Three interesting things happened yesterday.
I read a review of bilingual education in Aboriginal Australia from 1990 as part of my thesis work, and got depressed. The author was writing about some of the challenges of bilingual education and suggesting ways forward. It reminded me of what Kaz Cooke said on Judith Lucy’s new show about feminism, something along the lines of: ‘Back in the eighties I thought this was just the beginning, and feminism was only going to gain more traction. I was stupid’.
In the nineties, bilingual education had been going for about 15-20 years and people working in the area had a chance to reflect on how it had gone so far and how it could improve. But in December 1998, the NT government announced it was cancelling the bilingual education programs. Following widespread protest, some schools were allowed to continue under the banner of “two-way” instead of “bilingual”, with reduced funding and more stringent outcome requirements. But just ten years later in 2008 another policy was announced, which was that the first four hours of school must be delivered in English. Very few schools survived that blow. This policy was repealed a few years later in 2012, but by that time the damage was already done.
So when I read papers written over twenty years ago, with the hesitant optimism that comes from hoping for the future, I get a bit depressed. But then I take on some of that hope. Because the future is not written yet, and there is still time to turn this around. Maybe no-one will take notice of my little Honours thesis about Yolŋu Matha literacy, but not writing about it at all definitely isn’t going to help anyone.
I took a break from reading and mowed the front lawn. I sunscreened my neck and ears and hands, and wore pants, a long-sleeved shirt and boots. But I didn’t put sunscreen on my face, because I’d already moisturised with SPF 15 that morning. After pushing the mower around my ridiculously huge front lawn for over an hour, I caught sight of my face in the bathroom mirror and was shocked to see that my face was fire-engine red. I was convinced that I had got horrifically sunburnt.
But fortunately, it was just the exertion that coloured me so ferociously, and I was normal-looking again by the time the Gardening Pilot arrived. “Hi,” he said. “Do you want me to mow a patch of lawn? I finished work early.”
“What?! Did you not notice my hard work??” I replied, because I am a terrible ungrateful girlfriend. He obligingly admired my work and, after a gulp of water, finished off the job. It seemed that since he would have normally been gardening at that time, he might as well garden my yard. So I got the rest of my lawn mown while I sat back like the lady of leisure I never am and typed up the rest of my notes on the potentially depressing article.
Before the Gardening Pilot arrived, I had come in from mowing and there was a parcel sitting at the back door. When I saw my name and address typed in Arial I assumed Dad had posted me something. But no, the sender was Mum’s name, written in Mum’s scrawl. I opened it excitedly, not even waiting to wash my hands. Inside was a hat she had once bought me, and which I had not seen these eight months, accompanied by a typed note:
I was cleaning your room and found this hat. I thought ‘oh Em doesn’t want or like it. I’ll use it.’ So i took it to the beach. [TLO]* came to the beach and said ‘where did you get that, Em has been looking for it.’ So here it is, I’m glad you do like it.
Love [name redacted]
This hat has an interesting history. Last year when I was leaving for Arnhem Land, Mum and my sisters came back from their holiday at the beach for one night to send me off. First, Mum’s big love languages are quality time and acts of service. So she shows me she loves me by spending time with me and helping me to organise my life, primarily. Sometimes I get sad when other people’s mums give them presents or send them letters, but I know I just don’t have that kind of mum.
So when Mum gave me a whole bunch of presents from the beach to take to Arnhem Land, it was really special. Especially since they were things I needed. The present I remember most is this lovely cream and green broad brimmed hat (actually TLO says it’s technically a bucket hat but I hate that term, probably because of my literal mind). I wore it every day I was in Arnhem Land. I loved that hat.
Then, in June, when I got back to Victoria, TLO asked if she could borrow the hat to take on a short missions trip to the Solomon Island. Being the generous sister I am, and because I wasn’t likely to need it in the depths of southern winter, I said yes.
And I never saw it again, until yesterday.
I gave TLO such a hard time about that hat. I kept asking her where it was. She couldn’t find it anywhere. Then she said it was at Mum and Dad’s house, but I never saw it there, and I swear I looked everywhere. Eventually, in January while I was hanging out with TLO in Melbourne, to shut me up, she said the Gazelle** had bought all three sisters hats for Christmas, he just hadn’t given one to me yet. She also said that if I stopped going on about it, she would stop going on about that fact that in 2004, she got a set of panpipes for Christmas and I commandeered them and panpipes became my thing, so I stole her potential thing as well as her present.
The rumour about the three hats circulated back to the Bride and the Gazelle, and the Gazelle felt really awkward, because actually he hadn’t bought us all hats. He’d bought the Bride two hats and TLO one. But the Bride felt bad for me, and also one of the hats was too small for her massive head, so she magnanimously gave me one. It’s wide and red, I love it.
Anyway so I can imagine TLO’s reaction when that green and white hat turned up again. I know the only reason I haven’t heard about it from her is because Mum told her not to say anything, because she wanted to surprise me with the parcel.
But I’m sure as soon as she reads this she is going to start going on about those bloody panpipes again.
*The Little One, my younger sister.
**My brother-in-law (link to blanket post).