Twenty Six Years

I'll start with an apology to Shaye, who hates anyone taking or using her photo, and an instruction. You are the most beautiful girl alive, so it's about time you embraced that, friend. Embrace :D

Nobody gets knocked up at eighteen any more.

Well, maybe in very small country towns. Like any eighteen year old mother, I was pretty surprised to discover that we were going to have a baby. Unlike a lot of eighteen year old mothers, I was thrilled. Peter and I had been living together for a while and we were in a committed relationship. And we were both genuinely thrilled - although we had no intention of getting married, I changed my name by deed poll so that the baby wouldn't have a different surname from her dad. I started sewing - yes, hard to believe, isn't it? - and making tiny cross stitch gumnut baby things. Pretty clucky, all in all.

And so the most adored child in the world was born. Shaye Louise Connor, named for my friend Louise who had died just over a year before - she was born on the 4th of November, 1987. For the first nine months, her feet never hit the ground - she was a colicky baby who screamed pretty much full time, but she was equally adored. We didn't have any parenting experience, of course; Shaye was carried to the beach and to the pub and hip-carted everywhere any other young people would go. She had a playmate, Shane, who was born a month before. We have lost (in a fire) most of the photographs and videos that we took of Shaye as a baby, but I remember how adorable she was during her dedication (we went for a non-christening in deference to our weirdly diverse spiritual backgrounds) - tiny white frock, gorgeous little girl who looked like she should be in a magazine modelling pretty babies.

Then Kiah was born. He was sick - for a long time. Shaye stepped into the big sister role and didn't hate her brother anywhere near as much as we'd thought she would. He was a placid baby and she adored him.

When she was eighteen months old, we bought a property in Toodyay and started building a house. We thought it would be a good place to bring up a child. I have many cute photographs of Shaye growing up - as more brothers and a sister were born, she looked after them and grew slightly bossy. Its hilarious now, that as an adult she can point and command and her much taller brothers will leap to do her bidding. Terrifying girl.

Eventually we got married, and Shaye was our flower girl.

Shaye grew up and grew marginally less terrifying. We were very proud of her when she started university - she graduated last year with a double degree in journalism and media studies. Still proud - she grew up without the benefits of a privileged life, and therefore learned to make her own way in the world. Shaye got a job at 14 at a roadhouse to pay for her own clothes (and sometimes school uniform)as we struggled to give her a great education on a tight budget - she worked her way through school then worked her way through university. Not an easy path to take, especially as a disadvantaged regional student. She's still working - she has a dedication and determination about her that others admire. There's no doubt that Shaye will get wherever she wants to go.

We watched the kid grow into a stunningly beautiful young woman with immaculate taste in clothes and fairly good taste in boyfriends (we love you, Dom). Shaye had a million friends 'back home' in the country, including, to our amusement, the 'footy boys' - like having a dozen big brothers.

I have a million photos of family events like this. Monopoly wars. You can't tell, but Shaye is cheating. Dom is playing fiercely against Jake, and on it goes. Interminably, with Shaye usually either spectacularly winning or going completely bankrupt.

We originally intended to call Shaye 'Skye', and she knows why we didn't :D I'm not the kind of mother who likes cheesy platitudes and Hallmark cards, but this quote has always embodied what we wanted for the Favourite Child.

What I wanted most for my daughter was that she be able to soar confidently in her own sky, whatever that may be.

-- Helen Claes

Twenty six years - we are very proud that you are soaring confidently, child of ours. Keep on flying <3

'That's what you get when you don't wear shoes.' Shaye Connor, 1991


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