Much to my parent’s concern, I made the decision to defer from my Science Degree for a year. I wanted a taste of the “real world” and I was not prepared to listen to reason. I had worked a few part time jobs as a teenager; my favourite being the primary baby sitter for most of my parents’ friends.
I was allowed by most of my families to take my Pup with me, which, especially for the younger children, made it easier to farewell their parents with such a delightful distraction at hand. However, if there were tears, and cuddles from me were no substitute for Mum or Dads’, I always found that a good story would work wonders. Sometimes I would pick a favourite book from the bookcase but I know that the most enjoyed were the crazy adventures I made up and put in the children as the main characters. The only problem with that was that if there were 3 children, I would often have to make up 3 stories.
I can’t remember this story properly, but the one that was begged to be told over and over, was about a little boy of 6 who was turned into a pinball machine by a wicked wizard. His 2 sisters didn’t realise that this amazing new toy in their lounge room was actually their brother and every time they dinged, flipped, tilted and shot that ball bearing, their brother was either being tickled, bumped, flicked or shoved; all the while with dizzying lights and sirens flashing and ringing in his head and bouncing around inside his body. I would also relish the opportunity to include some basic anatomy and physiology at the same time as kids always have a fascination for the way their bodies work…especially at the waste end. Peter loved the fact that he was the main character…and a pinball machine; and Alice and Charlotte giggled uncontrollably with delight as they heard about themselves bombarding their big brother’s body with their play.
Once they were all tucked in, I felt like a fraud to just sit and watch a movie. Generally, I would wash up and clean the kitchen, then find a basket of clothes for ironing or folding to do while I watched the movie of the night on television. On return, one of the parent’s would drive me home and wait outside for a wave or until the front veranda light blinked out.
But the time had come to get a day job. I answered an advertisement for a position with Mocha’s Pies in Camberwell and was excited to be invited onto their payroll. I had to learn to sell pies of course, but also to help in the production line out the back. I’ve always been a friendly and bubbly person, so I enjoyed brightening the customers’ day with a gold class, pie, a smile and a chat. It wasn’t a bad job in winter, but it was unbearably hot in that pokey little shop, with the ovens chugging away out the back, once summer was underway. One lunch hour I went for a walk down the street and saw a job advertised in a well known dress shop. I ventured in to introduce myself.
The next week, I was starting my glamorous new job. I was thrilled to be in a situation that called for me to wear nice clothes every day instead of my flour and pie encrusted apron. The only problem with this was the temptation to spend all of my wages on clothes as I didn’t have much that was suitable in my wardrobe, being the tomboy that I was.
In this time I had another, but milder, bout of Ulcerative Colitis…it was probably just me adjusting to the dose of drugs I needed to take. After a week or so off, I was moved to the city store. I’d only ever been to the city a few times on my own so I felt important to be working in one of the shops I had visited with girlfriends only to walk out of empty handed for lack of funds.
The Bourke St Mall shop was much more interesting than Camberwell. We had some very funny visitors including a man with a top hat and tails but no pants and another gentleman desiring to try on some of our extremely feminine garments. I wasn’t at all experienced in these things, but I chased our flasher out 3 times before I had to call the police; and politely advised my transvestite shopper as to the styles and colours that suited him best. The only thing couldn’t bring myself to do was to advise him to shave off his moustache and beard.
With a bit of money in my pocket, and a desire for independence, I decided it was my time to move out of home.