Sometimes two stories converge, and each gives meaning to the other. Stay with me while I show you.
In the time between the two World Wars my mother became a vivacious red-headed young woman working in a factory making silk stockings. On Sunday nights at Jarvie St East Brunswick her family would gather around a piano and sing the latest jazz songs; the lyrics were clear and easy to sing. Her brother Leo played a saxophone. I think it was my grandfather, George Martin, who played the piano. George was an artist, a shearer’s cook then a pastry cook by profession.
I was George’s dear daughter’s first child. George sketched a story book for me while he held me on his lap. Before I had time to become a little person with her own ideas Grandpa died and the piano moved to our home in East Coburg. Nanna and my mother wanted me to learn to play it. They dreamed of Sunday evening sing-alongs. I learned chords. I learned scales. Each note on those scales had a word. I/don’t /want /to /learn/ the Pi/ an / O. E. It was clear that I would never be playing for Sunday evening sing-alongs. The piano waited without a sound.
Jazz became Swing. There was a piano teacher in Collins Street who claimed a method easy to learn. My mother Vera enrolled; the piano came back to life. Vera had a signature tune with lyrics the came straight from her heart. It was called ALWAYS.
I’ll be loving you always, with a love that’s true always.
When the things you’ve planned, need a helping hand
I will understand. Always. Always.
Days may not be fair always, that’s when I’ll be there always.
Not for just an hour, not for just a day, not for just a year but ALWAYS.
Us kids knew she was singing for us. No matter how we failed to meet her expectations, she would always be there for each of the four of us. ‘I love you to bits,’ she would say. Always. When the family moved to Blackburn, the piano was in pride of place on the back veranda. Vera played from reams of sheet music and played well. That old piano has passed on to a fourth then a fifth generation of the family. My link is the word AWAYS.
On Australia Day this January I watched on the ABC a sunrise celebration. I heard mention of an Outdoor Sculpture named Always. Of course, I searched and found that the artist was Jacob Nash and that the location was Bennelong point. Six huge letters form frames through which views of modern Sydney are see. Jacob Nash wrote ‘This work, ALWAYS … it is about the past and understanding that land and people are inseparable …
I find a photo of Jacob Nash standing bedside those letters on his sculpture. I know more clearly than ever before, that in the first culture Country is a mother you belong to. Not for just an hour, not for just a day, not for just a year but ALWAYS.
There was an invitation in the Uluru Statement from the Heart. ‘With substantive constitutional change and structural reform, we believe this ancient sovereignty can shine through as a fuller expression of Australia’s nationhood’.
Jacob Nash has the last word. ‘I hope you get a sense of the importance of this word [ALWAYS], its meaning, and how collectively we have an opportunity to change the future’.