Kara and I met in the heady days when we both had our babies; her first baby and my last, both boys. We were at opposite ends of the fecundity spectrum. She, at 19 was old enough to be my daughter, but let’s not let age get in the way of a good friendship.
She kindly phones me as her calls are free in the evening and you just don’t know how long these things will go on for. Her voice takes me back to the kindergarten room where five of us sat round with babes on our laps, laughing. As the boys grew up they spent their kinder years in that room, I say room but I mean garden. Kara’s Matt and my James were mad on Aussie Rules so, thanks to their enlightened teacher, they spent four hours outside, three days a week in all weathers, kicking a bright oval red ball back and forth to each other when other three year olds throughout the country were being told to sit down. They both still hold dreams of playing for a top team.
Her voice also transports me right back to perhaps the most dramatic night of my mothering years. Kara was standing under the blades of an air ambulance helicopter as James and I went in, up and away to the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne.
I had roasted a chicken (no the helicopter wasn’t for the chicken), and I had added a lot of watery stock to the bottom of the roasting dish. Then I had put on my trainers and run off to badminton.
My husband took the chicken out of the oven and put it in the uneven hob top, James wandered over, put one finger on the side of the roasting pan and the whole thing fell on him.
I had played a game and then saw that my phone was ringing. It was home.
I told a friend to call the local First Aiders and ran back. I have written a novel for girls that is doing the rounds with agents and publishers and is called ‘The Nurse in a Purse’. Six years ago I had forced my Dad to sit down and tell me all he knew about First Aid for my book, and burns had been high on his list. He had said that a lot of damage can be prevented just by holding the skin under cold running water until help arrives. So James and I stood under the cold shower for five minutes and I watched all the skin on his chest melt away.
Kara was between badminton games when she heard the helicopter landing outside. She related this conversation to me when we were huddled together as the paramedics got James ready.
‘What’s going on with the helicopter?’ she had asked.
‘Oh that will be for Annabel’s little boy’ some one had replied.
She did an exact impression then of her next sentence.
‘I said “What happened?”‘ But she didn’t just say ‘What happened?’ she said ‘What happened?’ with total love for James in her eyes like this, you try it, ‘What happened?’
I remember her big, glassy eyes against the dark of the night sky and having her there made all difference; her calmness and her care as the wait chipped away at my sanity. Then I jumped into the helicopter and we took off. The happy ending is that James’s chest healed really quickly and I don’t want to sound glib but it was hard not to enjoy skirting the ocean to the city in a flying car, my damp eyes making the twinkly lights into a kaleidoscopic laser show. The next day we met footy legend Wayne Carey and James saw the sharks and the meerkats that live at the hospital. You’d be forgiven for thinking that I’m just describing the sort of dream you have when you’re pregnant.
Kara had three children in four years and we talk about her own dashes to hospital, through the Otways in the middle of the night.
She is now doing a dental hygiene degree at La Trobe University and has left the area for a while. We agree to meet on the beach in the summer holidays for a marathon kick to kick. I miss her.