John Marsden Writing Topic #193
‘When love comes along, there is no right or wrong, your love is your love.’ (West Side Story)**
Family of the League (Volume II)
Everyone has different definitions of ‘family’–for some people it’s the nuclear definition of a mother, a father, a son and a daughter. For some it may go beyond the nuclear/heterosexual tradition of a mother and father with gay/lesbian/transgender/transsexual couples/parents. For others it may involve adoption or non-blood relatives. Some believe you don’t/can’t choose your family while others believe the opposite, I believe it’s a combination of the two, but with the way my life has turned out, I mostly believe the latter.
Saturday September 29 2035 was the biggest day of my family’s life—the Western Bulldogs had made the Grand Final, my boys had made the Grand Final. Henry and David have been waiting for this opportunity all their lives, their father was never given this opportunity, Nicole also made it to the Grand Final, it was the first Grand Final she was commentating. Michaela was on the field too, umpiring her fifth Grand Final. All four of my babies were part of the Grand Final and I couldn’t be more proud.
What I love about our family is that it is a little unusual. It isn’t just me, Brad, Nicole, Henry, David and Michaela, we aren’t nuclear. It’s my father, Derryn, who had to face fatherhood almost alone as a 16 year old. It’s my stepmother, Sharon, who was the only mother I’ve ever known and had to juggle becoming an instant parent, media scrutiny, and living in the shadow of a young girl who died giving birth to me–and all at the tender age of 16, while my father was 19 and I was 3.
It’s my Aunt Celia, who had to deal with the loss of her baby sister, a scared teenage boy and a helpless baby, at the same time her new career as a ball gown designer was taking off.
It’s Charles and Ella, my almost-in-laws and grandparents to my first child, who had to deal with the loss of a daughter, and the loss of their son and news of a grandchild at the same time. They ended up becoming honorary grandparents to my other children and turning their tragedies around. It’s my in-laws, Don and Jane, who accepted me and Nicole without judgement.
Surprisingly, it also includes Brad’s first wife, Kendall Marks Stein and her husband, Steven Stein. Brad and Kendall were high school sweethearts, marrying at 19 and divorcing at 22, as Kendall was unable to conceive. They were both heartbroken, but knew the marriage wouldn’t work, it took a couple of years but they remained friends, he even went to her and Steven’s wedding three years after their divorce. Kendall is the founder of KMS Technologies, Australia’s largest IT company, Steven is the CFO and is also Brad’s friend. It was weird for me at first, but Kendall ended up becoming one of my best friends.
Anyway back to the Grand Final…
Our big family all came to the MCG for the big day. We could barely contain our excitement and angst. It was the Bulldogs vs Sydney, their second time playing against each other at the Grand Final, the last time being almost 20 years ago with the Bulldogs winning by 22 points. Despite being two decades apart, this Grand Final was almost identical throughout. I can’t imagine how Nicole must have felt or contained herself–supporting her brother and trying to do her job at the same time.
The Bulldogs won the coin toss and chose to kick towards the city. We were hoping not to lose any kind of hope too early, however the start of the first quarter made us anxious. The Swans were quick to score with two goals and a behind in the first ten minutes until Zaine Parker and Colby Smith scored two goals, followed by two behinds and we ended up four points ahead when the siren rang.
Just as I felt a sigh of relief, the anxiety crept up and stayed there during the second and third quarters. When we would get a goal so would the Swans, Henry managed two goals, while David managed two behinds in the second quarter, which helped but didn’t stop the Swans from leading at half-time. The third quarter had us all on the edge of our seats as both us and the Swans kept missing shots but luckily some of the boys, including Henry managed to convert kicks to goals to finally lead again at the third quarter siren.
It all came down to the nail-biting fourth quarter, Joseph Waterson, the Swans Captain, closed the gap to a single point, with his Co-Captain, Samuel Carter, kicking a goal to gain the lead ten minutes out. All of us thought it was over…until Henry and David, my babies, scored two goals with John Boyd securing another goal to get a thirteen point lead with five minutes to go. I wanted to watch my babies in play but my eyes wanted to stick to the clock. Brad told me to stop looking at the clock and enjoy the last few moments. The siren rang with the crowd and our beloved family screaming in joy. We all jumped off our chairs and started to make our way to the ground, when we saw Nicole and Michaela on the big screen running towards and jumping on Henry and David and walking on the field together. We couldn’t be more proud and that image would be spread across various media outlets for days.
Henry won the Norm Smith Medal and due to their numbers, David was given his premiership medal right after Henry.
Brad and I had been waiting for this day since our babies first joined Auskick and considered the possibility that it wouldn’t happen. I’m so happy that all of us could celebrate it as an unusual but loving family.
**Reference: Marsden J 1998, Everything I Know About Writing, Pan Macmillan, Australia.