Towards the end of our conversation, I pull my glasses down from the top of my head. They’ve been sitting on recently washed hair. So, through wet, fogged up lenses, I make out the name, Giovanna.
Giovanna and I have just shared a conversation that you don’t get the chance to have when you are taking money out of an automatic teller machine. I’ve popped into my local bank to make an old fashioned ‘over-the-counter’ withdrawal.
Giovanna had looked at the company name on her screen as I keyed in my PIN…
“Well, Time & Space – so you’ve got the secret to how we get more of that?” Giovanna’s tone is so kind and friendly.
I smile and say, “Well in the world we live in, they are pretty rare commodities.”
Somehow there’s space to continue and I give her some more details… “it’s actually a service for schools, for young people – around the start of secondary school – and their mums, dads or mentors to have conversations they might not get the chance to have… not because they don’t want to have them, they just never get the time.”
I add the little extra piece that often corrects how people associate who the programs are for… “It’s not families who are in trouble necessarily, it’s for families who are going fast and that pretty much includes all of us citizens of the western world.”
Giovanna smiles and she is clearly reflective and willing to share… “Wow, yeah… so often I leave in the morning and say goodbye to the kids before they have headed off for school. I do try to make up and catch up with them when I get home. My husband is still there when I go in the morning.”
She continues and suddenly I am struck by that same occasional feeling that means you are reading this now– I think to myself ‘Hello! I am in the middle of a blog post here.’
She starts talking about her kids… “How old?” I ask.
“A girl and a boy – 16 and 15”. She smiles. “They’re good kids… you know I think it’s actually hard to be a teenager today.”
“It’s never been easier – in one sense” I say, “like, they don’t want for anything if they have two working parents… they’ve got access to the internet, their peers, games they can play…”
And then I agree – “and also I reckon you are right… it’s never been harder to be a kid, a young person growing up.”
I ask Giovanna a question, “when you and me were kids, how did we get in touch with our friends… the landline, right?”
She chimes in “and it was on the wall in the kitchen, everyone in the house heard what you were saying to your friends… you had limited privacy.”
This is turning into a very meaningful, reflective conversation in the bank… so, I come back with, “I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately… I reckon kids don’t get a mental rest from their peer group… if we had had a bad day, we could go home and have some refuge from our friends, just be with our family… it must be hard.”
Our conversation ‘to’s and fro’s’. We observe that the stereotype of kids tapping away at their Facebook accounts, is just a stereotype and we agree that there are plenty of us adults who’s eyes are down and responding to the latest ping on the computers we keep in our pockets and handbags. The world has been struck by A.D.D.!
She talks with a quiet pride about her kids. Parenting discussions can so often be fraught. Full of fear – fear of judgement. Giovanna explains that her kids still haven’t got into Facebook.
“Wow!”, I say, “there’s some intentional parenting there… great job!”
“Yes, my son…” Giovanna smiles again – “he’s just a really good boy and my daughter’s friendship group are really careful about using Facebook – they heard at school about a girl who got in terrible trouble and was assaulted a few years ago – so her group of friends are not into the social media yet. They might be on one of the other things…”
“Instagram? Pinterest?” I ask.
“Yeah it’s one of those things but not in a big way. She’s got a lovely group of friends… they laugh that they are not the cool group and I let her know that’s not such a bad thing. From my school days I remember thinking that being one of the ‘cool group kids’ – didn’t look like all it is was cracked up to be. It’s hard for them to keep up that reputation all day, every day.” Giovanna is impressing me with her home spun wisdom. So humble. So smart.
“Yeah, I agree… better to be the second or third group – less pressure. You must be doing a lot of stuff right,” I remark.
“Fingers crossed,” she smiles.
With a name like Giovanna, there’s Italian heritage there. She was a first generation migrant. Her mum is now in need of extra care and has moved out to a supported residential unit… her dad has moved too.
I ask Giovanna if she still does the things Italian families do…, explaining when Lisa and I were looking for a house around the inner northern suburbs of Melbourne, we looked at a place in Gooch Street, Thornbury…
“It was nearly twenty years ago now and I still can see that picture of four generations of that Italian family who were selling up – probably the first house they bought when they emigrated to Australia – there was a Great Nona, a Nona and Nono… mum, dad and kids sitting under the overhanging canopy shade on the back yard concrete that stretched out for a third of the block until a massive raised vegetable garden took up the rest of the back block.”
I explain that it was Labour Day weekend. March. “They were making the tomato sauce, bottling the passata as folk walked through their family world on an open for inspection.”
“Yes, that was us too”, Giovanna smiles. “It was tomato sauce on Labour Day, we did the salami, the preserved meats over the summer and the wine at Easter.”
“We don’t do that so much anymore. Life is different now, we’ve got busy.” And with a tinge of sadness Giovanna shares, “we’ve had to clear a lot of things out of the family home but I asked my sister to keep the wine press. Before Dad left Italy, he learnt to be a blacksmith. You see, Dad made his own wine press. We simply can’t get rid of it.”
“That’s a special family treasure. You’ve got to hang on to that Giovanna,” I replied.
There weren’t many people in the bank and we had dallied a tiny bit chatting as I made the withdrawal… but not too long.
Another moment of the extraordinary in the ordinary. Giovanna is a gem.
I smile and say goodbye.
As always feel free to respond with your thoughts and memories that spring to mind and heart. There’s a space below to do that.