I didn’t really want to get out of bed on Wednesday after my Mum called at 6am to say Aunty Colleen had died.
The bed was comfortable, my body was exhausted, and I had a beautiful view out of the bedroom window through the open curtains.
A couple of hours passed and the practicalities of organising my trip back to New Zealand and tying up a few loose ends for work took priority, and I put one foot in front of the other to get started.
I headed into the city to return a lapel mike I’d hired for some filming at a conference over the weekend. I felt anaesthetised. The tram I took heads toward Melbourne Zoo, and a smiling mum took a picture of her three excited kids on her phone.
I tried to put myself in their place, remembering shared outings from when I was that age. The anticipation of travel, the hyperactive behaviour. These days it’s so easy to capture those memories with technology, at least photographically. Instagram adds the feeling of browned-out, oversaturated childhood to every image.
I felt nothing.
After returning the mike, I was struck with an idea. Aunty Colleen used to love having a big Christmas tree, and always had the best decorations. On a trip to Australia last year I bought both her and Mum a Mrs Santa Claus to hang on their respective trees, from Myer.
I headed to Myer in Bourke St to look through and see if I could find something that she would have liked this year. As I wandered past the shelves, the tears started to come. I took a break and composed myself by going to the centre of the floor and staring across the abyss at consumer electronics.
After several minutes of not finding anything that felt quite right, I saw the sign. It was a large booth, actually, with a massive sign. Personalised Christmas baubles, made for you in the store. I swallowed, and approached the booth, which was unattended. I started to think about what I might put on it, and started to lose it again.
Ok, time to breathe. More consumer electronics. Stare intently at the man adjusting those ridiculously expensive shirts on the floor below.
Once the wave subsided, I approached the sales counter. There were several people in front of me, and I distracted myself for a few minutes internally while they were served. I wasn’t asking for anything special. Just act casual.
My turn came.
“Hi, I see you’re engraving Christmas globes at that stand over there…”
“No, it’s not engraving, we use a glitter pen.”
“Yes, that’s fine, is that only available at certain times of the…”
“No, it’s not operating right now, it won’t be starting until next week probably, and I can’t take orders, just on the off chance that it doesn’t happen at all.”
“Right. Do you know of any other store that might do something like that?”
I wanted to try pushing her down the escalator, but I smiled politely, thanked her and walked toward the elevator. I swallowed the bile, and resisted the urge to go straight to the customer service desk and rant incoherently about having a massive booth in your store advertising a service that isn’t available, but I knew that wouldn’t serve me.
I went next door to David Jones and found the decoration in the picture above. It even looks a bit like her. I cried again.