Rebecca Jessen


October 2014

TWO (the magic mile)

We lived at the end of the magic mile, bordering a dense forest of trees, if you ended up at the Sizzler, you’d gone too far. Lansdowne Caravan Park was a refuge for all the kinds of people you’d expect to find in such a place. There were a lot of people like us, poor families with parents that always fought and kids that terrorised the streets, single dads with five o’clock shadows and unhappy dispositions. Of course, at the time, I never thought of us as being any worse off than anyone else. We’d moved from Army housing to a tiny two bedroom tin caravan. When my Mum met him, my stepdad was living in a caravan in his mother’s backyard; this wasn’t so different, except he had a family now. The caravan park was huge, with heaps of space to ride our bikes, until they got stolen, and even a swimming pool and games room. It was like being on a permanent holiday, only, it wasn’t the kind of place you’d take your kids on holiday, not if you could help it.

Last year Mum and I were driving along that stretch of highway and I caught a glimpse of our old home as we passed by. Lansdowne Caravan Park was no more. I don’t know how long it’s been gone, but I imagine it’s been some time.  The park had been cleared of the vans, the streets repaired, blocks of land neatly squared off and fenced. There’s a sandstone sign as you drive in that reads ‘Willow Waters Estate’. It looks like the kind of place you see on TV ads these days, a self-contained world, with its own parks and shops and neatly paved paths. A place where nuclear families go to live and die.


ONE (angels in the outfield)

Following in the footsteps of the lovely and immensely talented Nike Sulway,  I will be regularly posting 300 word snippets of memoir in order to push myself along with the writing of my next project which is a collection of short memoir.

I was sheltered from death from a young age. When I was six I woke up one Saturday morning to find my mother gone. When I came out of my bedroom, my dad approached me slowly.

‘Sweetie,’ he said, ‘Pop died last night. Your Mum has gone over to the house to be with Nan.’

He brought me close, and what I remember most about that moment is the stale cigarette smoke that clung to his clothes and the feel of his beard scratching against my cheek. My brother and I didn’t fight that day, or the days after. We didn’t see much of Mum that week. We heard her though, behind her bedroom door. Softly crying, sometimes talking on the phone.

A week later when there was talk of a funeral, Mum said I couldn’t go, that I was too young.

‘But Michael gets to go,’ I protested.

It didn’t matter, Mum had made up her mind. On the day of the funeral, Mum and my brother left early in the morning. Dad took me to the movies that day. We watched Angels in The Outfield at Bankstown Square and went for ice cream after. I might have cried during the movie, for our loss, or just because it was a sad movie.

I didn’t understand at the time – and perhaps, still don’t – how to experience death second hand.

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