I don’t know what was the first memory of the women. There were so many years that I have decided to lock away, I think I can get back to about 4 years old.
But my Auntie Chris wasn’t a memory, she was an event. Mum was always responsible, it was a role she took on to be there for her little sister Chris from the age of 12. Chris was a great mum, but with different sets of rules raising boys, and certainly different sets of rules for me.
There was the time in Iluka, when Evan and I had decided to ‘use’ all of her makeup. It was more like painting or cooking with makeup rather than applying it to our faces. When it hit me what we had done and the mess we had made…powder, creams, potions, colours…I was terrified. I had never touched my own mothers dressing table, let alone her makeup. But Chris found us, two small , painted urchins in a fog of dusting powder, laughed and told us to go out and play, she would fix it up.
She fixed up a lot of things.
When we eventually left the thief who had stolen the place of our father, 1975, and we were kind of in hiding. Mum had taken us all from the house, the mansion, and from friend to friend , finally to a motel in the dead of night. And Chris flew down from Brisbane.
She loved her sister without question, and was probably just waiting for this day. They all knew he wasn’t right. After days of hiding, not going to school, just waiting in the event that he found us, Chris burst into the motel in all her beautiful colour, and made it all right. There was hours of late night conversations, too many cigarettes and the appropriate amount of whiskey, but she made us feel better. And she took us all back to Queensland. Would be the last time I was ever in Canberra.
Chris then became my friend again, sharing stories of my childhood that mum didn’t want to remember. All of those stories meant remembering my father, and that was too painful for mum. Safer to lock all of that away. She told me how, when my father died, and I was two years old, one sister was ill and the other was just born, I kind of adopted Chris and her home. Apparently I would leave home, and waddle down the garden path, through the fence, to her house, to hang out. It was no surprise that we became partners in crime again once I was old enough, and we were geographically close again.
I never really understood what a wonderful artist she was. I always saw the drawings and paintings, she even drew me, but it was only after she was gone, with her whole body of work , that I could really admire the depth of her talent.
We always knew that she was the actress before having babies, such a beautiful young woman. And beautiful always.
I miss you Christine Hassall, but not too much because you are always with me. I am blessed to have the women that I have in my life.