My Thirteenth Birthday; February 28 1965

The vague and fearful battle for independence

Dear Mum and Dad

I had been home for the Christmas Holidays and a strange sense of quiet acceptance had seemed to settle over the household, there was of course still, the ongoing tensions between Dad and Steve and now; Jerry had been added to this mix so things were still volatile.

It is possible to see the thaw dating from the birth of Margo; the bitterness of the previous five years seemed to have given way to a state of mutual acceptance.

Mum, you were now firmly entrenched in the world of art within the broader local community, there were occasional forays further afield, with the potters and artists with whom you were now a comfortably ensconced member of that tiny community.

Dad, you were definitely part of the broader world; between local Government, the State RSL and the State and National beef cattle societies.

Both of you seemed to be more fulfilled.

Margo would say you had very little interest in her as a child, but; for the rest of us and particularly me; this lack of interest in what we were doing, was a very welcome break from the intensity and bitterness we had grown up with. Every time now when I am with Margo and she complains about being ignored as a child, I tell her how bloody lucky she really was!!

Emotional neglect may not be the best way to bring up a child but it sure as hell, beats the arguments and violence we had all experienced.

I was surprised when Mum told me you were coming over to spend the day with me for my birthday; this was the first time you had ever visited the Farmers School for anything other than dropping us off at the start of term or to picking us up for holidays.

You arrived around 11.00 am, I was disappointed Margo was not with you, but between Steve, Jerry and the Nanny there was obviously plenty of people back at the farm to look after her and Terry.

Going back to school at the start of the year: I had been full of trepidation, the fear still lingered within me; I was forever frightened the “Fucking Poofter” bogy would come back to haunt me and I would be plunged into darkness again.

We went to the Weir for a picnic lunch, just the three of us; for the first time in my life I worked up the courage to actually tell you what I wanted to do or rather; what I did not want to do.

It was a given; I should join the School cadets but it was something I would not do; I had no interest in dressing up in Army fatigues and playing soldiers, the whole concept of the thing was anathema to me. I admired Dad’s service during the war and I was proud of him for that, but playing soldiers for the sake of playing soldiers seemed to be a pointless exercise.

There was something else we had to discuss; I wished to drop some of the agricultural subjects in favor of doing history and French. Obviously Mum; in the often bitter contest for the heart and mind of your fourth child you were winning at this stage.

Having now been the father of three determined and single minded daughters who have never been backward in giving their opinion on anything; I marvel at the anguish this discussion on Cadets and school subjects caused me at the time.

In our family at the time, you questioned at your peril and my Birthday lunch almost erupted into another venomous battle.

I was saved from this, by your need to be somewhere by 4.00 pm and we left the Weir in a state of uneasy truce.

It was not until after the movies that Sunday evening, when I saw the Chrysler still parked outside the Headmasters home, that I realized the real reason for this rare show of familial solidarity for my Birthday.

I was the excuse for a social gathering and I resolved at that moment to tread my own path in relation to my choices.

The Boy was slowly and ever so tentatively becoming the master of his own destiny.

Love

Bruce

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