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This Is Northern New South Wales

There and back to see how far


I’ve been planning for months to run away from home.

To hit the open road and just drive. No destination, No plan.

To be honest, I have been planning this for years.

I read about gypsies as a kid and variations of meandering great adventures have been a constant dream; the open road, no responsibilities, sketching craggy mountains and bedraggled creeks, wandering into wild spaces, being consumed by freedom.

My dream changed with age, a horse drawn caravan, as a swag man sans beard, on an old Indian with a side-car and a blue healer for a companion, in a old Bedford with my guitar on an endless musical pilgrimage.

As an ‘artisty type’ I know how far different reality from dreams can be; I’m in a cheap battered blue magna, with an old mattress in the back, and my guitar. We’re both snuggled under an lumpy feather doona and my guitar and I are quite happy together.

My year thus far has been a tad tricky.

Early in the year my home was ripped asunder by a mean, greedy landlord. We got notice the day after my sons 17th, after we had just renovated a “lad pad” for him and got a mad crazy puppy.

Byron shire is infamous for its lack of available housing and hard as I tried, I couldn’t find us all a new home.

So we packed up.

The puppy went back to the rescue service, and my son moved permanently into his Dad’s.

It’s been 3 months since I last saw the ratbag-of-my-loins.

He’s busy being a teenager. I still send him a message every week to tell him how much I love him, and to also remind him that I’m the only mum he has and that no matter how hard he hides, he’ll never actually escape that.

I guess he’s still coming to terms with that.

So yeah, it’s been tough.

A week before I’m due to leave, I meet a sweet man.

Of course that would happen to me. I meet no one for an eon, and right before my great and grand adventure, I happen upon a beautiful lover.

Our days were spent in a glorious haze before I bravely dragged myself up from his warm, strong arms, wrapped a sheet around myself, threw a heap of stuff in the car and then drove off into the sunset with a promise, and glistening eyes.

I only managed to make it to the next state before I fell sick and the top of my radiator cracked.

So I drove to my nearest, dearest people.

They happen to be the same ones that cared for me after my mum died.

Them’s good people.

A week later I was better, my car had a full service, and the radiator had been welded. Oh, and that sweet man I mentioned earlier came up to meet my folks.

Once again I was forced to drag myself away, and with a resolute

“Alright me lover!” I embarked on my odyssey once again.

I made it to the closest small-town-pub.

It was 2pm and I was fleeced for a schooner of dark ale with soda water.

Too early for a full strength, but I needed something to sigh dreamily into, and avoid the big unknown I was about to enter.

The thin-lipped barmaid charged me full price with a sneer. It was all the impetus I needed to move on again.

My vision was to go to the desert; to kick and scream about the injustices of motherhood, evil landlords, the housing shortage, and how hard it is find meaningful work in this vulgar, success obsessed culture.

I wanted to howl into heartbreaking sunsets and be reborn, out of the dirt, dust, and tears. But I made a wrong turn somewhere and now I am back in the town where I first broke.

Maybe I didn’t make a wrong turn. I don’t know.

I guess it’s all part of the adventure, but this is not looking like the spaghetti western I envisioned in my romance-muddled brain.

Ennio Morricone is not snaking through the hills with me.

Enya and Vivaldi are.

Fucking Enya!

I arrive and instinctively head to my Mum’s grave; it’s not really a proper grave, but a birdbath on dirt.

She’s in a coffin underneath that dirt, but the headstone and other grave stuff aren’t.

It’s been that way for over 10 years; no memorial, no name, unmarked. It’s a long story and involves family politics so in the pursuit of peace, I’ll leave the reason be.

However, with proper brevity, I ponder her nameless state, and my own story with my son.

He’s now at the age where he needs to break from the mother tree.

Watching my son become a man and the ending of mothering duties with a dependent child should be a cause of celebration and I would like to have a big ‘fuck-off’ party. Literally and otherwise.

But the truth is I’m finding this tearing away a hideously painful and confusing time. We don’t have a cultural ritual for this time that can give meaning and honouring to this change, something like a combined funeral and going away party.

We have instead a strange silence about our children leaving the nest and we are not encouraged to talk of this grief. So many people I have spoken with keep saying things like, ‘Oh, you’ll always be a mother’

This negates and dismisses the acute sorrow I feel that the child I bought into this world, is leaving.

The only person, who actually got this, was in fact, my son.

He too felt a great break between us and we spoke about it with tears and fragility.

Not being able to grieve this ending seems to leave our homes with an almost infantile smothering of separation creating perpetual children, and overbearing neurotic parents.

How beautiful would it be to have a cultural ritual to honour the journey young people are embarking upon and the end of the journey of dependent parenting.

…So I’ve decided to do this:

When I come back home I’m going have a parting-party with my son, (when he decides to talk to me again) and all my friends in my new home.

We will kick, scream and howl at heartbreaking sunsets, heart softening dawns, and all be reborn out of the; dirt, dust, tears, and laughter.

Yeah, I’m gonna run away back home to do this.

But for now I need to honour my own mother and the other great journey into the unknown.

I left her grave and headed straight to the town engraver, and created a plaque for my mum’s birdbath headstone with her favourite saying whenever any of us asked where she was going:



Jennifer Harker

14-07-1943 to 16-12-2004

“There and back to see how far”

Story & Photos by
Ilona Harker

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