Last weekend my friend Cheryl (not her real name) and I went down south for a weekend of fun, frivolity and Sondheim. We certainly had fun! Frivolity was a little short on the cards and so was Sondheim. Sondheim postponed his trip to Melbourne to a more suitable time than the one we had booked but I’m not going back again – can’t afford it. Grrrrrr.
So Friday afternoon after an uneventful flight where I’m frantically trying to finish editing a PhD thesis (NOT my own, sadly), we get to mum and dad’s place. Straight away we have dinner to organise because it appears ALL the family are wanting to get together for a family dinner! Son number 2 comes over after uni for a tete-a-tete about how he might move out of his father’s flat, where he is mightily unhappy, and into my mum and dad’s place to board for 2013. We chat about it: mum and dad aren’t too worried about it and I think are actually looking forward to having him there. They do the strict parent thing, not really remembering that he has been an adult for a couple of years squeezed into a tiny room and forced to be neat and tidy. Son number 2 is generally a creature of neat and tidy habit, so their fears are allayed there. He also listens to music quietly, so that is another bonus. And he can look after the animals when Mum and Dad are away, which is stupidly frequently.
The next task is to tell the Son number 1, who will be forced to financially support his unemployed, layabout, sick father and his girlfriend. I say layabout and sick in the same breath because his dad is bi-polar but won’t get a proper diagnosis or do anything about it, and wonders why he spends six months in bed feeling miserable, and then can’t get a decent job because he has no skills because he can’t finish anything. Sad and annoying, mainly for his Son number 1.
So, it’s a family dinner. I’m thinking that we’ll do a family thing and then that will be it for the weekend, but no. All the sisters bar one turn up, children and animals in tow. It’s a mad house. 5 boys and five dogs under 4 ft. There’s screaming and yelling and dogs barking, my mum yelling at the dogs to be quiet (oh, the irony), champagne flowing and a wonderful evening to be had. Loudly. Luckily it’s all over by about 9.30 when my Son number 2 turns up after work and we’re able to have some quiet time together. Cheryl the friend luckily thinks my family is screamingly funny.
On Saturday we meet her friend in town for a get together, and house auction, and lunch in Albert Park. A lovely afternoon, and my boy turns up to have lunch with us. A tiny bout of shopping fervor, and then it’s Sondheim night. A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum. His first solo effort. And a funny thing DID happen on the way to the forum. We’re on the tram, about to travel into town when a young woman has an epileptic fit. Quite a big one. She’s fine, by the way, but it’s 7.42pm and after a long wait for the ambulance there’s no way of getting into town by the 8pm start time. Sheesh. It looks like we’re going to miss not only Sondheim on the Monday, but Forum on the Saturday as well. We dash out of the tram and as luck would have it a taxi is passing by with its light on: available. We fling ourselves into the taxi and zoom into town, making the start of the show with mere seconds to spare, time to buy a program and sit down, gasping with effort and terror and hilarity. And then there was the show. Funny and stupid. Hilarious. Geoffrey Rush and Magda Szubanski and Shane Bourne and Gerry Connolly and Hugh Sheridan and Mitchell Butel. Nuff said.
Afterwards we grab a drink at Double Happiness, hidden among the laneways of Melbourne, and then home we go. Mum and Dad are away for the night (I thought it was supposed to be for 2 nights, but no, it’s barely 24 hours – funny how she exaggerates).
Sunday is supposed to be a quiet day: a wander through my sister’s new house in Camberwell, a quick wander through an antique market then a drop in at my step-daughter-in-law’s 21st birthday, taking in the sights of Fitzroy as we do. No chance to do that. We turn up at 2.30 and can’t really leave until 5 for the sake of propriety. Father of the daughter gives a highly emotional and challenging speech about his daughter, who has had some serious mental health problems, and we’re all a bit aghast and taken aback, but also embracing this man’s admittance that he was not always there for his daughter in her hours of need (well, he was, actually, but I think he feels he failed). Poor Cheryl. The whole Sunday (well, ok, we rose late), taken up with my family’s issues.
Then it’s home for the next saga. Cheryl is having dinner with a friend and I have to take my son and his girlfriend out for dinner – I have to tell them Son number 2 is moving out and they will have to find an extra $7200 per year to live off. There are tears. I’m aghast. The catastrophising is amazing. There is blame and anger and tantrums and all at the dinner table at a little suburban restaurant. Urgh. So that’s the hard bit taken care of. The Son number 1 will meet me the following day and I will take him shopping (every time I come south I have to spend about $1000 just on my boys. It’s crazy). I go home and mum and dad are up, as is Cheryl, having a nice cup of tea. Well, after Jack Irish is finished the whole sorry saga comes out and there’s more agonising and discussion and I think my poor friend Cheryl will NEVER get to see Melbourne, or, more importantly, do any shopping.
So Monday finally rolls around and by 11am we’re off. And it’s a race from the start. We go to town, Cheryl and I, and we begin by buying EXACTLY the same shoes a size apart. Well, they are such a lovely 2-tone shoe! Then she buys a gorgeous off-the-shoulder shift-dress and I go to meet an old friend for lunch while she continues shopping. I meet Cheryl and my Son number 1 back in town 90 minutes later and we go to the QV centre where I buy some light clothes for summer, then we head off to Melbourne Central and Cheryl finds another perfect dress for the races – she looks exquisite with her new shoes, bag in the same tones, and a divine halter neck brown-spotted cream silk shift dress. I buy Son number 1 some jeans and then we head home for another small family dinner with my boys and the girlfriend. And it’s all ok.
But my poor friend Cheryl. I had been hoping that we would get to some sights in Melbourne, maybe even visit a museum, but no! Not a chance. My family hijacked the weekend. But it was ok: it was hilarious. And Cheryl is a trooper.