Missing Jasper

from John Muir book
from John Muir book

Jasper is away.

A long way away.

He is across a very big continent. He is in a different time zone. He is not with either of his parents. It feels weird. He rings and his voice is so young. He is inquiring when he speaks to us. He wants to know whether we have seen movies and gone to out to dinner. We have instructions not to see Jack Reacher without him, but it is okay to see foreign films. He wants us to have a good time without him. Like he is worrying about us. The same way we are worrying about him. Mutual vexation. We try to be as descriptive as we can about the very ordinary things we are doing while he is away. There is a niggle knowing child-free time is precious and we should be doing more. We should be going out later than late. What drugs could we still take and fully recover from? But that need is gone, it seems. We should be doing more than seeing the early evening session of The Life Of Pi followed by Indian food. Home in time to catch the end of the tennis.

We have bought a new Kombi (new to us, but still forty years old) and after taking down the inside cupboards a line of rust in the roof is revealed. For a long time water has pooled here and eaten away at the metal. It is a rusty, gaping hole where there should be solid, comforting metal. Instead there is unsupportive air. She was supposed to be rust-free. We are disappointed because we liked the guy. After all he is going to live in Bali and teach Yoga and surfing. We trusted him when he said he had cut all the rust out. Why did we trust him? We chastise ourselves for being gullible. There was no way of seeing the rust. But.

It will cost a lot to fix. More than we imagined. And first we need to find someone capable and willing to do the job without ripping us off.

When Jasper saw the Kombi he fell in love with it immediately. Because it has a pop top. It is a place for him to sleep. It is up high, above his parents and a long way from creepy-crawlies when you are camping. It is the ultimate cubby. We were infected by his enthusiasm. Suddenly I am dreaming of travelling around Australia and home-schooling. I am thinking of abandoning the house, researching the dog-friendly camping sites and high-tailing it.

There is something about a Kombi that turns children into urchins. Suddenly they love the dirt and sticks and simple things. They no longer need ipads or game boys. The possibility of adventure, the thought of no showers, the snuggling under a fleece-lined sleeping bag on top of a still warm engine. What’s not to like…

Jasper as a three year old urchin in our first Kombi

It would solve our high school issues. No need to decide on a school even. School of Kombi.

But it doesn’t stop me pouring over all the web sites for all the schools. I am researching scholarships and GATE testing. I am finding out the difference between academic extension programs and Independent Public schools. I am wondering whether Catholic education is suitable for heathens. I am looking up school boundaries and contemplating renting in Shenton Park just to get into Shenton College. I am trying to recall the name of relatives that have attended elite boys schools. Would their name help? I have a brick on my chest.

I go to the pool and swim. It is something I haven’t done in a long time. It got lost when my parents got ill. It was the first thing to fall by the way side. Even though it is only half an hour, it was a half hour I couldn’t seem to get back. It hid itself from me. Then it had began to take sneaky peeks at me from behind a sofa.Today I found it. Cornered it and held fast. Graham suggested coffee in town, but I stuck with the swim. I had trouble locating my bathers. Would the lycra have bubbled away? Would they still fit? Just. I couldn’t remember how much money I needed to locate in coins for the entrance fee. I know there will be new girls at the counter. Maybe they will want to see my concession. I feel more blind without my glasses than I use to. I will never recognise anyone who chooses to say Hi.

I feel my body, heavy and sluggish, over the first one hundred metres. The rhythm needs to be found. Muscle memory recovers itself. I don’t push it. I just roll the arms over. I am trying to rock my upper body more in an attempt to not hurt my shoulder. It is the kind of thing the over-forty swimmers need to do. I breathe deep and slow. With each lap serenity returns. Ah yes. The water. Giving back. Like the life source it is. A swimmer passes me and leaves a trail of silver bubbles sparkling like sequins flowing from a ball-gown. They are saying follow me into a space. Come with me hither. The ladies are doing their deep-water aquarobics beside my lane. Their bodies are round, festive baubles, reminding me of Christmas and maraschino cherries. They have yellow floats around their waists, making them buoyant. I think of The Life of Pi and the turbulent ocean. Of his swimming to the life raft. Of the tiger. So fierce, so beautiful. The cherries’ legs are working hard, like they are peddling an invisible bike. Above the water their heads model hats and sunglasses and their air is fogged by the cloying scent of their makeup and perfume. Even at eight in the morning. But it is good exercise and who knows when you may need to swim that little bit harder to reach the shore or the life raft. I just mosey along. Given the need to reach the raft I may just go down with the boat. My laps = No rush. Not going anywhere. Up and down and back again. Losing myself in the monotonous stroke and the motion. Not counting the laps, because it is too taxing and means I can’t day dream. Mesmerised by the blueness of the sky.


6 Replies to “Missing Jasper”

  1. I too have a brick Nicole. It’s been sitting there for 2 days now. Although our circumstances are less immediate I am hassled by an 8 year old with a strong and differing opinion on where we should live, where to school etc. I have spent hours on the My school website over the last 24 and I need to keep ignoring that the best results are coming from schools we can’t at this stage justify for 3 children….
    Let me know when you have an answer and I’ll let you know if we win lotto.


  2. Hi Nicole, I am soooo enjoying your posts, which I have only just discovered. Your writing is so descriptive – I really felt as if I was in the pool alongside you as I read this.


  3. Having gone through a thoroughly religious school myself I can safely say that if you enter the system a heathen you exit the system a bigger heathen…

    If you require a reference from a God fearing Catholic try Alan. Although his commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ is only a recent phenomenon I’m sure he can spin enough ‘convincing’ BS to a school’s selection panel that anyone, despite their pagan beliefs, would be admitted into the fold.

    Good luck, and God Bless.


  4. That is the first time I have read the words ‘high-tail’.

    I remember going on trips with WA sports teams when I was a kid. We “over east” at the end of each summer. I don’t remember worrying too much about my Mum. It was nice to talk to her on the phone but there was so much to do on those adventures.

    Swimming. yes. I hate being trapped inland. The water at the local pool is respite from terrestrial toil. There is that untouchability, the place where technology can’t intrude. I love the light Nd that breathing is not silent. It’s a great dreaming place. I wrote in my swimming mind :

    ‘Adrift in an ocean of light and colour; Colour and light flows around me; Breathed it starts to flow in and out of me; We are one”

    Stop looking at schools. That is rubbish time. Think on it. When we look back, there are only good and bad teachers. Look for teachers. Speak to people with high school kids and find the correct teachers, that’s where you will find the school.

    I went to a Uniting Church school and found the chapel and hymns interesting but not indoctrinating. I find it helpful now that I was exposed to some of the religious practises of our predominantly Christian culture. I see it as learning a language and being able to respectfully maintain a silence while others go through deeply held customs.


  5. Great read Nic. I now have 4 kids at 3 high schools. I say look at the head person – their attitudes lead the school but no perfect school and no school has only good teachers. A school that embraces reaching your potential in whatever field that may be and allows children to be what they want to be and to try their best at everything. That’s not asking too much. After having sleepless nights about school decisions made have come to the conclusion that a bad decision can be altered but no decision leaves us and the child in limbo.
    Cheers and keep writing and studying! Jane


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