Road Trip to Sydney in the Charger (final)
[Based on real events but some names have been changed. And some details of events may differ. After all, it was over 40-years ago.
Finally…the intrepid road trip travellers reach Sydney.]
The conference and Rick’s never had a girlfriend
As far as conferences went, not a bad one. Lots of singing, worshipping God, that is, lectures, Bible Study, eating, and meeting new friends and old friends too. Our accommodation was down Anzac Parade, about five kilometres, halfway to the beach. I shared a small apartment with Rick and Dad. Dad drove me back and forth from the conference centre at Randwick. Not sure what Cordelia did, but I think she connected with other members of her family who attended the conference and stayed with them. Rick, I think ferried Mitch and Jack to and from the conference centre.
This arrangement becomes relevant later in the week of the conference.
One session that stands out, was the one on relationships.
Rick and I sat side by side, in the front row.
This will be interesting, I thought. Maybe I’ll get some tips on how to get a boyfriend and be popular like Cordelia.
‘So,’ the speaker said, ‘How many of you have had a boyfriend or girlfriend?’
Everyone including me, raised their hands. Everyone, that is, except my brother Rick.
‘What? You’ve never had a girlfriend, Laddie?’
The speaker pointed at me. ‘What about that lovely girl next to you?’
‘She’s my sister.’
Abandoned at the hostel and trek up Anzac Parade
Towards the end of the conference, one more event stood out.
Dad told me to wait for him at the hostel apartment where we were staying. After lunch we had an afternoon of free time before the final worship session.
I returned to the apartment lunch with my brother and friends eager to catch up on some rest and losing myself in a book. Maybe some journal writing which had been neglected in all the activity and excitement of the conference.
However upon my return to the dreary grey corridors of the hostel, my door was locked. Oh, well, Dad said he won’t be long.
I had nothing with me. All my supplies of entertainment and comfort were locked away in the apartment.
So I sat.
After two hours, I began to sniff.
Then finally, cry.
A lady poked her head out of a nearby door. ‘Are you all right?’
I wiped my eyes. ‘Yeah, I’m fine.’
She retreated into her apartment.
I looked at my watch. Five o’clock! Almost three hours I’d been waiting for Dad.
Convinced that he’s forgotten me and I’d be waiting further five hours with that lady sticking her nose in my business every so often, I stood up. Stiffening my lip in grim determination, I marched out the hostel and strode up Anzac Parade.
I prayed that God would protect me.
Along the cracked pavement. Past long neglected houses. And cared-for ones. Over busy roads at the lights. Narrowly escaping any impact with red-light running cars. In the humidity. Under light rain. Taking a wide berth around the many hotels. And leering drunks who spilled out onto the footpath. In the ever-fading light that faded into dusk.
Five kilometres and forty minutes later, I entered the conference centre. The session where all had gathered, was concluding with prayers. All in a circle holding hands. I slipped in the circle.
The boy next to me squeezed my hand.
Oh, he’s just being kind to poor little old me, I thought. After all, if even my father forgets me…
After, over tea and biscuits, my miffed Dad asked, ‘Where were you?’
‘What do you mean? I waited three hours,’ I retorted.
‘Couldn’t you be patient?’
‘Not when I couldn’t get into the room,’ I said. There was a limit to my patience.
‘I went to pick you up and you weren’t there,’ Dad said. ‘I told you to wait.’
‘And, what time was that?’
‘Oh, er, um, about…’ Dad’s voice faded, ‘about five.’
‘Well, I was there at five, and I didn’t see you.’ I sniffed. ‘So, I walked.’
‘But don’t you know how dangerous that was to walk here?’ Dad showing so much concern, after forgetting me for the whole afternoon.
‘I’m here, aren’t I?’ I replied. ‘I prayed and God protected me.’
‘He did. Praise the Lord,’ Dad said and then wagged a finger at me. ‘But don’t you ever do that again.’
‘Yes, Dad.’ As long as you don’t forget me again.
Passing through the Blue Mountains
Our return to the less crowded and more sedate city of Adelaide, was serene and uneventful as the fair city itself. Especially at the time in 1979.
A few highlights. Mostly, in fact, all associated with the Blue Mountains. We had missed the beauty and wonder of the mountains on our journey to Sydney, so, Rick endeavoured for us to see these mountains in daytime on our trek home.
At the lookout to the Three Sisters, we lunched and admired the majesty of God’s creation. Even Rick using his polaroid camera, took photos of us admiring the scene. He was taken with the layers of misty blues and subtle greens cascading down into the depths, while the cliff tomes forming the Three Sisters presided over the valley.
I burst out in song and Cordelia joined in.
After a chorus, Cordelia said, ‘You should try out for the worship band.’
‘You have such a sweet voice, although it does need to be stronger.’
On the drive home I considered the prospect of trying out for the band. Perhaps singing in front of the church would make me more popular with the boys. Like Cordelia. But in the end, I decided against it. Too hard. Too much of a challenge for plain old me. After all, the worship band was a highly coveted affair, where lead singers jealously guarded their position. I’d never have a chance. Sweet voice, but not strong voice would never cut it.
Back at school, I continued my enjoyment of music singing in the choir. But I’d always secretly envy the solos with their stand-out song voices. The stars with their melodic strong notes, the audience’s focus on them alone.
Instead, that new year of 1979, my passion turned to art…and writing. These were the gifts God had given me.
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2023
Feature Photo: Sydney Harbour from Ferry © L.M. Kling 2002
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