My narrative skills were honed telling stories as a teenager. Not just the angsty,thinly-veiled fiction about the boys we had crushes on that I entertained my girlfriends with, but via the letters I wrote (to those same friends) when I moved from Victoria to Queensland in 1988.
I corresponded with five girlfriends during my time in Queensland. There was never a time when I didn’t have a half-written letter in the back of a folder.
When Adam and I began writing Piper’s Reach in 2012 I went through the striped Tuperware bag that held all the teeanger/early 20’s letters and repatriated them. I managed to send back all but two bundles of letters. One of those bundles belonged to my friend Kim.
L-R: Me, Kim, Melissa and Helen
For years I’d wondered what happened to Kim. My Year 8 drama partner in dance (we did interpretive dance to Pump up the Volume), my next door locker mate in Mr Smith’s homeroom in Grade 8 and 9 and my general go-to person for deeper insights into life. (And I remember Kim’s brother wanted to grow up to be a taxidermist!) I still have photos of Kim’s debutante ball. I remember being at her place in 1989 watching ‘Beetlejuice’.
Even though Kim didn’t move on to St Martins with us in our senior years, we remained friends and wrote letters into our early 20’s when I again moved interstate. The last letter I remember receiving from Kim was after her trip to the Czech Republic. I was sitting at the dining room table at my parent’s place in Gordonvale reading it in the height of the monsoonal heat and humidity, as Kim described the freezing European winter, the astounding architecture and how it was juxtaposed against the grey, morose locals (grey in their clothing, downtrodden in their Communism pall). It’s weird, that some twenty years later, with all the things I have read and seen, that image remains in my head.
In August last year, during my delirium of glandular fever, I received a message via Facebook from Kim, who was writing from Japan. I was ecstatic as she had been the one friend I had been unable to track down of my five original girlfriends from the Sacred Heart years. Two weeks later I had to go back, when the fever calmed, to check that I hadn’t hallucatinated the messages into being.
“I chose this post card as much for its clear instructions as for its wonderfully over-exposed picture of Christchurch.”
I remember now why she was always a favourite friend and why for two decades I missed her so much. Her sense of humour, generosity of spirit and encouragement, the commonality (resonated across 20 years!), her calm craziness and unparalleled view on the world. Since we’ve reconnected I’ve been promising to write, promising to find her bundle of letters and send them on. And failed on all counts.
Over Christmas I was thinking about what kooky project I could raise for purely entertainment purposes in 2014. I wanted to do something related to the post (I miss Piper’s Reach for many reasons, but receiving letters every few weeks is one of them!) I wanted to do something simple – post cards, rather than letters. And somewhere along the way Kim and I agreed to write one postcard a week for the Year of the Horse. Turns out I am not the only one with a penchant for slightly mad ideas and the ability to rope people into them!
While we’re still a few days out of the new year, the first post card from Kim arrived today. And I am so excited. Tuesday is an auspicious day to receive mail. In Year 12 it was the day Ty’s letters would arrive and I’d run down the footpath after ballroom dancing lessons to grab up his letters from the post box and devour them on my bed before being called for dinner.
Today there was tea on the verandah! But the nostalgia lingers in the best ways. Especially when so well articulated in handwriting so well known.