Southern Cross Creations

An Australian Woman's Journal
about life in remote, rural
Far North Queensland


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Southern Cross Creations

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Journal Archive: January 2004

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31 January 2004

Women with a Shared History: Melissa, Kathy, Rhoney, Sheilah

Melissa, Kathy, Rhoney and Sheilah

A recent photo celebrates a gathering of women whose shared history reaches back to the 1960s for two of us, and the 1980s includes the other two. I met each woman in California where we listened to San Francisco and New Orleans rock n' roll, danced, worked for the Grateful Dead, drove old pickup trucks and ancient Mercedes, painted, beaded, tie-dyed, and formed lasting connections. We are American women from states scattered across the USA: Delaware, New York, Ohio and California. Three of us are now Australian citizens.

I am musing over the question of how much of one's identity depends on having a shared history and language, and yes, music. Defining myself as a migrant highlights this issue for me.

Many times as a child, I experienced the reality of being the unknown, new kid in school as my family kept moving to small towns in California and Oregon. My public identity kept a low profile, an uninvestigated mystery hidden by shyness. My personal identity kept itself embedded within my large family.

My contacts with classmates disappeared each afternoon when the last school bell rang and the bus swept me home. Only once did I establish a friendship with a classmate both in and out of school hours. She lived on a small ranch about a mile away from the dairy farm that my parents leased in Oregon. She and I overcame the lack of telephones and the long, unpaved road that ran between us alongside the Winchuck River.

I learned that with each family move, childhood friendships faded while family ties endured...with their shared histories and language. I developed a resiliency for surviving in unfamiliar territory and an ability to work on my own. Beginning again became part of life.

As an adult, I migrated to Australia with my husband. Then the magnitude of that change began to unfold: almost halfway around the world from family and friends! To the ends of the earth! living in tents with kero lamps! where telephone lines didn't reach, where language wasn't quite the same, where a stamped letter to the USA took more than 4 weeks to make a round trip.... in the days before the internet reached Far North Queensland.... but long after muttabuttasaurus dinosaurs roamed the land.

Time and the internet transformed my perception of isolation into an appreciation of both solitude and the bonds of family and friendship.

To be continued... perhaps....

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