Sid was now in the twilight of his life. His soulmate of more than sixty years, Jean, had passed away a few years earlier and Sid now had plenty of time to sit and think about the past. Most of those memories were of good events in his life but he did have a few regrets.
He vividly remembered growing up on a wheat farm in the Mallee where the nearest town was five miles away and consisted of a couple of stores, a pub, a community hall and several churches. The school catered for kids up to grade six. After that, those who could afford to continue their education caught a school bus to the nearest big town where there was a secondary school.
There were only about fifty kids at the primary school and Sid thought Miss Merry was easily the most beautiful woman in the world and should have been a film star.
On Saturday the family would go into town. His Dad played cricket in summer and, until he got too old, football in the winter. His mum helped with the afternoon tea, Sid was the third born of four children and the first boy. His older sisters played netball but on the farm they could kick a football as well as most boys of their age. Of course, when old enough, Sid took his place in the local footy and cricket teams playing against teams from other local hamlets. The grounds were basically bare earth but that did not lessen the enjoyment.
On Friday nights the family would go to the movies.The main picture was usually some soppy Hollywood love story but Sid loved the first picture, often a Western, and the cartoon.
Occasionally, Sid’s Dad would go into the pub. Sometimes Sid and his siblings were allowed to go with him. He would give them each sixpence to spend on whatever they liked. Sid favoured ice cream whilst the other three would each buy a bag of lollies known euphemistically as ‘dentists’ delights’.
They went to Church every Sunday, mainly at Mum’s insistence, and then went out to Sunday school. Sid reminisced how he had always attended Church. Thank goodness for that, he thought, for that was where he met his beloved Jean.
It was surprising how many attended that church. Although the town was tiny, many of the nearby farmers and their families would attend. Maybe they thought by doing so God would provide them with a good harvest. Maybe God had a hearing problem because bountiful harvests were few and far between.
Jean’s father was a Stock and Station agent and often visited the local farms to see if he could help in any way. Sometimes Jean would come with him and Sid, although very shy, would contrive to talk to her. At Church he usually managed to get close enough to her to make eye contact. They often smiled at each other.
Both Sid and Jean were good students and did well at school. Jean did so well that she won a scholarship to university. Sid’s parents could not afford for him to go to University but he was able to get a job in a bank in a nearby town. Sid remembered this period with some sadness. Although he had never spoken to Jean of the way he felt about her, he dreaded the thought that he might never see her again. She intended becoming a schoolteacher and could be sent anywhere in the state.
Sid remembered how in desperation he did something he never thought possible. He wrote her a letter. It was a very proper letter saying that he hoped that she was doing well at uni and enjoying Melbourne.
To his delight he received a reply only two days later. Her letter included the usual platitude but the last sentence nearly knocked him over. “Why don’t you come down to Melbourne for a few days and let me show you around”.
Sid’s heart had beat with joy. He raced into his boss’ office and asked if he could take a couple of days off. Sid was a most conscientious worker and the manager had no hesitation in acceding to his request. He then rode his trusty old BSA Bantam home to tell his parents what he was going to do.
“Are you going to see Jean? About time too! You’ve been mooning around for weeks. Do you want some tips on how to treat a girl?” So much for keeping secrets from sisters!
Sid worked out that he could get down in a fortnight so he wrote again to Jean outlining his plans. It was mid-semester break so Jean wrote back saying that this was perfect.
Although it was a fortnight off Sid packed his case. His Mum had offered to drive him to the nearest railway station and it was then a nine hour trip to Melbourne.
Sid was coming to the best part of his reverie when he was wakened by a familiar voice. “Hi Sid, it is Christine from Meals on Wheels”; I have brought your lunch.”