and the intriguing places and people in it.  You’ve grown because of challenges you’ve met and conquered, including the ones you asked for help with and because of your broadening view of the world.

It is a broad world, isn’t it?  Since your last birthday you’ve enjoyed some of the same parts again, like peaceful, friendly Crow Lake and new parts like Cleveland!  You travelled to the mid-way point between the North Pole and the equator during our summer week’s break on the Bruce peninsula.  There was some very nice places to swim on that trip- Bridal Veil Falls and the beach in Kagawong nearby, on Manitoulin Island;  Boulder Beach at Lion’s Head and Sauble Beach on Lake Huron.  Remember we bought some great chocolates at the Manitoulin Chocolate Works in Kagawong too!

In Cleveland we visited the Children’s Museum where you practised delivering the weather on TV and you, me and Tally indulged in staying in bed for half the day, in our jamies, watching movies on the big hotel room TV while poor Pappa had to go to work.

Then at Christmas it was time to don our travel gear again as we set off for England, France and Iceland!  You were just wonderfully wonderful with your little cousins in England; so patient, so inventive, so helpful.  My heart melted watching you carefully cradle little Nancy and Lyra.  And could we have managed as well as we did in Paris without your excellent French?!  I think not!  Those tough Parisians were no match for your charm and perseverance.

I’m wondering if it’s our family or Aussies or everyone in general, that likes swimming and playing in the water.  For even in Iceland in winter you jumped in the hot tub at the hotel in Hekla and then the thermal heated pools in Reykjavik too, including the three storey high slide!  Far braver than me (and perhaps more immune to the cold)!  Ready for the Aussie beach, again?  Soon… and I reckon the winter temps won’t matter to you.

Some of the challenges you have encountered this year are unique to you.  I know you were disappointed there was to be no big birthday party, because we’re moving country again and there’s no opportunity for a big party.  I’m proud you calmly accepted this and enjoyed our little gathering, on our make-shift cardboard furniture.  Remember the friends that stick by you when it’s not so exciting, not so glamourous, not so rewarding are the ones you need to stick to, too.  Unique to you too is your name.  Yeah, there are a few other Persephones in the world, possibly none with the nickname Percy.  When people tease you about your name just remember the first Persephone was a Queen, Queen of the Dead no-less!  Everyone, sooner or later, falls under her domain.  The dumb kids at school might find it entertaining to see how far they can push you, and so far you’ve done everything right, but don’t let them get you down.  Once everything else fails, which it might, you take those advanced purple belt karate skills and bust their face so bad they can’t talk disrespectful shit to you.  (I’ve got your back.)

And remember, Persephone’s mum Demeter loved her so much that when Persephone spent her six months of the year with Hades in Hades (yeah, those ancient Greeks were a bit messed up), Demeter was so distraught she neglected her duties of bringing fertility and new life to the world, hence the seasons of autumn and winter.  Demeter has got nothing on how much Pappa and I love you!

Once is never enough

January 11, 2016

On New Year’s Eve 2015 young Persephone, champing on the bit to be nine years old rather than eight, was given permission to stay up to ring in 2016.  Her delight was magnified because she would be attending a grown-up party at her Aunt Shonagh and Alex’s home, it was tempered because young Tally, quite content to remain six years old, was also granted a similar very late bedtime.  It did no good to remind her that every New Year’s Eve since she had been a six-year-old had passed unremarked and largely unmarked by her family, and she was certainly not old enough to party with others elsewhere, just yet.  The lack of previous celebrations wasn’t her concern, the impertinence of Tally not doing penance until he reached a satisfactorily august age was.

Providing assurances that Tally was highly unlikely to still have his eyes open and his wits about him much past 9pm mollified Miss a bit.

The party kicked off with the arrival of guests and the flowing of libations.  One by one the younger generation hit the sack.  Tally climbed onto a footstool on all fours, mumbling incoherently, tucking himself into a sweet little ball a little after the predicted hour.  He was carried upstairs and deposited into bed, much I’m sure to Percy’s satisfaction.

Festivities continued.

Around 10pm a very fast and fun game of ‘Articulate’ was begun.  With much enthusiasm Miss P did her very best to keep up with the adults; the cerebral, tertiary educated lot of them.  It is plain she’s a competitive kid, her shrieks at wins and groans at losses were plentiful and heartfelt.  At the conclusion of the game, hotly contested, she wailed for more.  “That’s enough for now, no more, maybe later.”  Ever said those phrases to a kid before?  As adults, and particularly parents, we know they really mean “No.”  And if they don’t, then they mean “later, as in a week or more, from now.”  Once is never enough for a child.  The repetition of song, rhyme, pattern, chant is crucial for learning.  Singing about bus wheels, rainbows, clapping and farm animals gets deathly dull halfway thru the third round for anyone over the age of five.  Then we move on to other repetitions, which at the moment in our house is the shouted refrain; “Get up and fight like a Sanchez!” mixed with anything Harry Potter and for Percy the dogged determination of mimicking anything adult-related; running a restaurant, staying up late at parties or wearing high heeled shoes.  I’m relieved there’s plenty of ‘kid things’ she does and adores, I don’t want her growing up before I’m ready!  (Which is a topic for another day.  Maybe later…)

The countdown concluded, we kissed every body, we sang Auld Lang Syne arms crossed, holding each other’s hands.  Percy bounced and beamed!  It was a splendid night for her.  It was a splendid night for Paul and I too, in the bosom of our family, our children loved and lit-up in the glow, the music so reminiscent of our years before children, the company engaging and the food delicious.

The final wonder for Percy before her gorgeous, soft head lay down truly happily tired, was watching the lantern lit in the back yard, freed from a snag on the hedge, fly higher and further and higher yet over the roofs of London town.  Once was definitely not enough and we must repeat gathering our little family in one place, under one roof, much more often.



Happy Birthday Tornado Tally!

September 30, 2015

Dearest Talvin,

First, I must apologise that I am nearly two months late in writing your birthday letter.  Life has been a little hectic, but that should be no excuse, and don’t think for even a second that I love you late or that my lack of organisation places you anywhere except at the very top of things important to me.

This past year has been one of steady gains and so much fun with you.  You started full-time school in senior kindergarten, learning so many new things that you were usually keen to share with us at home, sometimes you didn’t feel like talking.  That’s okay, sometimes we need a bit of quiet; space and time to reflect.  You’ve taught us about volcanoes, dinosaurs, spiders, insects, how to do experiments and the importance of scientific rigour and more about zombies than I think we’ll ever need!

You’ve also shown us how big and open your heart is.  I know it gets wounded easily but I hope you’ll always have that big, accepting heart.  Wounded hearts heal in time, but closed ones seem to rarely open.  I’ve rejoiced in the friends you have made at school this year.  I did worry, all this moving about… but you persisted and the screaming heap you and your friends are rolling down grassy hills, on the slide, twisting each other up on the swing, chasing all over the yard with the hose running is music to my ears.  We will organise that sleep over soon, I promise!

This past winter you had another crack at down hill skiing.  We could tell by the big smile you enjoyed swooshing down the hill when your instructor held you up, perhaps a few more assisted swooshes before you like going on your own.  Snow balls fights and snow men building and snow castles to crash thru are your forte!  You’ve explored a lot more in the construction and demolition spheres this year- lego and cushion cubbies, furniture re-arrangement and so many collected sticks in the yard, blankets and wooden blocks, train tracks galore and forests filled with animals.

You had some challenges too.  Remember, as Sensei said; “there is no perfection, only progress.”  You progressed up to your orange belt in karate, what a big achievement for someone so young.  We do want you to try things, have a go and do your best; we hope you’ll enjoy many different things, and learn; somethings don’t capture you, something may turn out to be your passion.  We never expect you to be perfect, certainly not the first hundred go-’rounds.  Don’t be so hard on yourself, don’t cry and hurt yourself when you don’t reach those impossible standards you set for yourself.  It’s okay.  Many people want to help you, support and encourage you.  They’ll celebrate the gains and mourn the setbacks just as much as you, but we’ll never give up on you and your efforts and your best shot.

We haven’t had so many trips about this year; just that week at Christmas, that we all agree would probably just have been better spent at home!  And a few days in Cleveland and of course a week back in Crow Lake, where we celebrated your sixth birthday.  We drove to Perth and found a yummy cake, a surprise (so long as it is chocolate) just like you asked that we sat under the trees and shared with our friends.  I’m so glad you had a great time swimming and roasting marshmallows and sleeping late (not quite late enough) and gazing at the stars, catching frogs, jumping from the dock, paddling the canoe, getting towed behind the speed boat, clambering over deserted islands and deciding which rocks were from old lava flows or maybe from the moon.

We love you to the moon and back little, big man.  Probably further, certainly for longer than it takes to travel there and back a million times.  You’ve brought the tornado into our lives.  Very much looking forward now to where it will take us next.  We wouldn’t have it any other way.

Always got your back, always loving looking thru your shining, perfect eyes,


“Go Set A Watchman”

July 29, 2015

i have now finished reading ‘Go Set A Watchman’ by nelle harper lee.  did a few days ago, actually but those few days have been filled with fermentation and thought.  i’ve actively avoided reading reviews or other comments about the story since i bought my copy, but they’re hard to avoid!

i intend to set down my thoughts about the story, the book and its story however it would be disrespectful to the world of literary review and critique to call this missive either.  just my thoughts…

when i first heard that a subsequent book to ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ was in planned release i was ecstatic.  and who wouldn’t be?  the loved and lauded best book of the 20th century was going to have a partner!  trepidation set in after contemplating that ms lee hadn’t written anything else, not one single thing, in fifty years.  there had to be a good reason for that, surely?  could it be that nothing could compare?  was ms lee a one hit wonder?  is she still? but more on that later.

as the release date drew near i learnt something of the story behind the publication.  ms lee is now enfeebled with age.  it happens.  her affairs, during her lifetime, were looked after by her sister; a seemingly well-qualified lawyer.  one source says that ms lee will sign anything put before her if she feels she can trust the person asking.  her trust in her sister seems well-founded, but now that sister is dead.  what was the motivation and who was really behind the publishing of GSAW?  i don’t think i’ll ever know.

from another source i recall that ms lee wrote GSAW before TKAM but upon presenting it to her publisher she was advised that there was a better story to be told from just a small part of GSAW, hence the birth of To Kill A Mockingbird.  in GSAW the one partial line on page 248, “I remember that rape case you defended…” seems to have spawned our beloved Scout and her daddy Atticus.  how amazing!  i don’t know the word count of GSAW, tho i feel it’s safe to say it’s probably similar or above my first completed manuscript of 89 000 words (still awaiting publication hint, hint.)  if i was told to write another story from just seven words out of nearly 90 000 of them, i may very well pack it all in.  huge ‘thank you’ that ms lee did otherwise.

commentary on GSAW laments that the fine, upstanding, morally outstanding Atticus of TKAM becomes reduced to a racial, racist stereotype.  (see, i haven’t been able to avoid all the reviews/comments!)  i feel that the conclusion of that sentence from page 248 is important here “…but I missed the point.”  it is Scout, or the now adult Jean Louise, who is speaking and i’m sure those that lament the moral corruption of Atticus have missed the point, or at least one of the many made, of GSAW.  to me GSAW is not a story about race relations, nothing so broad; it is the story of one relationship, that between a single parent and a single child.  (it is also hugely interesting that the parent is a single parent, the other having died in the wee years of the children’s lives, and a single child; Scout’s brother Jem having perished prior to the start of GSAW too.)  the relationship between father and daughter progressed over years to become one between idol and worshipper.  when the sheen tarnishes on the idol the worshipper can either choose to polish it up again or to investigate what’s under the sheen and why it may be tarnishing in the first place.  i would posit that simply by aging Atticus as idol, is tarnishing.  his worshipper, his daughter Jean Louise, without realising she even fills that role prefers to polish.  all her polishing is for naught when on page 103 a very great crack appears in her idol, by page 111 her idol is dirty rubble, “She felt sick.  Her stomach shut, she began to tremble…  Every nerve in her body shrieked, then died.  She was numb. She pulled herself to her feet clumsily, and stumbled from the balcony down the covered staircase.  …  She walked down the steps and into the shade of a live oak.  She put her arm out and leaned against the trunk.  She looked at Maycomb, and her throat tightened.  Maycomb was looking back at her.  Go away, the old buildings said.  There is no place for you here.  You are not wanted.  We have secrets.”  (maycomb is her childhood home town.)

poor Jean Louise spends the second half of the story trying to reconcile her belief in the infallibility of her father with the oh-so-apparent travesty of his witnessed failure.

since TKAM was published in 1960 and ms lee was born in 1926 GSAW must have been written, coloured with personal observations from growing up in monroeville, alabama, in the 40s or 50s.  the story and its setting is a story for its time; about race relations and the superiority of white skin over black skin, about the inferiority of the black person’s mind, habits, abilities and ambitions.  and if you want to read what i imagine is one of the few books published in the 21st century, particularly by a white author, that uses the word nigger repeatedly, here’s your chance.

but i think you’ll be the lesser if you read it just to fashionable, or to feign horror because Atticus heads a citizen’s council that spouts racist shit, or to see what became of little Scout once she grew up.

because you see, little Scout, isn’t that much grown up yet.  she’s 24 in this story and either by design or manipulating circumstances as they happened (i can’t tell which) her father shows again he isn’t just the pre-eminent lawyer keeping things neat, ” -nothing to do with that black boy, you just like a neat brief.  His cause interfered with your orderly mind, and you had to work order out of disorder.”  he also shows his profound, abiding and patient love for his only living child.  thru his patience and gentle leading he lets his daughter wreck her own idol, rather than disabusing her of her false notions himself, so that she may grow and go out in the world without the weight of childhood bonds constantly upon her.  i think it would be a marvelous thing for all children to be prepared for their adulthood, to smash their idols, to find a truer love and a stronger mind in the way Atticus, with the help of his eccentric and amazing brother, did for Jean Louise.

to answer the question i asked above; ms lee is mostly certainly not a one hit wonder.  GSAW is brilliantly written encompassing humor; drama; the tale of a family and those that came within its fold and reach; a plea for equality that stands the test of fifty years passing since it was written when race relations were different to what they are now, but perhaps not so much changed as a cursory look would let us believe; wonderful dialogue and personal lessons should we look and want to learn them.  i also read somewhere that ms lee has not edited or re-worked GSAW since she first presented it to her publisher a life-time ago, if this is true, “bravo!” to an incomparable and inspiring, talented author.  i hope she enjoys the benefit of her work for many years to come.  i will benefit from her clarity.

am sending the below letter to the local school board (the responsible authority for schools where we live.)   thinking i probably won’t change a thing.  but maybe there is someone else out there that hates the idea of foisting adult love and all it’s complications and responsibilities on children.  perhaps that person is on the board of trustees?  perhaps they’ll take up the cause and we can work to eradicate saint valentine’s day stupidity from at least primary schools together.


I wish to express my concern about what I strongly feel is the inappropriate support and encouragement given to marking and even celebrating Saint Valentine’s Day in our secular primary schools.

Saint Valentine has become over much time recognised as the patron saint of lovers and courtly love.  No child in primary school and much of high school should have anything to do with being in love, having a lover or be courting or engaged in courtly love.  They are far too young to understand what roles, responsibilities and consequences any of these activities entail.  It is irresponsible for schools to encourage children to celebrate Saint Valentine’s Day, and it is repugnant for secular schools to allow the marking of any religious observance.

Until approximately 50 years ago Saint Valentine’s Day was not celebrated.  Then, sadly, marketing and manufacturing companies saw the potential to make money from it and the gullibility of consumers.  Since then more and more time and money has been spent on cards, trinkets, lollies and frankly other crap, and pushing it onto younger and younger people.  My four year old son came home from school last week with Saint Valentine’s Day cards, including one from his teacher!

I would like to know what the York Region School Board will do to remove Saint Valentine’s Day activities from its schools?

If the 14th of February must be celebrated in some way, I suggest the focus be changed to celebrating Library Lovers Day, which also falls on February 14th.  I’m sure you can agree that loving our libraries and all the fantastic people and activities that support libraries and are offered through them, is far more palatable than encouraging four to fourteen-year-olds to exchange lovers tokens and perhaps parenting responsibilities?

Can you imagine if all the money wasted on Saint Valentine’s Day was directed towards libraries, reading programs and book ownership instead?  More resources and staff for libraries, more books and other borrowing items, higher literacy, less teeth cavities and teen pregnancies, more demand for publishing, more inspiration to read and write great stories, both fiction and non-fiction, and I’m positive many, many other good outcomes.

I think most parents would rather their child/ren get a library card or book than a recycling box full of ridiculous cards.

I look forward to your meaningful response and action.

Yours sincerely,