Saturday, August 04, 2012
EMBRACE LIFE…EMBRACE A LIFE WORTH HAVING KNOWN…EMBRACE THE MEMORIES…FOREVER
A friend from my past; of nigh on fifty years ago in my past, to be exact, tracked me down a few weeks ago; perhaps a couple of months ago, knowing how rapidly time disappears as it turns every second into the past! These days it seems a year that once contained 12 months, no longer is as long.
I touched on my reconnection with an old friend briefly in an earlier post, I know; but so many memories; so many thoughts have been stirred and shaken these last few weeks. Sorry, Mr Bond!
Every day since he and I met up again through the marvel of the internet, we’ve been corresponding in great depth and length; and within that “depth” and “length”, my new-old friend has tossed a lot of questions my way; questions that have caused me to delve deeply into my past…a past that began long before he and I knew each other in our heady teenage years; and continued as each day passed through all the intervening years between then and now.
I’ve answered many of his questions; and there are many more awaiting a response from me; I know he has a bank full of queries still to be asked of me. This has caused me to wonder in answering some questions - where do I draw the line between loyalties? I believe in honesty; but I also believe in protecting those I hold dear, and I wonder if I do, in fact, have the right to discuss them without their knowledge or permission; even if they’ve passed from this world.
My mind is always very active, but lately it’s been working overtime!
Isaac Newton once declared…(If the truth be known, he probably declared similar more than once)…“For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction”…or words to that effect.
Because of our reconnection, my friend from the past and I have covered a lot of ground, with much more territory to cover, no doubt. We would both make great turf-layers if the amount of ground we’ve covered is an indicator; and we still have much to cover!
From our correspondence and prompted by the strangeness of life (and I’m unable to explain how or why a lot in life happens); I asked my friend one day if he knew of a particular family who lived in the town where he spent his childhood...Maryborough. The youngest daughter of that family had been a member of my staff when I managed the resort at Cape Richards, Hinchinbrook Island. And, because “life” is so in-explicitly weird at times, he did, in fact, know the family. Proof again that life is very strange. The family lived down the road from where my friend ran a corner store years ago. And, the young lady I enquired about was just a little girl at the time; the youngest in a close-knit Catholic family. As a child, she shyly spent time in his shop; her keen eyes longingly caressing the lolly jars.
Bronwyn (Bronnie) was her name.
Bronwyn and I first met in Noosa when I owned and operated a greengrocery/healthfood store in Hastings Street. Bronnie worked in “Miss Piggy’s”; a take-away shop in the same complex as my business. Often when on a “break”, Bronnie popped into my shop for a chat and a freshly-baked muesli cookie; or perhaps a slice of carrot-pineapple cake, still warm from the oven. She was a sweet young lass; quite young for her years compared to some of her peers.
When Bronwyn heard that I was leaving Noosa to take up the management of Hinchinbrook Island’s resort she rushed into my shop one morning; she pulled up the old Bentwood chair, and with determination in her eyes, she pleaded with me to give her a job; for me to take her with me to the island.
“Bronnie,’ I said. “You have to realise that island life is going to be so much different to your life here in Noosa. All your friends are here. Your Mum and Dad are here. You go out all the time with your mates to the clubs etc; you go surfing; you go partying. There’ll be nothing like that on the island. Island life will be totally and completely different to your life here in Noosa! There'll be only a handful of us living on the island…probably no more than 12, maybe 15 at peak times…work mates; you'll be living in each others' pockets There are no roads on the island; no vehicles; no shops…no nothing! Other than the guest cabins, the restaurant and the staff quarters, there is little else! Do you think you could handle that?”
She kept trying to interrupt me with her arguments "for" her desire; and I kept bringing up all the “cons” in an attempt to make her understand the remoteness of life on Hinchinbrook Island. Hinchinbrook was like no other island resort. “The only footprints on the beach will be your own”; “maximum population 30”; and “a million miles from everywhere” were its mantras.
I recognised immediately that I was fighting a losing battle; but with one last charge, I said:
“Bronnie, I want you to go away; sleep on this overnight or longer, if you wish…longer would perhaps be the better idea. I want you to really, really give this a lot of thought. Weigh the pros and the cons; and then come back to me. Give it a lot of thought; don’t look at it through rose-coloured glasses. I’ll make my decision when next I see you.”
I had a very strong inkling that her mind was already made up. No matter what I said, my chances of changing her mind were very slim!
First thing next morning…there she was; a broad smile on her face as she bounced into my shop, full of vim and vigour; and positivity! I knew from the look upon her face that I was the loser in the battle. I’d been defeated, fairly and squarely! However, as it turned out, I ended being the winner; or better still….both Bronnie and I were winners. We tied for first place!
A month or so later, having sold my shop and my much-loved, difficult-to-part-with 1958 MG Magnette Varitone; and after having tied up or snipped off all other loose ends, I headed north to the tropics to begin a new adventure. Shortly thereafter, Bronwyn also arrived ready for whatever lay ahead for her.
During the first few weeks of my debut into island life the resort was closed to the public while certain necessary construction work was carried out. A new, large timber deck with sturdy wooden tables set permanently into it was erected around the pool. A section of the deck cantilevered out beyond the beach below.
Cyclone Winifred had passed through Mission Beach, just north of Hinchinbrook shortly before my arrival. Fortunately, the only major damage suffered by the resort was the old jetty. It was destroyed by the cyclone’s fury; but “Winnie” actually did us a favour. A stronger, larger jetty replaced the old, rickety one.
A week before the resort was due to open once again to guests, Bronwyn’s 21st birthday was due. It was evident to all she was eager to celebrate. I knew she was feeling homesick for her family and friends, and her longing was even more so at this major time in her life.
She kept hinting, quite vocally, and often, valiantly trying to learn if I had anything planned for her special day. Being one who is quite fond of teasing, I kept a straight face each time she asked what I had planned for her. Without flinching, my somewhat curt answer each time was:
“I’m very sorry, Bronnie; but you can see what’s going on around here. We’re all so busy…everyone has their time cut out for them! We’re racing against the clock! I just don’t have time to plan anything for you; not at this point! None of us has any time for anything other than trying to get all this work done; getting the resort ready for its re-opening on 8th March is difficult enough without me having to plan a party! I’m so sorry, Bronwyn, but that’s just the way it is. Perhaps I can organise something further down the track.”
I stayed strong; I remained stoic each time I saw her face fall; every time I witnessed the disappointment in her eyes; but I had a surprise party all planned for Bronnie. Unfortunately for her, she was going to be the last to know!
It was difficult to remain impassive; indifferent; and every time she asked, I felt so bad inside; but I must be honest - at the same time I was having fun because I knew that come the time of the party, Bronnie would be thrilled to pieces by what I had planned, All her pain and dashed hopes caused by my subterfuge would be worthwhile in the end!
My strategy was set in stone; and nothing and no one was going to divert me from my course and mission; not even the disappointment clearly shown on Bronwyn’s face, day after day; time after time. Her hints had soon turned into heartfelt pleas; but she was thwarted at every post! My determination was greater than hers! I refused to surrender!
The tradesmen employed to erect the deck and build the new jetty joined the resort staff at meal times. My staff spent their days eagerly tending to the finishing touches around the restaurant and guest cabins in readiness for the arrival our first merry holiday-makers. There was an electric buzz in the air.
A long table was set up in the restaurant, and each meal time, like a big family, everyone gathered together around the table sharing their stories. Laughter and much chatter normally filled the air.
Come breakfast time on Bronnie’s big day she was the last to arrive down from the staff quarters. While waiting on her appearance, I urged the rest of the staff to ignore the fact that it was her birthday; for them to pretend the day was no different to any other. Our act was going to be carried out to its not-so-bitter-but-very-happy-end! Everyone knew what I had in store, so they willingly went along with the fun, games and deceit. No one wanted to let the cat out of the bag. And, anyway, I had a far more exciting surprise awaiting Bronnie than a cat in a bag, or a “Jack-in-the-Box”!
Bronnie finally made her entrance, dragging her feet behind her. Hardly anyone raised their heads when she sat down at the table. Each gave a bit of a grunt in recognition of her joining them, before continuing with their conversations and breakfast cereals. Her face grew longer by the second, and more sombre by the minute. I excused myself from the table and went into my office that was behind the bar to collect a gift-wrapped box. I returned to the breakfasting group armed with the parcel.
Bronnie’s eyes lit up when I handed her the box; but her delight was short-lived; it quickly changed into shocked horror. Upon opening the box out jumped two cane toads! She let out a loud scream while simultaneously leaping out of her chair. She jumped higher than the toads! The toads, relieved at being released, hopped across the restaurant floor on their way to freedom. Everyone broke out in uproarious laughter …except Bronwyn. With happy birthday greetings gleefully following her, in a huff, she stomped out of the restaurant and away from all of the offenders; and she refused to talk to anyone for the rest of the day! Little wonder; but her best surprise was still in store. And I knew that she had no idea what lay ahead for her. It was as I’d wanted and planned it to be. Everything was going along so smoothly. How mean can one person be?
The day passed uneventfully. I’d asked the staff to go about their business as if it was a normal day, but to finish up a little earlier in the afternoon than they usually did; to give them time to shower, change and arrive back down at the restaurant/bar and deck in readiness for the grand celebration. Bronwyn, still sulking, naturally arrived down much later than her co-workers! At one point, I thought she wasn't going to turn up!
The look upon her beautiful face was worth all the pain; the agony; the hurt; the shock I’d put her through when she finally did show! She was so happily surprised. Her excitement was unbridled. She’d not even had the slightest, tiniest suspicion that anything had been planned for her birthday.
To this day, I can still feel her embrace; and I can still hear her words of thanks. All was forgiven; I was forgiven!
She’d never been to a live concert, so one of her “real” birthday presents was two tickets to Dire Straits live in concert on 2nd April, 1986 at Dean Park, Townsville. Amongst other gifts, a bottle of Bourbon was a fine substitute for cane toads, too.
Bronwyn banished her homesick-birthday-blues that night by celebrating high-spiritedly on the deck at Cape Richards’ Resort, Hinchinbrook Island. Surrounded by her group of new friends, her newly-found work-mates - all of whom came to love her; she and all who shared in her 21st birthday celebration had a wonderful, fun-filled evening under sparkling stars lined up in chorus to a silver moon; with the sounds of the ocean serenading in the background. How could one not have a great time in those conditions?
That night was only the beginning of many more adventures; of many more stories yet to be told; of many memories that will remain embedded in my mind; and in my heart...forever.
Bronwyn had something special about her; a light glowed from within; brightly she shone with eagerness, excitement and expectations of what lay ahead.
I received word from Bronnie’s husband last night, Saturday 4th August, 2012;
Bronnie passed away on Friday evening, 3rd August, 2012…at 10.25 pm, at the Mossman Hospital. Bronwyn was 47 years of age.
Bronwyn not only has left behind her husband, Brett and their four, wonderful children, ranging in age from 19 years to nine years; but she has left behind many, many loving, fun memories and many good friends.
All of these are her legacy.
Bronwyn embraced life…I hope she can feel my embrace, now.
Orchid Beach, Hinchinbrook Island