Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have boldness before God; and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we obey his commandments and do what pleases him. (1 John 3:18-22)
Sally Morgan was always told she had Indian heritage. But for some time, she and her sister Jill had a sneaking suspicion that they might be Aboriginal. Each time they asked, however, their mother and grandmother fiercely denied it. Their experiences of white domination had made it too painful to want to claim their Aboriginality.
Now that Jill and I were once again living in the same house, we often had long talks about our childhood. And the subject of Nan’s origins always came up.
‘We’ll never know for sure,’ Jill said one night. ‘Mum will never tell us.’
‘Hmmmn, I might start pestering her again. We’re older now, we’ve got a right to know.’
‘What does Paul [Sally’s husband] think?’
‘When I asked him if he thought Nan was Aboriginal, he just laughed and said, “Isn’t it obvious? Of course she is.”’ Paul, of course, had been brought up with Aboriginal people.
‘I don’t think we can really decide until we hear Mum admit it from her own lips.’
‘That’ll be the day.’
A few weeks later, Mum popped in for her usual visit, laden with fattening cakes and eager to tell me about the latest bargain she’d bought at auction. I’d been to too many auctions with Mum in the past, I knew that many items that looked like bargains at first glance turned out to be a total waste of money on closer inspection. The auctioneers had become so used to Mum buying things that no one else would buy that they often knocked things down to her without taking any bids from the floor.
‘One-o-four will have it,’ they’d shout, as a hammer without a handle or a duplicating machine that didn’t duplicate came up for grabs. ‘You’ll have it, won’t you, one-o-four, you buy anything for a dollar.’ One-o-four was Mum’s permanent bidding number.
‘Come out to the car and see what I’ve bought,’ Mum said excitedly. ‘You won’t believe it.’ That was the trouble, I never did.
As she opened up the back of the car, she said generously, ‘You can have whatever you like, there’s plenty here.’ Mum always bought in bulk.
Apart from the usual assortment of rusty tools and various other odds and ends, Mum had, in fact, actually bought something useful. There was a box of Indian-made cheesecloth shirts. Although, as it turned out, there were also seven other boxes that had to be picked up later. Approximately one hundred and forty shirts in all.
‘I’ll sell what we can’t use at Trash and Treasure,’ Mum said. It wasn’t a good suggestion, Mum always came home from those markets with more than she had ever taken.
‘Aargh! I don’t even want to think about it. Let’s go and eat that cake that you bought.’
We went in and settled down in the kitchen and I made a cup of tea. Mum was soon in a relaxed and talkative mood.
Then, after a while, there was a lull in the conversation, so I said very casually, ‘We’re Aboriginal, aren’t we, Mum?’
‘Yes, dear,’ she replied without thinking.
‘Do you realise what you just said?!’ I grinned triumphantly.
Mum put her cake back onto her plate and looked as though she was going to be sick.
‘Don’t you back down!’ I said quickly. ‘There’s been too many skeletons in our family closet. It’s time things came out in the open.’ After a few minutes’ strained silence, Mum said, ‘Why shouldn’t you kids know now? You’re old enough, it’s not as though you’re little any more. Besides, it’s different now.’
‘All those years, Mum,’ I said, ‘how could you have lied to us all those years?’
‘It was only a little white lie,’ she replied sadly.
I couldn’t help laughing at her unintentional humour. In no time at all, we were both giggling uncontrollably. It was as if a wall that had been between us suddenly crumbled away. I felt closer to Mum then than I had for years. Ω
Reflect: When has truth-telling brought you closer to someone? Ask God to reveal who you most need to love this day ‘with actions and in truth.’ In God’s loving presence, set your heart at rest.
#Lent2020 © Sanctuary, 2020 quoting Sally Morgan, My Place. Fremantle: Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 1987. Order your copy from your favourite bookseller.
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