Woman (I am); Living in the ’70s

Oh yes I am wise

But its wisdom born of pain

Yes, I’ve paid the price

But look how much I’ve gained

If I have to, I can do anything

I am strong (strong)

I am invincible (invincible)

I am woman

I am Woman – Helen Reddy – 1971

Joanne’s mother had been a widow for ten years. Since she found Hayden dead from a heart attack on the floor of the chicken shed she had two main focuses in life. One was to get the business back on track and the other was to get Joanne through school. When Joanne left home to go to Teachers College the house became eerily quiet. The only thing to look forward to was Friday night when Annie would drive to Moss Vale, meet the rail motor from Wollongong and take her daughter to the new Chinese restaurant in Mittagong on the way home. She listened attentively as Joanne talked of lectures, flatmates and practice teaching. She was relieved that there was no boyfriend to take her away. What she would do without those chatty weekend visits she didn’t dare to think. She worked in a man’s world of steel and piping, making gates and fences so there were few pleasures. Her daughter’s return every weekend was the only thing to look forward to.

It had to happen.  Joanne met a man.  He seemed pleasant enough and even drove up the mountain to visit her on several occasions.  She could see her daughter drifting away and felt a rush of panic and loneliness.  She had to get away from her isolation.

When Hayden died, she was torn between moving to the city where her mother lived or staying on the property to run the business.  He had left things in a mess, with a hefty bank overdraft and a propensity to give credit unwisely.  She thought about her daughter, still in primary school and decided life in the country would be the best thing for them both.  She proudly watched Joanne complete high school and take up a scholarship to Teachers College.  Her business acumen had turned the second-hand steel and piping business around so that it made a comfortable profit. Now it was time to think of herself and move to Sydney, live a little before she became old and grey.

The business was placed on the market and she spent weekends visiting houses in southern Sydney, sometimes with her mother, sometimes with Joanne.  Finally she found what she was looking for.  It was an older brick house divided into two flats. Although it didn’t have a particular style it was basically a rectangle with a pitched tiled roof, boasting views of Gunnamatta Bay. The small flat was in good condition so she imagined living there while the larger apartment was renovated.

She was friends with a retired builder who offered to renovate the house with the help of his sons.  Finally she moved into her newly appointed half house, letting the smaller flat to a young Lebanese man.  Her mother lived nearby, she joined the RSL Auxiliary, took up indoor bowls and thought she should be happy.  She didn’t see as much of Joanne as she would have liked, as she was living down the coast.  Then her world was turned upside down with the death of her mother Ruby, at 79. Their relationship had sometimes been rocky but they enjoyed each other’s company now they were older. With Ruby’s death Annie felt entirely alone.

There was no such thing in those days as online dating but people who were single and lonely could meet like minded people at organised venues.  Her first date was with a Dutchman but she kept her distance when she found he was still married, although going through a divorce.

Undaunted, she tried again.  Another Dutchman introduced himself and she began to see him regularly.  His name was Lars. His first wife had died shortly after they arrived in Australia in 1951.  His second wife had died six months ago.  He was a man who needed companionship and she was lonely.

Joanne was happy about the relationship as she felt it lifted the burden off her to keep her mother happy. Lars had a house in Glebe.  It was his idea to sell both their houses and buy the house of their dreams.

‘Does that mean you want us to get married?’ Annie asked.

‘I want to spend the rest of my life with you,’ he said.

The happy couple, Annie and Lars

The first item on the agenda after their wedding was a world tour.  Lars had not been back to Holland since he left after WW2.  Annie had only been to New Zealand so she was keen to see the world.  They visited his relatives in Holland, toured Europe on a coach trip and then flew to Canada where they saw more relatives. Shortly after their return they put their respective houses on the market and bought the dream house.  It was situated on the border of Cronulla and Woolaware.  From the upstairs bedrooms you could see Botany Bay.  From the kitchen/family room the blue sea off Cronulla Beach was visible.  Downstairs, off the lounge room, was the solar heated swimming pool.

Joanne and Leo were impressed.  Annie kept it a secret until her old house sold.  She was sure she went grey overnight worrying about the bridging loan when the sale of her Cronulla house fell through. She should have taken note of Leo’s favourite saying. ‘Most of the things you worry about never happen.’

Lars had a weekender in Bundabar, a tiny village in Port Stephens.  Here he had planned to retire with his former wife.  Annie had spent enough time in the country to know that now she was a city girl.  It was fun to stay for a few days but there was always work to do.  She wouldn’t live there for quids.

This was the happiest time of Annie’s life.  A child born on a Saturday, she said, works hard for its living. As Saturday’s child, she was deserving of this period of peace and harmony.

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