And he never taught at that school again…
The goodbyes have been said. The class parties have taken place. The keys have been handed back. The other goodbyes have been said. And I have five minutes to scratch myself and let you know that, for the last month or so, we’ve been gearing up to leave Karratha and return to Perth.
It’s been building for a while.
The rough school that we first taught at has become steadily more violent, and has finally become dangerous. All the things I thought I’d accomplish in coming here — a revitalised writing career; greater fitness; weight loss; a renewed sense of life — simply haven’t happened. It took longer to cope with the effects of the toxic bullying I’d suffered at my last job than I thought, which affected me too much during our first year here. Coming to terms with my new career — one I swore I’d never take on when I graduated 26 years previously — was an enormous adjustment. And for the first time in almost 20 years, I was in a position where I could actually stop from time to time and, well, just enjoy some moments.
We tried. We tried like hell. Luscious took to teaching like she was born to it: a natural-born Classroom Mum who threw herself into the act of protecting, educating, and mothering the living hell out of every vulnerable kid she could find. And there were a lot to find.
Ms 16 blossomed, both academically and socially. Straight-A report cards, first boyfriends, gaggles of friends, jobs, school balls, and on and on– a Queen Bee who Queen Beed like a freaking Queen of Queen Bees.
And Lord 13 grew into a phenomenal young man, first as a Scout in dire danger of contracting Badge-poisoning, then as an actor, and acting teacher.
And for a while, at least, it seemed like I was getting things on track. I lost 14 kilograms in my first two years here. Joined the gym and started working out regularly. Lord 14 found a kickboxing class and we both joined. I completed the first draft of a new, left-field project: an illustrated, humorous, alphabet picture book for adults titled “The Alphabet Book for Young Murderers”.
But there were always clouds. His Lordship never quite escaped the constant bullying that comes from being a genuine individual surrounded by production-line bogans. Teaching was rewarding, but teaching at this particular location became increasingly less so. And I never quite found my feet. I taught. I ferried the others around. But all my pursuits remained in Perth, with no real local equivalents to replace them. Luscious suffered a serious ankle injury, and then when it kinda-sorta-recovered-somewhat-if-not-actually-healed, did it again.
And then Blake died.
And the world turned to shit.
The story since then has been one of ruin and recovery, and quite honestly, this isolated town a thousand miles from everything we value was just not up to the task. We were isolated, not just socially, but emotionally and in terms of support. The damage was incalculable, and for every student who loved and supported Luscious in particular (she inspires an unbelievable amount of love from students who clue into her approach), there was another who crawled out of the shadows to prey on our sudden weakness the way they did to their fellow students. Suddenly, work was not about education, but survival. And that went for every other interaction as well.
Luscious drew closer to her circle of friends, who gave her love and support and wine. Ms 18 left home, went back to Perth, moved in with her brother and sister-in-law, started Uni, fell in love with a boy with biceps like twin Volkswagens. Lord 16 brought home his first real, serious girlfriend, a beautiful young woman who has ended up living with us and will be coming to Perth with us when we leave. Our eldest daughter burned her last bridge in Perth and brought her meth addiction and alcohol issues to our spare bedroom for fourteen months.
I played a lot of games on my phone, lying on our bed.
And in the end, we decided we’d been away too long. Our family was in Perth, and growing– we had a new baby granddaughter, and as much as Discord and Facebook Messenger are wonderful things, they’re not the same as being there. Ms 19 was growing up, and away, and we were missing her transition into full adulthood. Our two other grandchildren were living with their other grandparents, and flourishing, and we simply never saw them anymore. All the things that drew us here, and kept us here, no longer seemed to outweigh the things from which we wanted to retreat, and the things pulling us back home. We would see Lord 16 to the end of year twelve in 2023, and then we would leave. The deal with Eldest had been to give her twelve months here, to get clean, and find directions. We extended that to Christmas, but the end-date remained: stay here, or go back to Perth, but she was going to have to become independent. In the end, she went back to Perth.
A month ago, a delegation of three came to me as I sat on the couch. They had changed their minds. They wanted to leave now. Tipping point had been reached. Luscious and Lord 16 couldn’t wait another year. It was time to go.
And so we are. We’ve spent a month applying for every teaching job under the sun: got them. At different schools, for the first time.
Searching for a house to buy near to those jobs, so we can keep renting out our house in Rockingham, which is too far away and too small, and with the pissy little amounts we have in our super, shaping up as our only impending retirement income.
Undertaking home opens via our daughter-in-law Rachel and the wonders of phones with video cameras in them (I love living in the jetpack future): found one.
Packing — having only just unpacked because the volatile housing market up here bit our Education Department landlords in the arse and we found ourselves evicted for the crime of ‘because they can’ so we were moved across town.
Organising schooling. Organising guardianship requirements for Lady Girlfriend.
And, you know, it was report period, and the end of the school year, and Christmas is coming and all that jazz as well.
And it’s done. The resignations are in. The new jobs await. The other side of Christmas, I will drop the other three off at the airport, drive the 16 hour solo-concert-in-a-can car journey South for the last time, and meet them at the other end. And we’ll be home.
Home to our family. Home to our arts colleagues. Home to my Lego group. Home to the last years, and hopefully last jobs, before retirement beckons.
So goodbye, Karratha. I’m leaving in much the same condition as I arrived. Morbidly obese. Artistically bereft. Largely friendless and isolated. Respected by some colleagues, at best. Hoping that the upcoming change will trigger something — anything — to make getting up in the morning more than just a routine to put food on the table while I disappear into obscurity.
I will miss the unbelievable, 360 degree horizons; the sunsets that seemed to stretch forever; the sound of geckos hunting outside our windows (and in our bedroom, and our bathroom, and behind the couch, and in our bins….) at night; the ancient, rolling bones of hills that framed our skylines and defined the landscape; the landscape itself– sparse, and minimalist, and utterly beautiful; the two-minutes-to-everything convenience of life; the light-to-laughable traffic; the good and professional colleagues I worked with; the protection from the effects of the pandemic, and mask mandates, and lockdowns (isolation has its benefits); the promise of a lifestyle I wanted so desperately. But we lost too much here, too often, and in the end, too big.
It should have been an adventure.