Jillian

“Hello Simone!!!  Oh so good to hear your voice!  I’m sorry I’ve never been at home to take any of your calls.  I was in Kyabram for a funeral, and then I was in Brisbane for a netball tournament; the kids I’m coaching are undefeated.  Undefeated, Simone!  It’s marvelous!  And then I had to head to Eumundi Market on the weekend to set up Heidi’s stall because she’s sprained her ankle.  I’ll tell you what – I’m looking forward to getting old so I can slow down”!

Portrait of Jillian's children in 1984

Jillian’s seven children in 1984
Back row (left to right): Erina, Madeline, Jacqui, Stephen, Belinda
Front row: Justin, Heidi

Jillian’s 75 and this is my first phone conversation with her in 27 years.  From babyhood to starting school, my mother dropped me at Jillian’s house each morning.  There I would spend each day until my father finished work.  At 4:30pm he would turn up to take me home, balancing me on the handlebars of his bike; me without a child-seat and neither of us wearing helmets (the wonderful seventies).  As I grew up I would still go to Jillian’s when I was sick.

Jillian has seven children (five girls and two boys), all older than me, who she raised on her own.  My days with her were idyllically peaceful; we went to Mass every day (yes, every day), and then I’d play on my own each afternoon, helping with chores as much as children can.  The tranquility came to an abrupt halt when school finished and her children came home.

I was an extremely shy and reserved child so at 4pm each day (which by my clock was just after Kimba the White Lion finished) I was bewildered as the house transformed into carnival of noise and activity.  It was like being pulled onto stage at a Cirque du Soleil performance and I was stunned by the show.

Erina, loud and boisterous, would pick me up and spin me around until I felt dizzy.  Madeline would stand in front of me and dance (probably unsuccessfully trying to get me to join in), and Justin would play his guitar, serenading me with “Wild Thing.  Balls were thrown, bikes were ridden, and music blared (to this day the song “Let’s hear it for the boy” reminds me of Erina; she played it non- stop when it was first released).

Me (baby) with Madeline, Heidi, Erina & Justin

Me (the baby) being held by Madeline, Heidi standing, Erina holding her hand out to me & the back of Justin’s head. It’s 1977.

Jillian now lives in the State of Queensland, far north from me, and I’m going to catch up with her next week.  Her children all live in the same city with her and I remember them fondly.

JillianRight, so when are you thinking of visiting?

Me (slightly bowled over by Jillian’s energetic address and feeling that same bewildered sensation I had as a child):  I was thinking I fly out on Thursday and depart on Sunday?

Jillian:  But Simone, by the time you arrive on Thursday and then depart on Sunday, you’ll only be here for two full days and there’s no way that’s long enough.  Everyone wants to see you.  You’ll have to arrive sooner.

Me (laughing):  Okay, I’ll come on Tuesday?

Jillian:  Yes, that’s more like it.  Oh I can’t wait! Little Simone’s coming!! (Hmm, Little Simone, isn’t quite so little anymore …)

I hang up, smiling at my unquestioned change of flight times; disobeying Jillian simply isn’t in my programming, even after decades.

Me with Madeline

Me with Madeline

So I head to Queensland, not Shy Little Simone, but Grown-up Simone.  My emotions are a mixture of nerves and excitement, but more than anything I’m eager to see her again.  And I hope she makes me some of her jelly slice – man I love her jelly slice (I make it myself about once a month).

Afterword

I’ve since been north and had a wonderful visit.  The connection with Jillian is still present and I was able to catch up with Jacqui, Justin, Maddie and Heidi.

After 27 years my relationship with Jillian has grown into a friendship between two adults, but I was reminded of our initial guardian-to-child link in an incident which delighted me.  As I descended the stairs approaching the living room I called out loudly to her.  She replied, “Now Simone, you’ve forgotten that I don’t have conversations from room-to-room.  If you want me to respond you’ll have to speak to me in the same room”.  I apologised and smiled to myself.  Being told off by Jillian was a heartwarming pleasure; I’m still her Simone and she’ll always be my Jillian.

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10 responses to “Jillian

  1. Nicola Cressey

    Maybe this is my favourite post. I hope and pray that Ben’s relationship with his childminder Michelle, is the same as yours and Jillian’s. From 3.30pm when the older children come home (other childminded children) Ben is in his element, ruling the games (or at least, destroying theirs). I often have to cajole him out of the house, using some sort of chocolate-based edible reward and although this makes my heart ache because I long for him to be with me all day, at least I know he is incredibly happy and secure where he is.

    • Oh it sounds like he has a wonderful time there! I understand you missing him during the day, but you’re entirely right in taking comfort that he’s happy and secure where he is. I have nothing but good memories of my time with Jillian (well except for when her son, Justin, fed me chunky vegetable soup and I was obliged to try to pour it down the sink when he wasn’t looking – and then being horrified when all the chunky bits wouldn’t go down the drain!). I imagine Ben will feel the same about Michelle when he’s a strapping 35-year-old 🙂

  2. Very cute baby pics Simone x

    • Thanks Pete. Though actually I was a rather weird looking baby. Mum always tells the story of when I was “born” (in Macbeth-style, I wasn’t “born of woman” as I was a caesarean). My father brought me in once Mum had woken up. He was excited saying, “She’s beautiful! Isn’t she beautiful, Mary?!” Exhausted, my mother looked at me and simply said, “Yeah, she’s alright” 🙂

  3. What a touching story Simone. Loving the photos too! Heidi, in her “Life. Be in it” t-shirt, even made me nostalgically search out Norm’s family on Youtube.

    Jillian sounds lovely. Like a second mother. Someone with only an ‘on switch’, and with lots of love to give. Someone that if I had met her, I’m sure that (indirectly) a mirror would be held up to my own life.

    Your last paragraph made me smile the most. In being told off I am left wondering if (collectively) we still have much to learn from these sagacious people. Some mothers scold, others kiss, but the love is the same.

    • Oh she is just so wonderful – this post hasn’t even really done her justice. While I visited she won Queensland Netball Mum of the Year (for her contribution to Australian netball over the last 60 years), and she went on to win the Australian Netball Mum of 2012. She also does endless charity work for Mental Health organisations and AA (supporting the families of recovering alcoholics). She runs cake decorating workshops and is part of a book club … her activity in the community is astonishing for a 25-year-old let alone a 75-year-old.

      Heidi actually laughed when she saw that photo of herself, saying “Oh my ‘Life. Be in it’ t-shirt! That was my favourite t-shirt – I wore it all the time!”

  4. You were blessed to have Jillian as your other mother throughout your pre-school years and I am delighted that the relationship has stood the test of the years. Jillian is indeed a treasure in our extended family circle. Many times when you were little, I invoked the influence she had over you in that loving relationship, saying, ” If you don’t stop that naughtiness now, I’ll tell Jillian!” (It worked every time.)

  5. How lovely, that actually brought a tear to my eye.

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