Saturday, September 28, 2013


Me and my beloved Socksie - Lambert's Beach

Mum and me across the road from the Lambert's Beach shop; and Graham, my brother, ready to go off to the Slade Point School
Me, a couple of my dolls, Patsy and Diana; and Peter, the Fox Terrier in Gympie when I was about 7 or  8 years old

My earliest recollections of my childhood extend back to an era when, if only briefly, life was uncomplicated and carefree.  The way life is supposed to be for a child. Perhaps because I was so young I was sheltered from life’s turmoils and hardships. For a short couple of years I ran free within the safety net of secure boundaries set by my mother and grandmother.  However, change was looming on the near horizon; ominous dark clouds threatened. 1948 was the year peace and harmony disintegrated and disappeared from my young life; or it was when I first noticed life wasn’t all full of light and happiness.

Our grandmother played an integral role in the lives of my older brother and me; a role that lasted throughout her lifetime.  Sadly, she left this earth in 1976; two years after her daughter, my mother passed away.  Nana was a month shy of her eighty-second birthday; my mother, Elma was only 54 years old at her passing; too young; and it was heartbreaking for our grandmother to lose her daughter, her friend; her ally.

Stoically, Nana stood by her daughter, our mother, through thick and thin. Nana was a steadying influence in our family, but as events unfolded, even she, at times, was unable to intercept the explosive upheavals that came in and out of our lives. 

Destructive, violent episodes that threatened to destroy our family’s fabric were heading relentlessly towards us with the force of a cyclone.  Actually, an evil force had already infiltrated our ranks.

As mentioned in a previous post, my mother and grandmother operated a small mixed-business at Lambert’s Beach, east of Mackay. My stepfather attended to paid outside home maintenance and mechanical jobs for the locals.  At that time the population of Slade Point, Lambert’s Beach and surrounding areas wasn’t big in number.

My older brother and I along with the adults lived in the premises attached to the shop.  The store was the only one of its nature in the area.

Unfortunately, our stepfather became a member of our family when he married our mother after she and our biological father divorced.  That was the way it was. His presence cast a sinister, dark cloud over what should have been halcyon times. 

We children, the innocents, did have fun; we ran and played freely in the outdoors. Our childish adventures were many.

Although I was very young, to me my mother’s husband personified the evil stepfather.   I felt no warmth towards him whatsoever.  I never encouraged, nor sought his attention. I had no desire to reach out to him.  He was an obscene human being; a violent man who harboured a foreboding darkness in his soul.  In reflection, I wasn’t fearful of him; not in those early days, at least. However, everything would soon change; for the worst. 

With the naive candour of a child, I did not like my stepfather; it was that simple.  His very presence made my skin crawl. Therefore, I did my utmost to stay out of his way. When I couldn’t escape his company, I tried my best to make myself invisible. I have made mention of him previously...within this tale I go into more detail about his character.

In 1948, the year depicted in this story, I was three years of age.  I would turn four in November, 1948.

Our little shop, which I have described in previous posts, was popular with the locals;  but it also was very appealing to visitors to the seaside.  Balmy, sun-filled days drew the townsfolk in droves. They flocked through the shop’s doors for cold drinks and snacks. Nana’s domestic chores included the sweeping out of sand carelessly carried into the shop on the feet of well-meaning, oblivious, happy-go-lucky customers.  However, their laughter and buoyant demeanours compensated for her never-ending task; as, no doubt, did the pennies, shillings and pounds in the till at day’s end!

The old wooden and fibro shop that became our home for almost 18 months was situated close to the beach.  The soothing symphony of the ocean gently lapping on the foreshore accompanied our daily activities; at night it became a welcome lullaby. The waters of the Coral Sea invited all from near and far, to visit; and to soak in the ambience of the seaside. 

Laughter and enthusiastic chatter filled the air each day.  Day-trippers in brightly-coloured attire gathered around tables covered by freshly-starched, red and white gingham tablecloths, beneath the pergola at the shop’s front. Their garish clothes they’d never be seen dead wearing when walking the main streets of Mackay, the nearest city, situated only a few miles away.

The seaside then, as now, has a mesmerising effect on humans. It causes them to act and dress differently to how they normally would. Some things never change!

Brilliant magenta and vibrant red blossoms covered the dense, spiky-thorned bougainvillea vines that scrambled decoratively over the roof of the pergola; long-arching branches that could cause harm to the uninitiated, brazenly entwined through weather-beaten lattice barriers. The rampant climbers protected the al fresco refreshment area; shielding the visitors who sat at the tables from the tropical sun’s harsh rays.  Massed in floral defiance, hardy, vividly-coloured Portulaca grew out of the sandy soil fringing the outdoor area.

The aroma of hot pies and of the freshly-prepared sandwiches made from still-warm bread mingled harmoniously with the salty air wafting in from the ocean. 

With my hair tied in pigtails, on tiptoes each day I stood straining my tiny body to see above the table edge while my mother prepared sandwiches for the animated patrons.  Eagerly, I watched as she cut the crusts from the bread; anticipating the crunchy titbits that bore remnants of the varied sandwich fillings.  The mouth-watering morsels were my special treat.  In those days, bread crust was vastly different to that of bread on supermarket shelves nowadays. Back then, the crust was crisp and crunchy; tanned golden and delicious!

In my childish mind I believed I was assisting my mother in her preparations. In reflection, those days could very well have been my introduction to the hospitality industry; an industry I was to spend many years in as an adult; but that was still a long way away in the future; a future about which I couldn’t even begin to dream.

My dreams were those of a small child; a child limited to her immediate future; whose thoughts ventured not far beyond the next day, or hour. I was unaware during those days of innocence, my future loomed darkly; far too anxious to arrive. Dreams, no matter how pure would be crushed and made worthless.

Day after day, I hovered around my mother in the kitchen. Somehow I managed never to get in her way, or under her feet.  She must have had the patience of Job…with me, at least.  Her rich auburn locks consciously betrayed her headstrong, impatient nature; her fiery-coloured hair an undeniable give-away.

I was a quiet, shy child; my imagination,  my constant companion. No other children lived by, so I had no playmates. My timid observations of the comings and going of the seaside visitors occupied much of my time.   
Conducting my surveillance from afar, I was always anxiously alert and fearful that someone would see me or speak to me.  If ever trapped in such an unfortunate predicament I rarely replied, other than to give a slight, barely visible nod of my head, perhaps; and if I had no choice or way of escape, I answered ever so softly before, like a frightened animal, scampering away to the safety of the kitchen; out of sight. 

Sheltered on the lee side of a slight slope at the rear of our yard, in a run-down hut lived a solitary man. To me, he seemed very old; he probably wasn’t.  If I’d been a little older myself, his ram-shackled hut would have fitted my image of Robinson Crusoe’s island abode; but I was yet too young to enjoy reading the adventures of Mr. Crusoe and his Man Friday.

From years spent beneath a scorching sun our neighbour’s skin was tanned like leather; it looked as tough.  Private and reclusive, he lived alone with an air of mystery surrounding him.   I didn’t fear our brown, wiry, long-haired neighbour.  Against character, I felt kindly towards him. 

Tentatively, with my shyness still intact, I visited the mystifying hermit every other day to deliver his bread, milk and other minor essentials.  With my arms wrapped tightly around his meagre supplies as quiet as a mouse, stealthily I crept hastily past the woody bush lemon tree laden with its crop of lumpy, yellow fruit. The fruit’s knobbly skin reminded me of the ugly ogres that roamed in fairytales.

Timorously, I’d approach the back door of the hut.  The hermit always greeted me with a smile and a quiet, gentle word; his mellifluous voice calmed the timid little girl standing shyly before him.  Demurely, my monosyllabic replies were barely audible; my visits, brief.  Wasting no time, I’d hand him his groceries before turning to scurry back home. 

My monastic friend’s name was Mr Meagher. 

Every day; come rain, hail or shine, he swam in the ocean. He would stand face down in the water for minutes at a time. In awe, I’d hold my breath waiting for him to resurface. With his weathered back curled like a comma and his lank wet hair clinging to the nape of his neck, Mr. Meagher’s deeply sun-browned posterior was the only part of his body visible above the water. His strange, yet regular daily stance reminded me of a giant brown turtle.

There were times I overheard cryptic conversations between the adults.  Speaking in muffled, lowered voices as they discussed Mr. Meagher, I understood little of what they said. The enigmatic Mr. Meagher intrigued his inquisitive neighbours; which were few and far between. I derived from the muted conversations that, in some quarters, it was thought he was perhaps an artist or, maybe a writer who sought solitude to hone his craft. Others thought he was a noble man escaping the confining boundaries of his birth. Once I heard mention of a word about which I had absolutely no understanding – “bankrupt”; conjecture also speculated that he was in hiding from the long arm of the law. A simple answer to the myriad questions surrounding mild-mannered Mr. Meagher could’ve been he was simply a seeker of privacy; preferring his own company to that of others.

I had no friends of my own age, but I was never lonely.  With the ocean nearby, many hours I spent in the cooling water. The beach was my playground.  My pastimes were building sand castles; collecting shells and driftwood while sometimes chasing the battalions of soldier crabs and inquisitive seagulls, but never with malice.  Protected by the Great Barrier Reef, the sea was generally calm, other than when whipped up by cyclonic conditions. Having learned to swim at an early age, I wasn’t a worry to my parents. I abided by the limits set; and was content to do so.

My older brother, Graham had little time for me; my being a girl was reason enough.  He’d become impatient with me, storming off in disgust. Graham was three years older than me, and had already begun school.  He had his own group of friends; a select group that excluded girls, particularly younger sisters! 

Alone in my own world I contentedly dwelt; my dolls were my best friends.  They were the only company I needed, I believed. That was until one joyous, memorable day; the day my world turned upside down in the most wonderful way.

The day I received my first pet I was overcome with excitement. It was love at first sight. I couldn’t take my eyes off him.  He was a fluffy, furry ball of life.  A beautiful grey and white young cat became my new favourite friend, surpassing all others.  I was smitten.  He was remarkable; he was gorgeous; he was mine. A huge new universe opened up before me. With his four snowy white paws, to me, he appeared to be wearing socks.  Fittingly, I christened my new love; “Socksie”.  Socksie and I bonded instantly. 

We became inseparable. We were never far apart.  He was my shadow; my confidant. Socksie never minded that I constantly petted and cuddled him. He was my regular tea party guest. I discussed daily events while he sagely watched and listened. Socksie trusted me. He knew I’d never hurt him.  How could I?  I absolutely adored him. Socksie and I had a mutual admiration society going on. Nothing and no one could tear us apart, or so I believed.

However, I couldn’t foresee the future. My world was about to be shattered; and it would never completely recover. The fine cracks would never diminish; they would remain forever as if indelibly engraved.

With Socksie in my life I didn’t care if my brother and his mates ignored me. I didn’t need them; I had Socksie. He was all I needed. Socksie also helped me stay removed from my stepfather, which pleased me. The less time spent in my stepfather's presence the better.  The love I felt for my pet was all-consuming; all engrossing.  I was so proud of him. I felt lucky to have a friend as dear and as loyal as Socksie. 

In reflection, my love for Socksie probably was the reason behind the heinous act that would soon break my heart.

My dolls were neglected.  My devotion was lavished on my cat.  I dressed Socksie in my dolls’ clothes before taking him for walks in their pram. Placidly, he would watch me; listening intently to my soothing words; purring loudly at my touch.  Socksie displayed infinite patience, indulging a little girl her fantasies.

Each night I prepared his bed in my dolls’ cot; plumping up the pillows; turning down the sheets and covers just as my mother did for me.  Crooning a lullaby, I’d tenderly place him in the cot, gently stroking him until he went to sleep.  Once he’d settled, or I believed he had, I’d go to my own bed content in the knowledge that my dear Socksie was safe, securely tucked in for the evening.   Dreams of the adventures we would share the following day filled my slumber. 

Unknown to me as soon as I fell asleep Socksie opened his green, amber-speckled eyes; stretched, and then would leap out of his cosy cot to go adventuring under the cloak of darkness.  In his infinite cat wisdom, he understood the simple desires of his little mistress; always waiting until I was fast asleep. In the mornings upon waking, I would find him snuggled up beside me on my bed. I was none the wiser of his second life.

Great changes were afoot. We were moving to another town far away.  The days turned hectic; hours were spent packing our belongings into the many large wooden tea chests with their riveted metal edges giving them strength to bear their heavy loads. Every corner and piece of floor space was taken up by the tea chests, it seemed. Packing became a full-time occupation.  What little furniture we owned was being moved and stacked to one side ready for a truck to arrive to take it away. The air was electric with excitement. The thrill of adventure was rife.  A long train journey lay ahead.   Distance meant nothing to me.  I had no comprehension of what it meant, but I understood from the frenzied activity around me that the coming days promised mystery and wonderment.  My dolls were nestled together comfortably and securely  in a large carton.  I conducted lengthy discussions with Socksie, keeping him abreast with what was happening; informing him of what I imagined lay ahead for both him and me.  He, too, was in awe of the energy around him.  Like mine, his nerves were also on high alert. A special box that would become his home during the lengthy train trip to Gympie was at hand.

The night for our departure finally arrived.   Late in the evening we bundled into a taxi to be driven to the train station in Mackay. 

Arriving at the busy station, crowds of sleepy-eyed commuters milled about; yawning, stretching; chatting quietly amongst themselves, as they, too, waited for the sound of the steam engine to arrive; keen to embark upon their journey. 

Filled with apprehension I watched my stepfather carelessly drag the box bearing Socksie from the taxi. I despaired at his rough handling. It was obvious he knew nothing about cats; and it was clear he didn’t give a damn.

Sockie’s frightened howls echoed through the bleak, chilly night. Haphazardly holding the cat box under his arm, my stepfather stormed towards the station platform with the rest of us rushing behind trying our best to keep up to his pace.

From his harrowing cries, I knew my pet was terrified. I wanted to go to him; to take him from the clutches of that man.  Frightened by the foreign noises and the strangers around me, I understood Socksie’s fear. I shared his anxiety. His gut-wrenching howls tore at my heart.  The gathering crowd; the strange odours permeating the railway station’s platform caused him panic; they caused me panic. 

In silence, I cried out to my Socksie. I wanted to cuddle him, if only for a short while; to let him know I was there by his side; to protect him.

Came the time to board the train.  Looking down the platform to where my stepfather stood with Socksie, a short distance away from my mother, grandmother, brother and me, to my absolute horror, I saw my stepfather open the box, and shoo Socksie away.  Within a split second, Socksie broke free, naturally.  In fear, he fled.  

Transfixed, frozen to the spot, I stood; my mouth open in shock. I was unable to utter a sound.   Dumbstruck, I stared. In my mind I screamed over and over and over; but no sound broke free.  A torrent of unstoppable tears streamed down my face. 

Nothing was real; I was locked in a horrifying nightmare. I stood paralysed on the station’s platform.  Powerless, I was unable to save my beloved Socksie; my dear friend. 

Finally, finding my voice, I screamed out to Socksie, but, of course, he was gone. I never saw my Socksie again.

What could I do?  I was bewildered; I was shattered; I was terrified. There was nothing anyone could do to help me rescue my Socksie.  In fearful panic, he disappeared into the darkness of night.  Wretched tears continued to stream down my face. Broken-hearted, I stared; glared at my stepfather; not understanding the reason why.  Looking back at me, across his corrupt, immoral face was a contemptuous sneer. 

From that moment on, my stepfather’s heartless action altered my dislike of him into hatred. I hated him for his ruthless cruelty; and hate is a powerful, terrible emotion for one so young. 

His brutality grew more vicious and personal over the ensuing few years. Unfortunately he was to inflict further pain and abuse on our small family unit.

On a chilly night on a platform at a railway station I experienced my first heartbreak...the loss of my first love; my beautiful, loyal Socksie.

I will never forget Socksie. 

I shall never forget, nor shall I forgive the person who stole my adored pet from me. Not long after my stepfather’s heartless act, he stole my innocence in another way. He was proof that evil existed.  It’s abhorrent that innocent helpless children are forced to witness repellent behaviour of adults; and that some become victims of these abusive predators; powerless casualties caused from bad choices made by adults.

His reign of terror had only just begun that night. We endured harrowing years when he was in our lives. He caused our family much sorrow, fear and hurt.

His physical and emotional abuse continued unabated until finally, one glorious day, the sun shone brightly upon us. I saw a smile on the sun’s face that wondrous day.  The local police, at a time when the police still had the power to do so, ran my stepfather out of town with orders he never return. 

Burdensome black clouds of violence, despair and fear that for far too long had pressed heavily upon our lives were lifted; never to return; but the damage had already been done. Undiminished, the hurt has lasted a lifetime; invisible scars remain; memories persist. 

After all these years and the many bridges crossed, my feelings towards the creature who was my stepfather for a short while, that seemed like an eternity at the time, have never changed; they never will.


  1. What an absolutely horrible man. I'm surprised your mother put up with him.


  2. I am so sorry. After all these years the pain is as raw as it ever was.
    Hurting for you, hurting with you.

  3. That's easier said than done in some cases, Janice.

    I wouldn't put up with it, but then I learned that as child; something a child should never have to learn, but it was a lesson learned by me; and one I've always heeded in regards to myself and my own life.

    Women still, to this day, get caught in the web; in the trap, controlled by violent men. For many, unfortunately, they can't see a way out. They are between a rock and a hard place; but nobody should have to go through such violence; and no child should be witness to it.

    And back in those days there wasn't the help that is around these days...and even now, some women are to frightened to reach out for that help. But, on the hand, in those days, police did have the power to run such bastards out of town. The police these days no longer have that power...and more is the pity.

    I don't judge women caught in violent situations. It is easy to do so, but it's like the old...until you walk in someone's shoes....etc.

    But I do feel for them; oh so very much. There is no excuse for man raising his hands in violence to a woman ...there are no excuses whatsoever.

  4. Hi EC. Yes...some hurts never go away. They don't fade with time; they're just pigeon-holed. There is little I forget.

  5. Oh, Lee, what a powerful, wonderfully written and also heartbreaking story. I am so upset, and angry too. I agree that hatred is a dreadful emotion and part of what is so evil about abusers and cruel people is that they make it hard not to hate, they impose this pain of hating on their victims. I am glad that you have managed to make a good life for yourself.

  6. What doesn't break or kill you, Jenny...makes you stronger.

    Sometimes it's a facade; other times all depends on the situation. :)

    Good to see you as always.

  7. Forgiveness for that is hard to find.

  8. I've never even bothered trying to look for it, Adullamite.

    In his case, the word "forgiveness" is not in my vocabulary.

  9. A deeply moving story, my dear Lee. It is a wonder (naturally-speaking, of course) that you turned out so well, but you really do need to genuinely forgive that evil man--for your sake, and for the sake of your Heavenly Father. Not as a matter of following some commandment, neither. For true forgiveness is oh so very personal--be assured.

  10. Lee
    It is in the past, so as it was said in the Lion King "Learn from it or forget about it." I paint with that little monkey on my easel just to remind me. Life growing up was hard but it is in the past but you being such a small child with such love for the kitty must have been so very very terrible. I am so happy the guy got run out of town. Too bad more of them are not. I had a friend who for years was abused and she finally told me about it. I told her she did not have to take it and I checked the shelters etc BUT only she could do anything about it. The last time I talked to her she said he was sorry and would change. REALLY? I feared he would turn on me so I put the friendship on the shelf because emotional I could not continue to listen and her do nothing. Yours and my life are better now. Thanks be to God. Peace be with you dear friend.

  11. Hi Jerry...I don't need to forgive him. I have no desire to forgive him; I never have and I never will.

    He's long dead, but I will never forgive that creature for what he did; and for what he put our family through...never. It doesn't do me any harm not to forgive him. It's my individual, personal choice. I was there...I know the story. I witnessed it; I was a victim, too.

    There is nothing and no one that would or could change my mind - ever. :)

    I rest easy with my choice.

  12. G'day Lady can bet your bottom dollar that I've "learned from it". I know it is in the past; but I will never forget it. It is far too important to forget. There are some things that should never be forgotten. That doesn't mean that they should be continually dwelt upon, either.

    There are some things that can not be put into a box and hidden away...just to make it easier on one's self.

    As I wrote...lessons were learned; lessons a child, or anyone for that matter shouldn't have to learn; but some are inescapable; and one deals with them as an individual as one sees fit.

  13. Wow. Evil is right. You know when you're in the presence of it, and I'm glad he was run out of town. That was too good for him.

    I hope that Socksie found a loving family.

  14. You briefly mentioned that episode with your beloved cat a few years ago, Lee. But it is as heart wrenching now as it was then.

    I didn't have a stepfather at that age, but unfortunately my parents had a predatory family friend, as I found out to my cost.

    I confronted this guy when I was an adult and it was such a relief to tell him what I thought and that I was thinking of having him charged. I relished seeing the fear in his eyes...the craven coward.

    I hope that writing about it was cathartic. However, it's hard to come to terms with such trauma and ugliness experienced at so young an age.

  15. It certainly was too good for him, RC.

    I had better plans for him for when I got older; but he died when I was 16...he was in WA at the time, we heard. He was lucky he didn't cross paths with me when I was older and able to take care of a way a small child can't.

  16. Hi is good to talk about these matters. I have nothing to hide, nor have I anything to be ashamed of; there is no point burying it inside...letting it fester. That doesn't do any my opinion.

    Some say I should forgive...but I never will...any "person" like that doesn't deserve forgiveness to my way of thinking...that's just my way of thought...and I'm allowed that. I'm no flag-waving civil libertarian follower of Terry O'Gorman and his kind!

    They are craven cowards as you say. I was disappointed I never had the chance to meet up with him again on equal footing. I was looking forward to that! ;)

    I have very, very strong opinions and emotions about domestic violence and paedophilia...and those opinions and emotions will never change.

    That is why I'm such a fan of Derryn Hinch. He speaks my language.

  17. It is awful when a child dies before the parent. My parents lost their son and my brother.

    My childhood was not that innocent or carefree even in the beginning.

    But I do know how it feels to have had to grow up and move on and things being hard.


  18. Hi Sandie...yes, it is so very sad when the child dies before the parent. It broke my heart to see our Nana and the sorrow she went through losing her daughter, my mother...they'd been rarely apart through my mother's life. Nana outlived both her children, sadly. My uncle, my mother's younger brother passed away a couple of years after Mum just wasn't right...that should not be the way it it goes.

    We all have our stories, don't we, Sandie...nothing is ever as black and white as it seems. But we do grow; we do learn; and we can use our own free will to deal with life if we're prepared to take that deep breath and look it straight in the eye! :)

    Thanks for dropping in... :)

  19. How awful! You can tell a lot about a person in how they treat pets. Glad he was run out of town.

  20. Yes, you certainly can, Dexter.

    People like that should be treated like the lepers were...round them all up and put them on an island somewhere in the middle of the ocean; let them all sort it out between themselves...and rot!