My #Christmas on The Streets: 1966. A sweet memory.#Memoir #RRBC @pursoot

CHRISTMAS BLOG BANNER

Thanks so much for stopping by. I like to share this post every Christmas. It remains one of my sweetest memories.

CHRISTMAS MORNING 1966: 2:00 AM.

The Christmas season is the harshest of all when you live on the streets.

On ANY streets. In ANY town. In any Climate.

A miracle happened in our small dark world that hot and steamy Christmas morning all those long years ago. I’d not yet turned twelve years old. Yet I felt older than time.

It was not a ‘miracle’ of biblical proportions. Yet for the fifteen of us that lived in the damaged shipping container, it was a miracle that we would hold in our memories forever, to be taken out and looked at whenever life grew harsher.

I am sharing it with you here.

I hope that it makes you nod in understanding. I hope that it reminds you of what joy your smile and a simple hello can mean to the lost and the lonely.

I am smiling through my tears as I remember…..

***

Christmas was barely a week or so away, and the mood in ‘the palace’ wasn’t good. That’s what we’d named our rusty old shipping container. ‘The Palace’ was exactly that to us. We constructed our own safety barriers, dodging between smart-mouthed bravado and silent despair.

Christmas out here meant different things to each of us I guess.

My memories of Christmas’s past were all bad. Even last year when I’d been on the streets alone for barely a month had bad stuff attached to it, yet it hadn’t been nearly as bad as the ones I had lived with back in the home I called ‘hell central’.

I asked ‘Baby Jenny’ our youngest member to come for a walk with me down to see Big Mike. The guy was built like a mountain and I never did learn his last name. He was the go-to man for everything here on the Sydney docks. I wanted to ask him if he could scrounge up some left over decorations to put up in the palace to lighten the mood a little.

He gave me a thoughtful nod, and said he’d “see what he could do.”

He bent down and spoke to Jenny, “I swear you get prettier every day, Jenny. Don’t let Sassy here teach you any bad habits.”

Jenny grinned at him too afraid to respond.

I kept my mouth shut for a change, except for a “Gee thanks, Big Mike.”

He smiled and wandered off, and we headed back up to the palace. We spent a lot of time outdoors during the heat of the summer. The cooler breezes drifting in from the water gave us a little welcome respite. The heat inside our metal home was dreadful. It was difficult to breathe in the late afternoons. We complained to each other long and loud. But I had to shrug and smile at our bitching. Winter was far worse.

We figured Big Mike had forgotten when a week passed with no contact. It was disappointing, but the man didn’t owe us anything. He’d already rushed one of us to the hospital and probably saved her life and the life of the baby that she’d been giving birth to. So we didn’t really expect the decorations, we just hoped for them.

Jenny was extra quiet. I wondered if she would ever be able to talk about why she was here. I didn’t ask her. I hadn’t discussed my background with any of them, even Jamie. So I understood that it was not open for general discussion. These streets were harsh and difficult regardless of why you found yourself here.

Christmas Eve dawned fiery red. It was going to be a very, very, hot day according to the radio forecasts, with a cool southerly change expected later in the evening.

We all headed up to Hyde Park very early and took a Christmas bath in our favorite fountain. At least the palace wouldn’t stink quite so badly for Christmas day.

It was tempting to just jump into the ocean so close to the Palace, but Big Mike had warned us all about the sharks, so we didn’t dare.  We planned on heading down to the Botanical Gardens for a dip in the lake that evening. We figured there wouldn’t be many people around at that time because it was Christmas Eve and they’d be home with their families. It was a sad thought until we reminded each other that we too were a family.

The sky began to darken and the thunder rolled in early in the afternoon. The southerly buster was heading up the coast rapidly. We were all unusually quiet and sitting around outside in the shade of the container when we heard the sound of vehicles heading toward the palace.

We headed around the front to see who had arrived and watched in stunned amazement as Big Mike and two of the other guys whose names I can’t recall, began unloading boxes of stuff from their cars and placing it in the shaded opening of our tin home.

Big Mike looked uncomfortable, if possible, he was even gruffer than usual. “You lot need feeding up, so we brought you some stuff.”

We were all too stunned to say much at all, these hard men were all smiling and a little red-faced. I swear if they could have, that they would have scuffed their shoes in the dirt like little kids with embarrassment.

Big Mike shook Jamie’s hand and accepted the ‘thank you’ from him.

I was speechless which wasn’t a common occurrence. I just grinned at them all. and gave the guys a hurried “Thanks.”

They were the unlikeliest Angels you would ever see, sweaty and dirty after a long hot day’s work, but the sight of them unloading the Christmas goodies and punching one another in the arm in a gesture common amongst males remains etched starkly in my memory.

Big Mike reached into the front seat of his car and pulled out a parcel that was wrapped in Christmas paper, with bright ribbons attached. He walked over and handed it to Baby Jenny.

She looked confused and wasn’t sure what to do with it.

“The women picked this out for ya, little one.” Big Mike said in a voice strictured by emotion.

Jenny still wasn’t sure what to do.

“Go ahead and open it, Jenny,” Jamie said.

“Um, later. Later. Okay?” she replied looking very unsure of herself.

She looked at the men, and gave them one of her sweet smiles, “Don’t matter what it is. I never had a present before, so, um, yeah. Thanks, thanks a lot.”

The men seemed to understand that she needed to be alone when she opened it.

As for the rest of us, we tore into those presents and boxes like there was no tomorrow, squealing in delighted surprise with everything we found.

There was more food than any of us had ever seen.

There were tinned hams, fresh pineapples, cherries, and plums. Cooked Turkey and Cranberry sauce, with all the trimmings. Fifteen red t-shirts all large sizes. Paper plates, and plastic knives and forks, a can-opener. A Cooler packed with ice, and a new radio with spare batteries. A big crate of beer and bottles of cold Coke rounded out the feast.

That night, we all huddled around the new radio. It was much bigger and put out a better sound than the small transistor we had been using. We sat drinking the beer and singing our version of Christmas carols, none of them repeatable. Trust me.

Jenny sat on her sleeping space of folded layers of newspaper. She was a little tipsy having been allowed one-half of a small bottle of beer. We glanced at her as she picked up her present and watched the look on her face as she unwrapped it.

It was a baby doll, all soft and dressed in bonnet and booties with a pretty pink knitted dress. “Just what we needed, another fuckin’ mouth to feed,” she said. But the smile on her face could have lit up the entire city.

We were fed, content, and a little overwhelmed and unsure at the kindness of these people.

We all wanted to believe that maybe, just maybe, they had done it for no motive other than the wish to make this Christmas a better place for us to be. It was an alien experience to all of us,but a welcome one.

We had only sampled a little of the huge amount of food, deciding to save the rest for Christmas Day

That night we were all tipsy, yet strangely quiet as we bedded down for the night. I think we were all a little overwhelmed by the generosity of these men.

It was around 2.00 am Christmas morning I guess when I felt something was wrong. Whatever the something was, it wouldn’t let me sleep. I couldn’t place it immediately. It was a strange sense of something missing, and it troubled me.

Jamie was on watch. I climbed over the others and hunkered down next to him. Jamie smiled at me and said, “You too hey, Sassy?”

“Yeah, I guess. What is it? Something’s different.”

We sat a while just listening. Then Jamie said, “Oh shit! It’s Jenny, she’s not crying!”

My heart was in my mouth. Jamie grabbed the torch and we played it across the others, several of them were already awake, and wondering what the hell was happening. Jenny had cried herself to sleep every night since she’d come to this place. It was a sound we all tried not to hear. She couldn’t be comforted, we weren’t permitted that close. She’d been here for two years now. Jenny was only around eight-years-old and the sounds of her despair echoed through the palace every night.

We stood looking down at her. Jenny lay on her side, sound asleep, with both arms wrapped around that doll so tight there was no space between them.

That was the first time I had cried in a very, very, long time. I glanced at the others, without exception we were all affected the same way. No one wanted to look at anyone else, shit we were supposed to be the toughest kids on the block! Hell, we were the only kids on the block. That Christmas was the first real day of Jenny’s childhood. From then on, Christmas became Jenny’s birthday.

I’d like to tell you that a miraculous change came over her. That she was instantly transformed. In a make-believe world she’d be outside singing all the hits from ‘The Sound of Music’ and wearing a pretty new dress and shoes.  But this is the real world, and the changes took place over time.

Jenny named her doll, Francine.

The greatest change of all, was that, from that night, for all the years that Baby Jenny remained in our world, she never cried herself to sleep again.

 ***

Many years have passed since that long ago Christmas Eve. My darling Jenny has gone.

So many of my Christmas Eves over time have been special ones. But the one I recall with tears of happiness on my face, and a smile in my heart, is this one.

Jenny lost her battle with life in September of 2008.

The doll Francine was buried with her.

#

Thanks so much for stopping by and helping share my memory.

Have a joyous and memorable Christmas Season.

 

A Christmas Story: “Making Sweet Memories” @pursoot #Christmas #RRBC #RWISA

KOALA CHRISTMAS

Making Sweet Memories

A Short story for Christmas

By

Suzanne Burke.

 

It was already late December before Ellie remembered the season. She had been in her comfortable hiding place for so long alone, that dates just didn’t seem to matter much anymore.

The sudden explosion of the sound of cicadas serenading loudly in the trees beyond her windows to the world jolted her.

It was Summer already? When had that happened? She hadn’t paid much attention to the heat that had been building up for months. Now it was launching its presence into her space with all the vengeance at its command.

Maybe it was time to use the air conditioning she’d had installed a year or so earlier.

She shrugged and made a mental note to seek out some cooler clothing from the depths of her wardrobe.

Ellie looked around her, moving as she did and reaching out to touch the nearby objects familiar and comforting to her. The framed photograph of the family, taken so very long ago hadn’t yet begun to fade. Their happy smiles were fixed forever in place and frozen for all time in that moment.

It had been the same time of year, she recalled, as she wiped a smear from the glass.

Ellie smiled as the memory of it surfaced unbidden.

They had all been gathered under the pine tree in the front yard, it was a tradition every year for them to all come together to decorate that big old tree.

Every year since she’d been a small child that magic had happened, with tinsel and shiny baubles, and spheres of multi-colored glass, and at the very top of that great old tree had always been the angel and the star.

Her mother had made the clothing for the angel. Oh, it was glorious, and neighbors would often stop by just to admire that angel and all the hand crafted decorations, and to absorb perhaps just a little of the love that had gone into creating it.

The sound of Carols and much laughter had filled the air every year at the same time. Some years not all of the family could make it, time and other commitments changed all their lives, as it was want to do.

For the most part though they were all together.

The decades flew by on a whisper, and her mother and father had passed within weeks of each other. After fifty years of marriage neither of them had been able to contemplate the thought of the other being gone, leaving them empty and alone. Ellie had lost her sister and her brother in the years that followed. She was the youngest. The old house was now hers. It became her castle, her safe haven, her forever home.

Ellie placed the photo back on the mantle above the stone fireplace. She grinned in the knowledge that it would blaze brightly in the icy cold winters of this small coutry town.

It didn’t do to remember too much. Memory could play tricks with the mind and damage the soul if you let it.

She walked into the master bedroom. The old bed was still her favorite. It was high off the ground and the mattress was lumpy with so many years of use. She recalled without meaning to, the nights she and her siblings had laid there with her mother. Mom would always read them that one story on that same night every year until Ellie declared herself too old to be hearing it read anymore.

She opened the closet, and stood for a long time, before she reached in and pulled out the huge carved wooden box that her father had made.

She carried it across to the bed and sat propped on the multitude of cushions to open it. She lovingly ran her hands across the top of the box. How could she have forgotten the way he carved? She ran her fingers as if reading in braille across the carved name etched into the wood with such love and precision, ‘Alice’. Her mother’s name. She opened the lid and was clothed in the faint smell of Lavender still emanating from its contents. Lavender, mom’s favorite perfume of all. It carried with it the essence and sounds of a century long gone.

Ellie hesitated for a moment, then lured by an irresistible need, she removed the first layer of tissue paper, and caught her breath. The Angel lay there, in a gown that still shone gold. Ellie’s hands shook as she gently lifted it from the folds of protection around it. Snuggly tucked in behind it lay the star. Each layer she lifted revealed more and still more of all those handmade decorations from her memories.

Ellie lay there for a long while, surrounded by yesterday.

When she returned to the sitting room she carried the box with her.

She felt a trembling excitement building in her blood. What was the date? She had to know. Maybe it was already too late.

She hurried across the room and opened the front door, and looked at the old tree still standing tall and proud in the front yard.

The street had altered over the years. But she knew the neighbors on one side, and they had been there for a very long time.

She crossed the yard, and climbed the steps up to their front door. She rang the bell and held her breath as the door opened.

“Michael, it’s just Ellie, from next door.” She was at a loss for what else to say.

“Well now, yes indeed it is. What is it, Ellie, do you need help?” The look of concern on his face caused her to smile.

“Oh, well no … that is, I’m doin’ just fine, Michael. Thank you for asking. I’m just wondering, could you tell me what the date is please?”

“Why, it’s December 24th I believe.”

“Oh, thank you, thank you so much. I still have time! Thank you.”

“Time, Ellie?”

“Oh, I know it’s strange, but I’m going to decorate the pine tree in the front yard.”

“Oh. That’s marvelous. It has been such a long time since I have seen that old tree look happy.” He put his head on one side, “A long time indeed.”

Ellie grinned at him, feeling ridiculously pleased that he remembered.

She took her leave and found herself almost running back to the house; she could have sworn she could hear Michael Thomas laughing behind her. It had always been a good laugh.

It took a while to gather everything she needed together, and then she manipulated the ladder from the garage, and leaned it up against the solid comfort of that tree.

The lower branches were easy, they were done in a flash of time, but even Ellie was a little daunted as her gaze lifted higher.

The voice from behind her startled her a little, and she rocked a little uncertainly on her perch on the ladder.

“Ellie? Oh, I’ve given you a fright. I’m so sorry.” Michael Thomas held the ladder firmly as she wobbled her way back down.

He looked very pleased with himself, however, and the three smiling faces with him had that inescapable look of anticipation that young people wear so well.

Ellie didn’t ask, she just waited.

“We, that is, I, was wonderin’ if maybe we could help, with the tree? These are my grandson’s…The twins are Peter, and David, but don’t ask me which is which, cause after fifteen years I still can’t tell ‘em apart. The taller one of the boys is Mitchell, he’s just got his first car, which no doubt you will hear over the next few days.”

The boys all stepped forward and shook her hand in turn.

Then they waited, trying to gage the look on her face as they did.

It didn’t take long. Ellie clapped her hands in delight, “Oh, I would be so very happy to have the help and the company. Wonderful, just wonderful.”

The heat was building, and Michael headed back to his place, returning with a large stripped beach umbrella, and a cooler filled with bottles of soda and chipped ice. Ellie added a folding table and some chairs to the collection. She and Michael sat in the shade after they had decorated as high as they could manage. They just sat, in companionable silence, slurping down ice-cold Coca Cola and watching the healthy young men clambering like monkeys in the higher reaches of the tree.

The busy scene had created somewhat of a distraction for some of the children on the street, who now stood in every increasing numbers, clutching their bikes and watching on in fascination. Some parents joined in the onlookers, and before too long they were asking if they could help as well.

Each of the family groups hurried home and brought something back with them, and the sound of Christmas Carols was soon added and sung along with, not in tune, but nobody cared.

Ellie looked around her in amazement. It was different, but the same. How could she have thought for so very long that it had ended. When, for so many of them, it was just beginning.

One of the twins, she wasn’t sure which, called down from high in the branches, “Ellie? What goes on the top? The Angel or the star?”

“Both of them, sweetie. They’ll fit together, you’ll see.”

“Ellie?”

“Hmm, yes, Michael.”

“Can we add some lights? I mean I remember all the other Christmases, and I know that lights weren’t part of it, but they would just add to the beauty of it, I’m thinkin’ … maybe?”

Ellie considered for a moment, then gave him her big smile, “Y’know, Michael, I guess it past time for something new to be added, do you have any?”

“Oh, brother, do I have any!”

When he and Mitchell returned it was with a huge box of outdoor fairy lights. “How’s this?”

“You weren’t kidding. Wow. String ‘em up, boys.” Willing hands soon emptied that box.

“Thanks for this, Ellie. You have no idea, just how much I’ve missed this stuff. I mean, the kids come over and the grandkids and all, and we eat ourselves stupid. But I haven’t felt much like Christmas for such a long time. Not since my Maggie passed. This … well,” his voice thickened with tears. “Thanks for giving me back Christmas.”

Darkness takes a while to fall in the Australian summer, but when it does, it is absolute.

Everyone gathered back against the edge of the road in the cool of evening, and Michael was given the honor of flipping the switch.

The place lit up. The adults breathed out an ‘Ah’ of satisfaction. The younger children still watching on, squealed with delight.

It was glorious.

Her folks would have loved this, Ellie knew with a certainty.

The sound of laughter echoed through the street.

Later that night, when everything was done, and Ellie had gratefully accepted the invitation to lunch tomorrow with Michael Thomas and his family, she lay curled up on that big old bed, the pine box was open and ready. She extracted the one remaining item; and began to read aloud, “Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house…………………….

#

Wishing my friends everywhere a memorable and joyous Holiday Season.

#KOALA CHRISTMAS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#CoverReveal #NewRelease: “The Alternative” by S.Burke @pursoot My new #Thriller #Anthology. #RRBC #premium_indie #IARTG Now Available for PRE-ORDER.

 Hello, and welcome to the Cover Reveal of my New Thriller Anthology

“The Alternative”

The ALTERNATIVE BANNER HEADLINE FOR COVER REVEAL BEST

The Alternative

The Alternative
by S.Burke

Available to Pre-Order NOW.
Release Date:  Monday June 18th 2018
Mystery> Thriller & Suspense > Anthology.

It is such an exciting time for an author when releasing a new book! I would be remiss in not sharing my heartfelt thanks to the marvelous people who gave of their time so readily to beta read my latest book. Their valuable insights helped me enormously when crafting “The Alternative”

At long last, I’m able to share the cover and blurb for “The Alternative” my latest Thriller Anthology.   “The Alternative ” is due for release on June 18th.

It is NOW available for Pre-Order

I have many good friends sharing this cover across the blogosphere today and tomorrow, so you’re likely to see it pop up in various places. Thank you to everyone participating in my cover reveal splash, and to everyone dropping by to share in my excitement.   Here’s my new baby . . .

With much gratitude to Eeva Lancaster at The Book Khaleesi for the cover creation.

Cover Created by Eeva Lancaster at The Book Khalessi

Presenting “The Alternative” A Thriller Anthology.

“The Alternative”

THE ALTERNATIVE COVER IN HIGH RESOLUTION BEST

BLURB:

The Alternative.

There are those that cling unreservedly to the lifeboat that believing in Karma hands them so willingly.

They work, they live, and they function in a world that allows them the option of unreservedly trusting that Karma has no deadline.

Until they are handed the spark that ignites them into becoming the instrument of Karma itself.

There are others who have had all they once held to be truths, everything they once stood for and took pride in, torn apart and ripped from them by the hand of a cruel fate.

Then, of course, there are those who believed in nothing and no one, to begin with …

These are their stories.

The stories of people both good and bad, who made the choice to exact “The Alternative.”

An excerpt from Chapter 1. Picasso.

February 1990.

The tall man stretched his arms and flexed his long artistic fingers. He stood back to gain a different perspective of his latest work of art. He’d spent a great deal of time sketching his outline and was well satisfied with the outcome. Perhaps this one would be the perfection he craved above all else.

His other efforts were upstairs in the gallery, and while they were far from his lofty imaginings, they each represented another step forward toward his ultimate goal. He knew this exhibition would prompt worldwide interest, that was a given. His reputation was on the line. That at least was something he valued.

He grunted and moved the newest piece into the workroom. The more difficult application of his talent needed to begin.

***

 NEW YORK JULY 2015

Meredith keyed in her code, shouldered the door open and dropped her briefcase onto the polished boards of the entry. Working on autopilot, she flicked on the light and bent to collect the mail from the floor; throwing it onto the small bureau without bothering to check the sender. She shrugged off her coat and draped it over the arm of the sofa. Too damned weary to be bothered with any external interruptions tonight, she removed the home phone from its cradle and headed to the kitchen to fix enough coffee to sustain the long evening ahead, deliberately ignoring the well-stocked bar. She was well aware that she’d need every bit of concentration she could muster. She removed the Glock from her handbag, and out of habit, she placed it on the coffee table next to the perpetually full ashtray.

Her head was already pounding and she rubbed at her tense neck muscles until her fingers ached. Relief from the unresolved tension still hovered … just out of reach. She held her breath for a moment, stilling her impatience. If all went to plan, this thing would be finally ended. If justice existed at all, it would go well. All the years she’d worked to bring what was the only course left open to herself and the others to completion was coming. ‘Soon now’, was her daily mantra. But the darker visions still danced vividly in her mind’s eye and tormented her rare sleeping hours … it had been that way for almost twenty-five years.

The memory haunted her, dark and unforgivingly brutal. It replayed in clear and explicit detail every time she was forced to reflect on it … and its aftermath.

***

THE ALTERNATIVE IS NOW AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER

“The Alternative” on AMAZON.COM

Suzanne Burke Amazon Author Page

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Thank you so much for joining me here today. Your support is very much appreciated.

I would be delighted to hear your thoughts and comments below.

Christmas on the streets. The truest meaning of Christmas. Christmas morning 1966: 2:00 A.M. #RRBC #IARTG #IAN1

BEAUTIFUL BABY DOLL FOR BLOG CHRISTMAS 2017

Thank you for joining me. Whenever the darkness of our crazy old world threatens to overwhelm me I remember the times when the wonderful spirits of good people who saught only to give joy with no expectation of return enriched my life. I share this precious miracle with you each year that I am able. My Christmas gift to all those that may despair or have lost faith in the belief that most human beings are intrinsically good.

CHRISTMAS MORNING 1966: 2:00 AM.

The Christmas season is the harshest of all when you live on the streets.

On ANY streets … In ANY town.

A miracle happened in our small dark world that hot and steamy Christmas morning all those long years ago.

It was not a ‘miracle’ of biblical proportions, yet for us, it was a miracle that we would hold in our memories forever, to be taken out and looked at whenever life grew harsher.

I have taken the chapter from my memoir, and I am sharing it with you here.

I hope that it makes you nod in understanding.

I am smiling through my tears as I remember…..

 “Faint Echoes of Laughter” Book 2 of the “Standing Tall & Fighting Back.” Series. Non-Fiction. Memoir.

Chapter 7

Christmas was barely a week or so away, and the mood wasn’t good.

Christmas out here meant different things to each of us I guess.

My memories of Christmas’s past were all bad. Even last year when I’d been on the streets alone for barely a month had bad stuff attached to it, yet it hadn’t been nearly as bad as the ones I had lived with back in the home I called ‘hell central’.

I asked Baby Jenny to come for a walk with me down to see Big Mike. I wanted to ask him if he could scrounge up some leftover decorations to put up in the ‘palace’ to lighten the mood up a little.

He gave me a thoughtful nod, and said he’d “see what he could do.”

He spoke to Jenny…”I swear you get prettier every day, Jenny. Don’t let Sassy here teach you any bad habits.”

Jenny grinned at him too shy to respond.

I kept my mouth shut except for a “Gee thanks … Big Mike”

He smiled and wandered off, and we headed back up to the palace. We spent a lot of time outdoors during the heat of the summer. The cooler breezes from the water were good. The heat inside our metal home was dreadful.

When a week had passed and we hadn’t seen Big Mike we figured that he had forgotten. It was disappointing, but he didn’t owe us anything; and after all, he had helped us out with Momma and other stuff like wood for the fire in winter, so we didn’t really expect the decorations, we just hoped for them.

Jenny was extra quiet. I wondered if she would ever be able to talk about why she was here. I didn’t ask her. I hadn’t discussed my background with any of them, even Jamie. So I understood that it was not open for general discussion.

Christmas Eve dawned fiery red. It was going to be a very, very, hot day according to the radio forecasts, with a cool southerly change expected later in the evening.

We all headed up to Hyde Park very early and took a Christmas bath in our favorite fountain. At least the palace wouldn’t stink quite so badly for Christmas day.

It was tempting to just jump in the ocean so close to the Palace, but Big Mike had warned us all about the sharks, so we didn’t dare.

Sydney Harbor wasn’t the safest place to swim. We planned on heading down to the Botanical Gardens for a swim in the lake that evening. We figured there wouldn’t be many people around because it was Christmas Eve.

The sky began to look dark and threatening early in the afternoon. The southerly buster was heading up the coast rapidly. We were all unusually quiet and sitting around outside in the shade of the container when we heard the sound of vehicles heading toward the Palace.

We headed around the front to see who had arrived and watched in stunned amazement as Big Mike and two of the other guys whose names I can’t recall, began unloading boxes of stuff from their cars and placing it in the shaded opening of our tin home.

Big Mike looked uncomfortable; if possible, he was even gruffer than usual. “You lot need feeding up, so we brought you some stuff.”

We were all too stunned to say much at all, these hard men were all smiling and a little red-faced. I swear if they could have, that they would have scuffed their shoes in the dirt like little kids with embarrassment.

Big Mike shook Jamie’s hand and accepted the ‘thank you’ from him.

I was speechless which wasn’t a common occurrence, I just grinned like mad and gave the guys a hurried “Thanks.”

They were the unlikeliest Angels you would ever see, sweaty and dirty after a long hot day’s work, the sight of them unloading the Christmas goodies and punching one another in the arm in a gesture common amongst males remains etched starkly in my memory.

Big Mike reached into the front seat of his car and pulled out a parcel that was wrapped up in Christmas paper, with bright ribbons attached. He walked over and handed it to Baby Jenny.

She looked confused and wasn’t sure what to do with it.

“The women picked this out for ya, little one.” Big Mike said.

Jenny still wasn’t sure what to do.

“Go ahead and open it, Jenny,” Jamie said.

“Um, later. Later. Okay?” she replied looking very unsure of herself.

She looked at the men, and gave them one of her sweet smiles, “Don’t matter what it is. I never had a present before, so…Um…Yeah, thanks, thanks a lot.”

The men seemed to understand that she needed to be alone when she opened it.

As for the rest of us, we tore into those presents and boxes like there was no tomorrow…squealing in delighted surprise with everything we found.

There was more food than any of us had ever seen.

Tinned Hams, fresh pineapples, cherries, and plums. Cooked Turkey and Cranberry sauce …with all the trimmings. Fifteen red t-shirts all large sizes. Paper plates, and plastic knives and forks, a can-opener. A Cooler packed with ice, a radio, and spare batteries. A big crate of beer and bottles of Coke.

That night, we all huddled around the new radio; it was bigger and put out a better sound than the small transistor we had been using, we sat drinking the beer and singing our version of Christmas carols, none of them repeatable. Trust me.

Jenny sat on her sleeping place; she was a little tipsy as well having been allowed one-half of a small bottle of beer. We glanced at her as she picked up her present and watched the look on her face as she unwrapped it.

It was a baby doll, all soft and dressed in bonnet and booties with a pretty pink knitted dress. “Just what we needed, another fuckin’ mouth to feed,” she said…but the smile on her face could have lit up the entire city.

We were fed, content, and a little overwhelmed and unsure at the kindness of these people.

Typically, we questioned the motive behind it. We all wanted to believe that maybe, just maybe, they had done it for no motive other than the wish to make this Christmas a good place for us to be. It was an alien experience but a welcome one.

We had only sampled a little of the huge amount of food, deciding to save the rest for Christmas Day

That night we were all tipsy. Strangely quiet as we bedded down for the night. I think we were all a little overwhelmed by the generosity of these men.

It was around 2.00 am Christmas morning I guess when I felt something was wrong. Whatever the something was, it wouldn’t let me sleep. I couldn’t place it immediately. It was a strange sense of something missing, and it troubled me.

Jamie was on watch; I climbed over the others and hunkered down next to him. Jamie smiled at me and said, “You too hey, Sassy?”

“Yeah, I guess–what is it? Something’s different.”

We sat a while just listening. Then Jamie said, “Oh shit! It’s Jenny, she’s not crying!”

My heart was in my mouth. Jamie grabbed the torch and we played it across the others, several of them were already awake, and wondering what the hell was happening. Jenny had cried herself to sleep every night since she’d come to this place. It was a sound we all tried not to hear. She couldn’t be comforted, we weren’t permitted that close. She’d been here for two years now. Jenny was around eight-years-old.

Jenny lay on her side, sound asleep with both arms wrapped around that doll so tight there was no space between them.

That was the first time I had cried in a very, very, long time. I glanced at the others, without exception we were all affected the same way. No one wanted to look at anyone else, shit we were supposed to be the toughest kids on the block! Hell, we were the only kids on the block. That Christmas was the first real day of Jenny’s childhood. From then on, Christmas became Jenny’s birthday.

I’d like to tell you that a miraculous change came over her. That she was instantly transformed. In a make-believe world, she’d be outside singing all the hits from ‘The Sound of Music’ and wearing a pretty new dress and shoes.  But this is the real world, and the changes took place over time.

Jenny named her doll, Francine.

The greatest change of all; was that, from that night, for all the years that Baby Jenny remained in our world, she never cried herself to sleep again.

***

Many years have passed since that long ago Christmas Eve. My darling Jenny has gone.

So many of my Christmas Eves’ over time have been special ones. But the one I recall with tears of happiness on my face, and a smile in my heart … is this one.

Jenny lost her battle with life in September of 2008.

The doll Francine was buried with her.

Thank you for being here. I wish each and every one of you a peaceful, serene and joyous Christmas, no matter where on this planet you’re from.

Faint Echoes of Laughter here on Amazon.com

KOALA CHRISTMAS

 

‘Uh-oh! an interview with a cross-dressing, Al Pacino loving Crocodile named Cyril. Just for the hell of it.

CYRIL FOR BLOG ON WELCOME TO THE WORLD

For the bold and the brave and the uninitiated … This is the sort of stuff I write when I need a break from the real world …

Good Luck!

Smiley face large

For those of you that haven’t had the  …” Novel ” experience of meeting Cyril, please allow me to introduce you.

Perhaps it would be best if in my capacity as Cyril’s, um … Creator {No offense, God} I have decided to interview Cyril… (well … you’ll see) and you can get to know him a little, more or less.

Morning, Cyril! Welcome to your interview my friend.

Morning?  It’s morning? Why wasn’t I told? I’m simply not prepared; where’s my breakfast?

 Now Cyril, watch your blood pressure.

 Blood pressure, can I die from that? Am I dying. How odd. What does one wear when one dies?

 Cyril, settle down, buddy, your face is turning red, in a greenish sort of way.

 Red…eeek! No, that will never do, I never wear red. Does dreadful things for my complexion. Red indeed. Sooo last season. Not about to happen.

 Oh, I don’t know mate, it kinda matches your eyes.

 Very droll, imbecile. YOU shouldn’t have allowed me to drink that entire bottle of J.D. What were you thinking?

 It’s hard to resist a drunken 28ft long crocodile, especially when he is sitting on your chest at the time.

Oh, give me a break. You know I like company. Reality check, you don’t seriously call that a chest,  Now, that lovely girl type person … oh, you know the one on ‘Modern Family’, you know the one? The dark haired stunner…Now she has a chest.

 Careful, green buddy, we wouldn’t like to misplace all those wonderful Al Pacino downloads would we?

Eeeeek, Soooz, no! Is that even legal? You wouldn’t. You couldn’t! Yes ,you would. Noooo! I’ll behave … I’ll even wear non-designer. What? Wait, no, cancel that remark. I’ll…promise not to fart in mixed company.

 You do enjoy Mr Pacino … and of course we then have Mr. Brando. Tell me did you enjoy the movie last night?

Enjoy? Tsk, I hate understatement. The Godfather … sigh! So romantic. And of course they are BOTH in it…I dressed for the occasion. Do you have any idea just how difficult it is for me to wear TAILS? Seriously?… Ah, but nothing less would do. Tell me, what happened to what was left of the horse?

That was make believe Cyril.

Make believe what? ‘A horse is a horse of course of course.’

That’s from ‘Mr Ed’, Cyril, be original, can’t you?

You want original? Soooz, you are talking to a 28ft long crocodile … who is wearing a pink sun hat, Gucci sunglasses, and a Givenchy designed T-shirt, not to mention drinking VB beer from a stein. And, you want Original?

Point taken.

Taken where?

No … it’s an expression.

“I got 46 expressions …soft as soap and tough as leather and that’s 46 more than all those Barrymore’s put together!”

That’s Streisand, from ‘Funny Girl’.

I love Babs.

Perfectly understandable. I have another Brando movie up for you to watch tonight.

Ooooh, I must dress, is it another romance, like the Godfather?

Not … exactly. It’s called “Last Tango in Paris.”

A musical! How stunning … Brando in another musical. Oh I am soooo excited. What does one wear to a musical?… The Carmen Miranda,perhaps. I simply can’t wait!

Neither can I.

Soooz! You’re smirking … why are you smirking? Weird things happen when you smirk like that! SOOOZ!

***

 

Preview my Non-Fiction books “Empty Chairs” & “Faint Echoes of Laughter” @pursoot #RRBC #IARTG #IAN1

Please be advised, the contents of my non-fiction memoir books are disturbing. Child abuse is not a pretty topic. If my books helps you understand the long term repercussions  of abuse, it will have been worth the pain of writing them.

.”Empty Chairs” BOOK 1 (Standing Tall & Fighting Back) By Suzanne Burke writing as Stacey Danson.

empty-chairs-cover-kindle-showing-series-details

 

Newly Edited May 2017.
Stacey Danson, lived through and beyond horrific child abuse. This book tells of her brutal beginnings, the streets of Sydney at the age of eleven were preferable to the hell she endured at home. She ran, and those streets became her home for five years. She was alone, ill, and afraid. Stacey also had an unshakeable belief that she would do more than just survive her life. She would not allow her future to be determined by the horrors of her childhood. She reached out for something different; there had to be more to life; if she could only find it. She had a dream of a life where pain and humiliation had no place. She was determined to find that life. Empty Chairs is the beginning of the journey. Now she is living the dream.

Just one of the 390 outstanding reviews of Empty Chairs.

on March 13, 2017
This was a profoundly painful read. The author writes from her experience, from her terror, from her strength. She uses the language of this experience to powerfully capture the depraved situations that she ultimately survived. Everyone should read this book – everyone. Why? Nothing will change in terms of child abuse until we are all aware of its horror. Perpetrators, whether doctors or priests or parents or neighbors, need to be incarcerated where they will learn what it means to be terrorized and used. Therein rests the hope for our children. No one who tortures the most precious among us (little children) has a right to walk our streets freely.

“Faint Echoes of Laughter” Book 2 (Standing Tall & Fighting Back.) By Suzanne Burke writing as Stacey Danson.

Faint echoes kindle with series details. (2) copy

The shocking and spirited sequel to the much-praised ‘Empty Chairs’. Life on the streets of Sydney was preferable to the nightmare Stacey Danson had survived in the hell that was home.

She hit the streets running at the age of eleven, and armed with a flick-knife and a fierce determination to live a different life, she began the journey from the 1960s to today. For those that came to know ‘Sassy girl’ in ‘Empty Chairs’, and for those caring people that asked how her life worked out from there, ‘Faint Echoes of Laughter’ continues the story.

For those that haven’t met her yet, this book stands alone as a tribute to the kindness of strangers, the loyalty of true friendships and the way things really are on the streets of any town …. anytime.

JUST ONE OF THE 189 Outstanding Reviews.

on April 26, 2017
Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I read Stacey’s first book ‘Empty Chairs’ and was eager to read the sequel and find out what happened to this brave and courageous little girl, who ended up living on the streets of Sydney at the age of eleven. ‘Faint Echoes of Laughter’ continues her story. As you read you are pulled into Stacey’s world, her struggles, her thoughts and despite it all, her dreams for a better life for herself. Tough decisions are made and with a reference written by the local librarian and friend Eunice, Stacey lands herself a job after many knock backs. A page turner in every sense of the word you read how are slowly her life changes for the better. Heartbreak and pain follow as the scars from the past are impossible to erase, despite being married to a loving husband. The roll of honour at the end of this most emotional and inspiring memoir brought me to tears as Stacey recounts what happened to her friends from her past life on the streets. An absolute must read.

BOOK 3 of my memoir “Still Sassy at Sixty” Available early 2018.Still sassy at sixty 1st promo SEPTEMBER 2017

‘Glimpses Across The Barricades’ Poetry in progress. “Value it.”

I thought my muse would never awaken. I’ve been bereft and lost for a time. How happy I am that it has rejoined the living. Thanks for being here to help me celebrate.

Poetry written along my journey through life.

AUGUST 23RD 2017.

Time

Value It.

By Suzanne Burke

Did you steal a moment today?

Did you look away from your desk in the citadel to glance at the sky?

Did you steal a moment today?

Did you stop on your six-day-a-week journey, long enough to kiss your wife goodbye?

Did you steal a moment today?

Did you pause by the kid rooms and tuck them more firmly, long hours after they had fallen to sleep.

Did you steal a moment today?

Did you watch your wife sleeping, and value the journey?

Did you steal a moment today?

Did you look in a mirror and still see a young man, grateful for all the days still to come?

Did you steal a moment today?

Did you witness time passing and try to ignore it, in the forlorn hope that it somehow would stop?

Did you steal a moment today?

Did you recall and believe that life had been good, or swear an oath to change the outcome the moment you could?

Did you make a moment today?

Did you discover that stealing the moment left somebody poorer?

But making a moment could only enrich.

Did you make a moment today?