Each of us has a different place and time when we thought life was wonderful and life would go on like that forever. For some it was the courtship, some the early marriage, some the space after the kids had flown and they were able to travel and do the things they had always wanted to do. For Ray and I it was a period when our life was comfortable with the mortgage paid off, the house reasonably fit for the family we had brought back to our home town after ten and a half years away, all teenagers then. For a couple of years all our kids were in high school and had found friends at last and were settled. They had been quite unsettled a couple of years before when we had moved back home to the coast as they had no friends. But it was back to the beach in summer and sport in winter.
The house we returned to was too small so we used what little money we had to extend it. We were all ten years older than when we left it and we no longer fitted into it's proportions. Looking around now I can see where we made the short cuts but then it seemed fine...and big enough was good enough. Now thirty years later the house is not what it was and would take a lot of work to make it anything like the house we had planned it to be. Ray was a carpenter so had the skills to keep on building on and fixing up as needed. Of course the stroke in 1990 changed that. He was off work for six months so that altered our capacity to save and he did go back to work for 8 years but on a lower wage. But the tiredness and the other health issues took their toll and the enthusiasm to work on the house had gone. Then came the bad years from 1999 and now four years since he died I am looking around and wondering what I am doing here in this old house which needs so much work done on it.
At the time we moved back here we were back closer to family and managed to pick up again with some of Ray's many cousins and so there were places to go with welcoming families to share our lives with once again. We also found some new friends, couples who had retired to the Central Coast and who had found their way to our church, four couples between them redefined what the Church Fellowship should be like and incorporated us all into groups that found interesting discussion topics and fun things to do. Of course, being a church we started serious groups like Bible Studies but also had card nights and other fun nights, all good and pure and holy but full of lots of fun and laughter. If I look through my photo albums I can see all those dear faces, ageing as the years passed but still kindly and interested in us as individuals and as a family. What a difference they made in our lives.
Of course inevitably that all changed as we lived different lives as Ray and I were in our forties and fifties and still working. But,these new friends being ten or more years older and now fully retired were able to travel and they started travelling as part of their after retirement plans and so some of that fellowship diminished. But I look back on that time and for various reasons call it "Camelot". It was for me a kind of preview of what I thought life would be like for us in our 60s and 70s. Of course our kids would be grown up and maybe no longer at home but we could buy that bigger car and caravan and like our friends were doing back then plan our trip around Australia. It may be nostalgia but I still see it all in rosy glow. I think I still have some of the postcards they sent us as they traveled. And of course because of Ray's long term illness we didn't do that around Australia tour and I still mourn for the loss of that.
Now I am trying to find my own "Camelot" but there is no map for what the single lady does to come back to Camelot again. We have a vastly different view of what it means to have fun nights, the card games, the nostalgia nights, the picnics and day events no longer seem to be part of what a church does. There is no longer a possibility to live out what that dream would be like for me. The dream of a settled but flexible lifestyle that I once thought was the retirement years for Ray and I where we traveled a bit, visiting friends along the way and came home to good friends who would want to spend some time with us. Looking back you can't really replay that in our generation can you? That was the 80s and early retirement on a large pay out was what made that lifestyle possible for a lot of the people we knew who retired back then.
I have settled somewhat into the single space now...well that is not really true..maybe I should say I am trying to fit into that space. I wish I had more friends my own age that were in the same situation I am in now but most of my good friends are still part of a couple. Most of them in their retired years are doing some kind of travelling, more doing the trips overseas than the traditional round Australia tour. Of course I don't have the resources either, Ray was ill for so long that the finances we'd planned to spend on our retirement just aren't there. I could manage a few short trips but that would be all really. You have to cut your coat to suit your cloth as my Mum used to say. And that is true for a lot of widows and widowers,many who looked after a partner with long term or expensive illness and are now living a much more restricted life than they had planned for their retirement.
So my Camelot is more of a pipe dream than a reality. I have to do more with less. It is coffee rather than picnic lunches, watching travelogues in the movies rather than doing the trips myself most of the time. Of course there are exceptions like the quick trip I did to Hawaii, I have lots of pleasant memories of those few days. And somehow I don't seem to get into those groups who have those fun nights together any more, maybe my single status has something to do with that though back then we did include the single ladies and the widowed gentlemen but of course it was a different age, in some ways less selfish maybe. And after that time there were more separations, so less couples retired together and people no longer stayed in the one place, to build up a community takes a while. For sure in those thirty years so many things have changed.
I wonder if it is possible in our lives as they are now to recreate those good times we expected life to be like? I hate to settle for less than my dreams but I live in a world that is very different to what I had planned it to be as we all do here. And I am not sure I basically have to energy physical or emotional now that all that would take. It is food for thought anyway.