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    > 2002





<!-- June 20, 2003 -->

4:05pm. State Theatre

Seated the hubub of filmies, I await Watermark, one of five Australian dramas playing at the Sydney Film Festival.

I was meant to see this film. A woman approached me in line, wanting to sell her ticket for only $10. In fact, I only had $10 cash on me.

Today is the last day of the festival. I think it's been a long week for movie-goers. The theatre is far from full. However, compared to the Cumberland Theatre in Yorkville, where I saw my Toronto Film Festival movies last fall, it is large, sprawling even, and ornate. Marble, gilt, mirrors, exotic flowers adorning the sweeping staircases. And yet, the most unbecoming yellow light. Perhaps someone felt the dim, sickly light lent the place a feeling of intimacy?

I lose myself in the happy chatter around me. Spread my legs out, enjoying the spacious seating, lean back in my padded chair, and open the letter from my mom, sent ten days ago.

"Having a place to go - is a home.
Having someone to love - is a family."
[Donna Hedges]

"I really like the philosophy of these cards," she writes.

These M.I.L.K (Moments of Intimacy, Laughter and Kinship) cards are part of a collection that "captures the essence of humanity... and celebrate what it is to be part of a family, to share the gift of friendship, and more than anything else, to be loved."

The one I'm holding shows a family in a blue "rattletrap car" in the Gobi Desert, Mongolia. They are stranded with all of their belongings strapped to the top of the vehicle. All six of them, cramped into the impossibly small quarters, are smiling, laughing, relaxed, as they await help.

Coincidentally, yesterday, when cleaning my house in Surry Hills, I discovered a lovely black and white photo of a young girl, in mid-flight as someone swings her around. The absolute delight on her face moved me to put the picture up in a frame on the wall.

It, too, was a M.I.L.K. picture. At the time, I didn't know what that meant.

"It conveys the message," Mom writes, "doesn't matter where you are, what your circumstances... you are YOU always and we will always love you and there will always be a place/bed/hearth/cat even... for you here."

My eyes tear up.

"It also says," She continues, "'Do not be homesick'. Home can also be where your friends are - a different family to be sure, but still family cause they love you too... Such an opportunity you are having - extending your family all over the world. Rejoice in the 'family' you have there and remember the family you have here."

As if I could forget.

I think about them every day. And now my throat is aching and I'm blinking back tears.

Thankfully, there is someone at the microphone now, introducing Kelly, the producer of Watermark who says a few words about the movie.

I'm listening intently, marvelling at the rare opportunity I have to hear this account of the movie's making. And my sphere of amazement deepens as my focus widens to include the theatre I'm seated in - steeped in history - and the event I'm attending.

I remember reading about the film festival while planning my trip at home in Toronto. I was sure that I would not be in Sydney when the festival was on. A twist of fate has made this moment possible. An Aussie classic film at an Aussie film festival, as I dreamed about more than six months ago.

And here I am, holding a letter from my mother, reminding me what an opportunity this is. Sometimes one needs to be reminded or one can forget what an amazing thing it is to make a home, find a family, half way around the world.

The audience is clapping. The sickly yellow lights - much like candle light, I think now - are dimming. The movie begins.

I am alone but not lonely.

I clutch my mom's letter; I'll always have a place to come home to.

I sigh and settle in to enjoy my slice of Aussie life.

Next: June 20th, Gloria Jeans

my journal

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