When we drove - and remember, this was back in the days before we had aircon in cars let alone DVD players in the backs of seats or iPads!! - my mother would host sing-a-longs. Its the reason why I know every WW2 song in existence - I can belt out Pack Up Your Troubles, The White Cliffs of Dover and It's A Long Way to Tipperary as if it was yesterday. In the back of that sweltering Kingswood she also taught us Waltzing Matilda, Click Go The Shears and ALL the versus of Two Little Boys. My mother had 4 children in a car that should legally (by today's standards) only have sat 3 and did I mention no aircon??? so she had a job to keep us all amused when the grand adventure soon turned to "he's touching me" and "she had the window seat last time!"
There were two markers we always looked out for on that trip. The water tower in Blackwater - we'd all compete for who was the first to see it towering in the shimmering distant haze - and Mt Archer which is the mountain that stands sentinel over Rockhampton.
I realise now, looking back, how quiet my mother would become as soon as she said, "Look kids, Mt Archer." At the time, some part of me recognised it too, that stillness. I would see it come over her profile from my seat in the back but I didn't understand it for what is was. Not like I do now. Even without her being around for me to ask, I know my mother was swamped with the same kind of gut wrenching nostalgia that grips me when I return to my hometown and know she's not going to be there to greet me.
My mother grew up in Rocky and lost her mother at the age of 14 (after losing her 18 year old sister two years prior). I can't even begin to imagine the overwhelming grief of that. I lost my mother at the age of 41 and it was, and still is almost 6 years later, the most devastating thing I've ever experienced. I've driven home so many times over the years with a sense of peace and homecoming but its different since my Mum died. As soon as I see Mt Archer, I am struck with the deepest sadness, like my heart is being pulled from my chest all over again, knowing that when I get out at that end of that journey she wont be there smiling her funny downturned smile which I inherited, a fridge full of the grandkids (and my) favourite food and her soft hands with the skin that crinkled over her knuckles.
The Cold Chisel song, Flame Trees, plays on repeat through my head as Mt Archer suddenly looms ahead -
"We share some history, this town and I
And I can't stop that long forgotten feeling of her".
"There's no change, there's no pace
Everything within its place
Just makes it harder to believe that she won't be around."
I stopped thinking about my Mum every single day a few years back but for long agonising moments as I roll in past Yeppen crossing, I am as gutted and lost as the day I kissed her goodbye forever.
Which all leads me to, nostalgia is a bitch ..... 😒
What gets you nostaligic?