That's a wrap: Mama says goodbye

FRIDAY night was a blast.

At the Bridge surrounded by friends and colleagues made in my 15 years at the Riverine Herald.

Saturday it still felt pretty damn good — except for that headache when I emerged about 2pm.

Now, though, a few tears are rolling down my cheeks because this is the last time I will be talking to all of you about my favourite subject: me.

John Lennon knew how it felt when he wrote “life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”.

When I arrived in Echuca-Moama from Queensland all those years ago, I didn’t actually have any plans beyond a new life as a wife — and mother to be — and finding a job in journalism to justify those three years at university and my beloved HECS debt.

A job I got in 2006 because I turned up in front of then editor Annie Gregson just as one staff member was going on maternity leave.

I even got her chair — and was pregnant three months later (when two others also conceived while occupying the chair the rest of the women in the newsroom immediately burnt it lest it prove contagious).

Getting back to life and plans, if I wrote about the next four years as a book no-one would believe it.

It went something like this: pregnant and daughter Ayla born; suffered a stroke; pregnant with Maya; split up with husband (I was 10 weeks’ pregnant); Maya born; cancer.

In other words, it was four years of heaven and hell; maybe one day it will make a book, you never know.

But it did not define me — beyond being a mother.

Children are a great impetus for surviving; for doing your best to not end up in the proverbial loony bin.

So now John Lennon will have to excuse me, because I did have other plans.

From being a mother who would always try to be there to being a success in my career. I was Ivy, hear me roar.

Three editors down the track, I found the one who I had written into those plans, one who would not just let me go after the stories I knew were there, but who actively encouraged me to go further.

If my beautiful girls were the turning point in my life, editor number four — Andrew Mole — was the turning point in my career.

And helped set me up for this next phase in my future — even though, damn Lennon, it wasn’t something I planned, it was something that just happened.

After being guided through several award-winning years and promotion to chief of staff and deputy editor, good old AMole abandoned us all and left.

Within a year the fantastic team we had built was gone — and I am the last member of that team and now I am gone too.

Making this column my very last contribution to the paper I have loved being part of — you will recall the tears mentioned above.

And it could not have had a better name; as I publicly confessed the mayhem my life could be.

Such as leaving my car running for four hours in its park while I went to work; or leaving little to the imagination of a crowd of 300 during an ill-timed on-stage wardrobe malfunction during an Echuca-Moama Theatre Company play.

Along with the good news and funny stories in my chaotic, crazy, event-filled life as a happily divorced single mother.

I got to shamelessly boast (and whinge) about my kids, celebrate their achievements (and misadventures) and laugh about their hilarious antics over the years.

Which is the thing I will treasure most.

Time has a way of diminishing these memories but now I have them for ever. In my own special collection.

However, at least one person will be happy to see the end of Mama — my poor unfortunate daughter Ayla; who has reached the age where appearing in her mother’s column for anything, good, bad or ugly is just not cool.

And while the curtains will close on my career at the Riv, another one opens.

This time at Goulburn-Murray Water, where I am putting my toes into the water, as it were, of the corporate world of water as a media advisor, in what we journos like to call ‘the dark side’.

The change may take a little getting used to; and I’m sure at least a few weeks not to wake up to the sound of a chopper overhead or drop everything when there’s a siren to check the VicEmergency app for a fire, or accident.

I’ve covered pretty much everything you can imagine in my journalism career — from births to deaths and celebrations to tragedies.

I’ve seen the best and worst of humanity.

I’ve sat for hours on the banks of the Murray River while divers looked for the body of a toddler whose mum had drowned him.

I’ve covered murders, armed robberies, car crashes and naked men jumping across roofs.

I’ve seen the devastation caused by floods, fires and road trauma.

I’ve interviewed a 106-year-old man whose memories of his childhood and working life were better than mine.

I’ve listened to victims of domestic and sexual violence whose lives will never be the same because of their abusers.

I’ve sat with parents who have lost their children to stillbirth, disease, accidents or just being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I’ve written about the bizarre, the unbelievable, the heartwarming, the shocking and the mundane.

And I’ve loved every minute of it.

To me, being a journalist is more than a job. To be able to write people’s stories for a living is a privilege.

Which is why journalists need to be valued more.

We are society’s storytellers — and record keepers. And those stories will live on in the history books of tomorrow.

So value your regional journos and the newspapers they write for.

Without them, who would provide you with the local news and, more importantly, give people a voice when they need it?

If you don’t support your local papers, they will die and your voices will be lost.

One of the first things I am doing this week (after I have hopefully recovered in time to start my new job today) is get myself a subscription to the Riverine Herald.

At just $4 a week ($2 for the first 12 weeks), I will know what’s going on in my community.

But enough advertising, I am way over my word limit and am out of time anyway (and almost out of tissues).

Thank you for all your support and feedback (the good and not-so-good).

And as I head off into the sunset; among all the presents and beautiful words from bosses and colleagues, I got one last unexpected — but not uncommon — gift.

Another bloody parking ticket from Campaspe Shire.


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