Delivered on 2 February 2008.
Maree was the first of the bad Easson kids. First to stay out late, drink to excess, wake up really, really late on weekends; first to argue unconvincingly that she had puffed, but never inhaled. First to leave home.
Such troubling, near anti-social behaviour had a reason.
Freud teaches us to look for clues in a person’s childhood.
I remember the turning point.
She was about 4 and I was 7. Or thereabouts. We were reeling under the unjust, Taliban-like terror of the senior sibling. Just like Poland had Solidarity, East Germany had daring escapes across, under, or any other way past the Berlin Wall, Alabama had the freedom rides. We, too, had our dash for freedom.
Shane was forever dobbing us in to mum and getting pats on the head or candy – I forget which.
To keep up this steady flow of denunciation, secret police reporting, he sometimes made things up.
We had had enough. Being watched, checked, told in that whiney voice – that persists to this day – “I’ll tell mum” – meant we too had to plan. We escaped one day. A daring adventure. We ran away from home. Maree had a toy case. It might even have been a kindergarten bag. She packed a doll and a dress. My plea for provisions fell on deaf ears. I had to carry the apple. No water was packed in. So we began our journey out of Mavis Avenue, Peakhurst, onto the street, then around the corner.
Shane of course followed us. He warned us gleefully that he would tell mum. We knew we had gone too far to turn back. We had to go. But where?
We thought we lost him. There were trees we passed. Why not climb a tree?! Yes. We could hide out there until the coast was clear.
We tried climbing one leafy hideaway, a few streets away.
We were caught. Laughed at. Mum, do you know how humiliating that was!?! Given six of the best – or ten. It hurt. Not as much as it still does inside. But Shane was viewed as an apparatchik who had gone too far.
He later lost all credibility when he set fire to the bedcover. His excuse? He wanted to be a fireman. His explanation that he could not because he hated putting out fires might have been considered funny. But for one fatal error. He smiled. At the wrong time. The terror that followed was terrible.
But Maree and I thought it was deserved – didn’t we?
Anyway, this taste for freedom and escape led ‘sis’ to crave a life away from home.
From Peakhurst we moved to Hanigan Street, Mortdale, then a few streets away to Hunter Street, Penshurst. Then to Woniora Road, Hurstville. Then Young Street, Beverley Hills. Then Port Hacking Road, Lilli Pilli.
This gyspy life meant Maree was not settled.
So she moved out.
Partly because she wanted to experience freedom.
Maybe that experience – all that time ago – mattered still.
Maree’s life of quiet debauchery eventually quietened down. There was marriage. Shane was best man. In a Uniting Church. No one was practising as much then. We later all found faith again – apart from Shane, of course.
With Paul and happiness came kids and responsibility.
The consequences for Shane, on the otherhand, were more complex.
It is not unusual for ex-spies to lead lives of misery and disappointment.
I think Shane too might have turned the corner. Though you can never tell. It is a bit like Henry Kissinger’s question and Chou en Lai’s answer to that question about the impact of the French Revolution. “It’s too early to tell”. I know what he meant.