Travel Journal: Life Changes

Life Changes

Canberra was different this time. We love this city. It truly is one of the most underrated cities in Australia. We even wrote a post about how wrong we were about Canberra.

We arrived in Canberra ahead of Natalie’s birthday. We decided not to tell her we were there ahead of her birthday as we wanted to give her space to enjoy her birthday celebrations with friends. She had plans and we didn’t want to be those parents who came along and completely obliterated them by our presence. We didn’t want her looking over her shoulder as she partied, wondering ‘are my parents around?’

Turns out, we shouldn’t have worried. She ended up cancelling the big brew ha ha and decided to stay in with her close friends, drinking wine and watching bad movies. I’d say the girl is ahead of her years.

We were surprised that she didn’t go out. She seemed excited to put on her new party dress and go out but when it came down to it, she wasn’t comfortable with the peer pressure of getting drunk after midnight struck, the night before her birthday, which was what her friends were planning for her.

She’s never really been into alcohol. Yes, she may now be tempted to have a glass of wine, but she’s never been one to be curious about being drunk. She’s the mother hen of her group. She’s the responsible one. Mumma duck is proud about that, but sad at the same time because I know too how much being around alcohol in her life has affected her. It affected me the same way.

I love a glass of wine or two, but I as soon as I start to get tispsy, I stop. Cold turkey. I hate the feeling of being out of control. I think Natalie is the same. Ah, she is like me after all. She would hate to admit that, but it’s true. It’s why we butt heads.

18th
The look on Natalie's face when I informed her she was now technically old enough to pose for Playboy.

But I digress…big time. As I said, Canberra for this trip was different. Rich and I had some shopping to do now we were in ‘the big city’ and, some things we needed to pick up in preparation for Natalie’s birthday. We also needed WiFi since we were off the grid for the last few weeks in Loch Sport, although Bright did give us an opportunity to catch up a little.

We stayed in an AirBnb that promised a ‘business person’s needs’: Wifi, a kitchen and laundry.

Despite all these, it was like a hotel room with worse Wifi than we’d experienced before yet came with it’s own laundry. Being on the road, we’ve discovered we need three things about every 10 days: A kitchen, strong WIFI and a laundry. With those conveniences scattered throughout our roadtrip, we’re doing well.

We were on to getting laundry done almost the minute we walked in. We reminded each other that we were only staying for two nights, before moving on our favourite AirBnb in Canberra (Lito’s Place) that we knew had what we needed. (We couldn’t stay there for these two nights because it’s only available over the weekend.)

Instead, we focused on the errands and laundry.

You would think, being in a big city that finding shoes and finding a birthday cake would be easy.

I needed shoes. Warm, winter shoes that would keep my feet warm and dry. I only had flats and some ventilated Adidas sneakers that were great for walking but not for anything else. For the last three weeks, my feet had been freezing. I can stay warm with very little, as long as my feet are warm. Ah, yes, old age at 47.

Until now, despite [the fabulous shoe store] we’ve found in Traralgon in Victoria and the cobbler store in Cooma, I had not found boots that would be practical for our travels, but more importantly, ones that would fit me. I have wide feet and ‘canckles’ as my sister lovingly reminds me (she inherited my mother’s amazing tiny ankles), so finding boots proves challenging for me.

We hoped Canberra would answer the call and thankfully it did. Third store I went into and I walked out happy as with my purchase. Granted, I paid more for a decent pair of Ecco leather high tops, hoping they would last the Australian road trip and beyond. When you rely on 1-2 pairs of shoes for full time travel, one pair tend to be worn more than the average wear, so it was an investment. Or that’s what I kept telling myself. I hate paying a lot of money for shoes. Hell I hate spending money – period.

Our next search was for a birthday cake. Now I had intended, coming in to Canberra early, to make Natalie a birthday cake. A simple one, but homemade at least. That was my intention before we stayed in this city dwelling, outfitted for ‘the business traveller’. Apparently business travellers don’t cook, let alone bake. This apartment we stayed in, while damn convenient to the shops and restaurants, had nothing in the way of cooking apparatus. Not a pan, not a tray, not a frypan. NADA. I guess business travellers eat out ALL the time.

So, there went the homemade cake plan. Motherly guilt set in. Here I was, travelling full time, no longer providing my daughter with a home base and I was now also no longer able to provide her with the basic of basics: a homemade birthday cake. To say I felt like shit about this put’s it lightly.

What to do… well, buy the best damn birthday cake we could find, of course! Sadly, that intention went out the window too, pretty damn fast. Apparently buying a birthday cake is not what people in Canberra do. We searched three suburbs and walked 21000 steps, looking for a birthday cake. By the end, any birthday cake. The ‘best’ was hard to find.

We found a cake, on the day of her birthday thankfully, and the gods were loving us because we were able to drop it straight off to the restaurant we were dining out a few hours later. It would be a surprise for Nat. We also got damn lucky because this cake was chocolate Mecca. We knew that although it wasn’t our choice of cake, Natalie would LOVE it. She’s a massive chocolate head.

Birthday

Now, going back to what I was saying about Canberra being different. Maybe it was us that had changed. This time, we didn’t spend every waking moment waiting for Natalie to be available to us. We went about our own plan, letting her do her own thing and spend the time doing what we needed to do before my sister and friend came into town. Once they arriaved, we would let Nat know we were there and ready to celebrate.

And celebrate we did. There wasn’t any big to-do, no massive 18th birthday party event like many of her friends had. Instead when we asked what she wanted for her 18th she requested a family dinner, initially with a few friends added in. That plan changed when the friend plan was to go out clubbing the night before, so it was back to being family only.

We told her to make a reservation wherever she wanted and being Nat, she skipped making a reservation. (There was no online option to do so apparently Gah. The world of Milennials! She seriously does my head in sometimes.) Her plan was to show up, and if they had a table great, if not, then we’d go somewhere else. So, I did what all mothers would likely do and made the reservation myself at her restaurant of choice. When you have a cake to consider, you need a plan..

Thankfully all went off without a hitch. My sister and friend arrived, we met up with Nat and had a great dinner at a very busy, very popular Thai restaurant in Canberra Civic, which like most high end restaurants, left us still hungry. Thank god for that cake! It was what filled us.

When we made a plan for the following day, we had no plan. We had no destination in mind, just a thought to spend time together. Truth be known, we all stared at each other, waiting for ideas. Nat was clueless, despite living in the city of what to do, where to go, but only because she lives in a Dorm-Classes-Work Bubble. We expected markets to be somewhere but turned out, Canberra was dead for a Saturday.

We consulted The Great Google.

We found an exhibition at the Portrait Gallery that looked interesting. Natalie rolled her eyes. I prodded her for a better idea. She had none, so off we went. The problem was the exhibition cost money and none of us really wanted to spend the amount of money they were asking for. Frugal or not, it just wasn’t worth it. So, we grabbed a table at the gallery cafĂ© and had lunch, sitting outside to catch some rays and spending time catching up that way.

Since Nat had an essay to finish, we dropped her back to her dorm. The four of us headed to an area we knew – Kingston – thinking we could wander by the water and check out the shops nearby. At least find somewhere for a coffee!

Kingston Foreshore is new to Canberra. It’s a suburb they’ve created by the water, near the Parliamentary zone and it’s just delightful. The water is lined with restaurants – little had we known – and it’s a really nice spot to hang out, watching the kayakers come and go, and just be for a while. Rather than coffee, we grabbed an ice cream (we are on the hunt for Australia’s best you know… which this wasn’t but it was still yummy), and found the afternoon of catching up was a nice way to spend a Saturday afternoon

Later that night, after all going our separate ways for downtime – which we all need when family’s get together, let’s be honest – we met up for dinner.

Rich and I had found a place in Civic that we really liked, Tikka Take when we’d arrived on Wednesday night. It was quipped as Indian takeaway, but it turned out, it was more than that. It was quick Indian, sure, to be eaten in the restaurant or you could take away. When we had dined there on Wednesday night we were waited on, hand and foot, by the owner. He didn’t know we were bloggers. He was like that with everyone. He recommended a dish, along with what to drink with it, to go along with what we had already chosen. He even went so far as trying to steer me away from what I was ordering. I dug in and ordered it anyway. I should have listened.

The rest of our meal was amazing. If you’ve never had butter chicken fries, you’re missing out. It sounds weird, but when you put chunks of chicken, mixed with butter chicken sauce over chunky French fries… Oh my word. I could’ve eaten just that.

So we recommended it to the family as the place to have dinner. It turned out better, more relaxed, more laid back, than our dinner the previous night for Nat’s blrthday. I think it’s what we all needed to be honest.

Kingston Foreshore
Kingston Foreshore

Mothers Day was Sunday. I hate Mothers Day. It’s a reminder that my Mum is no longer around. I remember those days being really special, giving her flowers, making her breakfast, making the day about her. Despite the fact that I am a mother, I revert to being the daughter. The one missing her mother. So I tend to downplay Mother’s Day. I just want it to go away. I’ve spent many Mother’s Day in bed, covers over me, just willing the hours by. It’s not to mean I am not happy being a mother, being Nat’s mother. I just find the whole idea of Mother’s Day really hard. And because of my reluctance to participate in this holiday, Nat tends to dismiss it as well, which makes me feel like a cad that I act like a spoiled brat on this day, and sad that I feel dismissed as a mother. Yeah, it’s never a win-win. It’s just a day that needs to go away. Over the years, I’d be lucky if Nat wished me Happy Mother’s Day. It would be surprising if I got a card, downright shocking if there was a present. It was just a non-event in our lives, a day to ignore and move on from.

So, after spending an hour at the markets with the family (we finally found some on Sunday morning!), Nat and I dropped Rich back to Lito’s and headed to the shops. We decided to get pedicures together, but somehow morphed that into manicures as well. Why not. Mine were absolutely shot from traveling and a little TLC was not unwelcomed. So while the pedicure was a necessity, the manicure was pure luxury.

To me, this was a day just to catch up with Natalie alone. I wasn’t thinking Mother’s Day at all. Turns out it was the best Mother’s Day I’ve ever had.

It wasn’t as if it was an over the top day either. It was simply spending time with my baby girl. Time to chat. Time to talk about ridiculous stuff. Time to tell her about our travels and what we’d dxperienced. Time to hear how Uni was going, hear the gossip about her friends.

What shocked the crap out me – and I’m not kidding – is that not only did she wish me a Happy Mother’s Day, but she bought me not one but two presents. The first was some chocolate she thought I’d like. Then when we stopped in a Office Works for her to print off some of her Uni reading, she gave me a second gift. She turned from the printer, apologised for the lack of wrapping and handing me two sheets of paper, announcing this was my other but more important Mother’s Day present. I looked down at the piece of paper and… lost it. I took Nat into my arms and hugged her. I could only choak out ‘thank you’.

She had given me a star. She had bought a star in the sky, just to the right of the Southern Cross, just for me. I knew this was no a cheap gift, nor was it a frivolous one. Natalie had thought long and hard about what I would like, what she could buy for me given I was not materialistic, that would make me happy. I’m sure she wasn’t expecting to be bawling my eyes out in the middle of the printing section fo Office Works, but hey, she picked the location to deliver my present! The embarrassing moment was on her! LOL.

We left and returned to Rich. There was discussion of my gift. He apparently had helped Nat with it, but only offering some guidance. She’s already decided on the gift. I was still gobsmacked by the gesture and immediately started looking it up, to find where it was located in the sky.

When did my daughter become less self-involved? When had she grown up and thought of me? I think that was the part that I was reeling from most. That she’d thought through this, made a plan for the day, prodding me for ‘Mum time’. I think we both needed that time.

When we left Monday, stopping by her dorm on the way out for last hugs and kisses, and after being teased over the weekend about how she has a habit of saying goodbye before simply turning and leaving,without a backward turn and wave, she stood and delivered a ‘proper goodbye’. She gave us big hugs and even stayed to wave even as we drove away. Finally!!

I’m thinking she’s dealing with her own empty nest syndrome.

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