I met Murta in 1999, and she became one of my dearest friends, up to her death in 2005 at 100 years of age. Every night she would pray that I might have a child. She would say, “you are always smiling and look happy, darling, but I see the sadness in your eyes when you think nobody’s looking.” I laughed and told her she way too perceptive. This is her story.
In 1905 an iridescent fey shed her gossamer wings and slid into a world of hand-wringing and sleep draughts. As she took her first breath, her mother took her last. “I have birthed a numinous creature, and its enough,” her mother sighed. “Its more than enough.” Murta’s tiny hand firmly gripped her mother’s wedding band.
As her life progressed, pastoral scenes and snatches of bliss made life seem a useful pastime. Tendrils of honey tumbled down her slight shoulders. Her eyes were Wedgewood blue, as though crazy-lace agates had been prepared for instalment. Pulverized Herkimer diamonds were scattered around her iris. Murta tremulously held her step-sister in her plush pink hands. Seven months of incubation hadn’t been enough and the babe left this world, despite Murta’s pleadings. She comforted Ma Ma (her stepmother), and wrapped her sister in a peach bunny rug,placing her in the icebox until the official farewell.
In time, Ma Ma delivered a little boy. Murta anxiously watched over Clint throughout the eventide, the silence broken by the redwood repeater in the hall. She stroked his cheek with her little finger,the summer evening engorged with floral aromas piped into the rhythmic breeze. Ma Ma admired the children from the veranda as she gripped the iron lacework. Murta was teaching Clint to ride his pony. She loved her little brother, a blessed gift from another woman.
Murta’s head was turned as a young socialite. Douglas Fairbanks had nothing on this young doctor. Mesmerized, Murta hurried when he called, his voice carrying her to Bowen in far Nth Queensland. She was impetuous, imbibing at parties thrown in the roaring twenties; climbing iron fences, dashing to the water’s edge. Wild, wilful, a dedicated suffragette. She caught a glimpse of herself as she polished a Venetian mirror. She smiled, recalling her box of secrets, fringed with satin ribbons.
She smuggled an orphaned joey onto a train in Brisbane and coaxed him to eat a little cereal. Murta proudly offered him to Clint. She watched from the veranda, rubbing her pendulous belly, her first child growing beneath her skin. She watched Clint, his hair falling over his absythne eyes. He and his best friend, Rex, played with the ‘roo and it bounded after them as a dog might. Robert, a sixteen year old chum, straggled after them. He admired Clint’s torrid, isatiable love affair with life.
(To be Continued)…