I am on the road for a few days and my journey brings me back to the Latrobe Valley in Victoria. I rode my bike from Traralgon up to Tyers this afternoon and I was struggling to remember the events and people from this chapter of my life. But then I smelled that smell … the unmistakable odour of the local Maryvale Australian Paper Mill (APM). Once I smelled this, the memories came flooding back and I tweeted this …
Serendipity strikes again … I realized it was 20 years to the day that Kirsten and I moved everything we owned to a house in the hills of Tyers. We lived together as friends and house-buddies for 2 years. We were both finding our feet as Occupational Therapists in our first jobs. Me working at the hospital and Kirsten in a vocational rehabilitation setting. For some of the time, we lived quite separate lives. During some periods we hung out together a lot, riding our bikes and exploring the mountains to our north. Like good friends do, we supported each other through the hard times. Occasionally, we would lie on the road out front at night and watch the stars … and just talk. Our house was on Fitzgibbons Road …
Next door to us lived a great couple and their tribe of kids. He was (and still is) a tall, gently spoken, bearded Canadian. He looked every bit a logger, and he still is. His wife, had the sharpest wit of anyone we had ever met. She called a spade-a-spade and her brutally honest observations were famous. She was also my wise counsel at times and would point out things in life that I couldn’t see through the lens of youth.
Kirsten and I became very close to our neighbors and were stoked when we were invited to their wedding. We would often drink beer with them and play with their kids. At the time their 2 youngest children (both girls) were only 6 and 8 years of age. Kirsten was extremely fond of the girls, particularly the eldest of the 2. I remember Kirsten saying how maternal she felt around them and I had a running joke of calling her Mother Hen. It’s 20 years on and I have my own family. When riding through Tyers, it felt like yesterday. Time moves on in strange ways doesn’t it!?
The tradgety of this story is that Kirsten passed away 12 years ago. The mental illness that suddenly struck shocked everyone who knew her. The news of her death brought together people from every chapter of her life, including our neighbours from Tyers, all holding questions. Kirsten touched many people in her short life
So today, as I rode with the wind in my hair down Fitzgibbons Road, my mind was swirling with memories and all of them happy ones. I noticed lights were next door and I had a strong feeling that they still lived there. I decided to knock on their door and say hi.
At the door was a young woman talking on the phone and she instantly recognized me, as I did her. It was the eldest of their 2 girls … and on the phone was her mum. We swapped stories from 20 years before, shared email addresses and showed photos of our life as it is now. It’s a cliche, but it was a real trip down memory lane.
Today made me realize the importance of a sense-of-place and connection. Relationships are everything and the experiences we share with others last forever and they shape who we are. Stories from our past can feel like yesterday and, at the same time, feel like a distant memory. Kirsten … today’s visit down memory lane is for you.