I recall growing up in East Brisbane in a more innocent time. My family home was in Park Avenue, right near Mowbray Park. The park — named after Reverend Thomas Mowbray and his wife, who owned a large section of the area in the 1800s — is 3.2 hectares (7.9 acres) and has a number of paths that lead to its centre. There are Moreton Bay ash, grey iron bark, forest red gum, bauhinias, jacarandas and fig trees. It was the park where I made many memories.
I didn’t know it at the time, but our home did have a touch of the by name/by nature status about it. A stunningly beautiful Queenslander, second last home in a street that ended in ‘river’, literally, it boasted ‘gin and tonic’ views and, just to be a smarty-pants, opposite was my much taken-for-granted, backyard playground, the absolutely beautiful Mowbray Park.
From 1903, that park and those trees, nurtured not only saplings but were, obviously, waiting just for me and my burgeoning womanhood. Now before you pre-judge with dry retching and decry actual boy/girl innocence, some of us blossomed gradually, the way nature intended, I suggest. Besides, it was only the early-1960s, the really raunchy stuff happened later that decade.
I used to take my books and study (diligently) under various Mowbray Park branches, but the exclusiveness of it eluded me. Suddenly, and some say, shockingly, for a good Catholic girl, I had my first clandestine meeting via a secretly-passed, slight-of-hand note slipped into my lunch box during one of the school day breaks.
Sister Eagle-eye (I don’t want to be disrespectful) gleefully pounced on the note and I coped six of the best hand canes for ‘encouraging a boy to meet me in a park’. I didn’t, I hadn’t and I swear this unjustifiable, corporal buffoonery contributes, to this very day, to my utter contempt for subservience and deference for the sake of it. The instigator, the boy involved, received nothing more than a slight verbal rebuke; do not get me started!! Settle petal, hindsight mask restored, he was cute as all get-out!
Those Mowbray Park tree branches understood the seemingly ridiculous, almost imperceptible, beginnings of my static yearnings as he held my hand for the first time and enjoyed my first, barely lip touching kiss. Hell, I didn’t know yet what I was feeling, all I knew was it felt good… Very good.
Looking back, how exceptionally fortunate was I that these commonplace, everyday innocent stirrings took place in such a romantic setting, under the protection of my trees. Poor Sister Eagle-eye; she could’ve given me another six and I still wouldn’t have known what the heck she was on about. For goodness sake, I was only 11 years old!
Adult me acknowledges the sister’s presumptive carnal inference but, at the same time, I weep that such a young nun obviously didn’t have an innocent Mowbray Park moment in her life. I am forever grateful I did but, geez, those Catholic school cuts hurt.