Rita Heads West
By Rita 1990
Perth Airport greeted my arrival with high winds and drenching rain. My son was warm and welcoming. He strode unmindful of the rain towards a very battered looking Combi parked at the far side of the carpark, and effortlessly stowed my cases in the body of the vehicle, which already contained numerous other relics. “I borrowed the van”, he said, answering my questioning look at the teddy bear and stroller within. His smile was reminiscent of a million other occasions as he added, “I’ve spent all my money on petrol. You’ll have to pay the parking fee, else we’re here for the night.”
We lurched off into the adventure. Steve’s tense body soon revealed his uncertainty of the road home, and the combi responded to the situation by stalling every time we slowed down. At every intersection and every traffic lights the engine died. I’d never been to Western Australia before, and Steve might just as well have said the same, but the Combi obviously felt at home – confidently shining its high beam upwards towards the sky, blinding on coming traffic, but too highly focused for us to see the road. The dipped position didn’t work at all.
The fuel gauge registered empty so we fed the brute, consulted the map and continued our stop/start journey in what we hoped was the right direction. By now darkness had descended in ernest and the rain seeped into nooks and crannies of the old combi. The roads around us and those on the map entangled themselves into a confusing labyrinth. Our instincts wavered and we swung the combi around and doubtfully took a different route.
Hunger and thirst began to become a priority. Stephen revealed he’s been travelling all day without any sustenance. We stopped with gladness at an all-night diner, ablaze with lights and welcoming warmth. The young girl, whose lopsided name badge identified her as “Brandy”, served us with hot tea, followed by delicious fish and chips, and allowed us peeps into her lifestyle -she was outgoing and friendly, and took away most of our tensions along with the used cups and plates. Brandy confirmed our present location and it was a major relief to know we were indeed on our way “home”.
Gradually the traffic gave way to empty roads, with no stop signs or traffic lights so the engine cut-out less frequently and fewer oncoming vehicles were disconcerted by our blinding headlights.
With our heads close together in order to combat the din of the engine, Steve and I began to resurrect our mother/son relationship, and build on our knowledge of each others activities. Our conversation flowed as the miles passed. We’d been travelling for nearly five hours.
However, we’d just about reached the outskirts of the township Steve calls home when we ran out of fuel. Barely had the wheels stopped turning when a car stopped alongside and its driver enquired whether we needed help. It seemed to take only seconds to transfer my rather wet suitcases into her car and off we went.
Home at last. Steve couldn’t find his house key (probably left in the abandoned car he thought), so he broke in through a window while I huddled gratefully under the awning. Once inside the house wrapped us in warmth and we drew breath, hugged each other and filled the kettle for a much deserved cup of tea … the flame of gas gave a single burst and died. No gas meant no tea and no warm shower … time instead for bed. My phyamas and other bits and pieces were too wet to wear (the combi had leaked, allowing the rain access to everything), so peeling down to my undies I slid between the blankets – sheets weren’t an item my son possessed. Sleep came nearly as soon as I laid down, with only enough waking time to ponder my son’s reaction to the day:
“What a good day it’s been, Mum”, he said, “Yesterday I had no vehicle and had no idea how I would be able to collect you from the airport, and only this morning was offered the van to use. I only had $27.50 to my name and that was just enough to get me to the airport. I had no idea how to get there or how long it would take, but I made it just in time to meet the plane. I was hanging for a cigarette at the airport but the regulations forbid it, but as luck would have it your plane was 7 minutes delayed so I was able to go outside and enjoy a cigarette. We chose to eat in that particular restaurant where Brandy cheered us with her friendship, and we didn’t run out of petrol again until we were within instant reach of help. The house is warm and cosy and we’ve had a long chat already. It’s been a long day full of blessings. Good night, sleep tight!”
Before I woke again the sun was shining ready to dry my clothes. The empty gas cylinder had been changed for a full one. The shower was fantastic, the cup of tea tasted like nectar. When a girlfriend appeared later carrying snow-white, country-smelling sheets my happiness reached hitherto unknown limits. How long have I taken all these comforts for granted?
It truly was a very good day and I hope it’s many blessings will serve to remind me daily of that fact.
Perth and S: I love you both