Let me just start by confessing that this post has nothing to do with outback policing and more to do with timely secrets.
My mother had a strong sense of social justice, which would sometimes see her give away valuable possessions just because someone needed them more than she did. When it came to her children and what she considered was best for them, there was a fierce, almost “throw caution to the wind” attitude that didn’t sit quite so comfortably with her Christian values…… and sometimes drew futile resistance from unwitting school principals.
When I was very young, Mum made a decision to change my birth date from June to March, thus enabling me to enrol in school a year earlier than was otherwise possible. In those days, documentation wasn’t nearly as important as today and no birth certificate was required for school entry.
To this day I’m not absolutely sure of her reasoning but apparently she thought that I was “ready” and that another year at home would be time wasted….. or perhaps I was a demanding, exhausting child and the idea of another year at home was more than she was prepared to contemplate. Whatever the reason, this would not have been an easy decision. After all, growing up, we’d been taught the importance of honesty.
Of course at the time I was not actually privy to this tangled web that would eventually unravel but on the first day of school I enrolled as Kaye Lenore Bannister; address Dunsmore Street, Bexley; birthday 19th of March.
I have no recollection of the following events, which were apparently quite distressing to my mother but, as Nigel might advise, crime doesn’t pay.
I arrived home from school one afternoon in a state of confusion and told Mum that my teacher, while calling the roll that morning, had informed the class that it was my birthday, which was all rather disconcerting. After all, shouldn’t I be aware that it was my birthday? Wouldn’t my family have said Happy Birthday before I left for school? Wouldn’t there be cards and presents?
As I said, I have no personal recollection but having heard my Mum recount the story over the years, I know that she became extremely flustered before settling on a plan to quickly run to the shops (no second car in those days), buy a birthday cake, card, present and wrapping paper, run back home, wrap said present, and write on said card, cook a special ‘birthday dinner’ and announce to my father (when he arrived home from work) as well as my siblings that it was indeed my birthday.
I can only imagine what ran through the teacher’s mind the next day when, quite bewildered, I reported that she was right and apparently it had been my birthday after all.
After surviving the embarrassment of not knowing my own birth date, the best part was that for the next few years I got to celebrate two birthdays – one on the 19th of March and my real birthday on the 19th of June …….just in case.
Sadly, as I became older, I was entrusted with the responsibility of deflecting further roll call discoveries for myself until eventually, when it was considered safe to do so, the March birthdays were simply cancelled. At 16, I swapped back to my real birthday for entry to Sydney University and the March birthday was long forgotten.
Until a conversation with my son revealed that his new wife’s birthday was the 19th of March……… That used to be my birthday!!