It’s just before 6am. A light, warm drizzle, not enough to extinguish the candles flickering all along the street. Dark shapes at the tops of driveways. Radio blur, and then the bugles, near and far, the long notes of ‘The Last Post’ overlapping, out of sync…
I never know how to feel about Anzac Day. I don’t want to glorify war; I don’t want to fly flags. I do want to honour the sacrifice of lives. And as someone who spends much of her life digging around in the past, I want to acknowledge the way every war (including the one we’re living through now) leaves indelible marks on individuals and families, societies, nations, on who we are and how we live our lives.
This is Meggie Tulloch, in Elemental, remembering…
In 1921, Anzac Day was not a national day of mourning, not in the way we know it these days. The newspapers retold the story of heroism, and there were parades and services. It was a day for grieving, aye, but a kind of mourning closer to the heart. Wounds still fresh.
A Monday, it was—what silly details you remember. Magnus was on the day shift.
Go if ye want, an’ whenever ye want. I’ll not be going with ye.
I put my hand on his shoulder but he shrugged it off.
What’s the point, Meggie? Whatever’s the point of any of it. Tell me that.
He shouldered his way through the kitchen, grabbed his bicycle and left for Castlemaine, long before he needed to.
Around midday, we took the children up to the stone we’d laid in the dunes for Stivvy and looked out across the sea. Home is the sailor… But Stivvy—he was not home, was he. Magnus was right: whatever was the point? But then I looked across at Clementina, looked for bitterness in her face, and it wasn’t there any more; it had not been there for a long time now. While Hal and Jessie ran barefoot, chasing wavelets back to the ocean, she brushed her fingers across the words we’d scratched on the stone and what I saw was a kind of soothing I didn’t understand. But I was glad for it, aye, so glad.
That was the point, the only point, and I wished Magnus could have seen it too.
Lest we forget.