International Women’s Day

Helen Ruby

It’s 2007…
Being in my fifty seventh year gives me the perspective to look back over my life. I like the label ‘eccentric’ as it applies to me – a grandmother who bought some secondhand Meccano to build a tower of pulleys and bells to be driven by my model steam engine. The grandchildren don’t have television to watch at my cottage.

Identifying with my sisters, or some other women, would be more difficult than comparing my life to a chocolate coated, soft serve ice cream in a ‘V’ shaped cone.

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As I’ve lived, most unconventionally, I’ll tell my story backwards. At present I’m enjoying the chocolate topping. “Violet Cottage” is my home of quality solitude where my writing, gardening, carpentry, restoration, varied projects and invited guests are the reward for my work ‘out there’ in the community.

I am a volunteer with a creditable national organization two days a week and am involved in facilitating a course to teach people how to “live on little” at the Neighbourhood Centre. Money has never been something I’ve had plenty of but I enjoy the challenge of making things out of something that is recycled and managing what I have in my simple, uncluttered lifestyle.

My grandchildren who stay over luxuriate in the quiet, and we enjoy the laughter and loving company of each other.

The creamy soft serve were the last twenty years. I chose a lesbian lifestyle and experienced every fantasy I’ve ever dreamt of. Five committed relationships in that time and I had enough experience to be able to say “I’ve been there and done that”.

After a marriage crisis I took a transitionary leap, living an alternate lifestyle with my first woman lover. The rainbow was our symbol and we lived in harmony with Mother Earth.

One of my partners was a woman I met at a lesbian club in Sydney and we discovered our great grandmothers were sisters. We moved to a property at Bathurst where gardening and writing were my main creative outlets while working part time in town.

During those years I learnt to fly at the age of forty three and this was one of my most exciting achievements.

Travelling with another partner, caretaking spiritual retreats was an adventure filled with miracles and magic. She wanted to work with a woman carpenter and we did plenty of that.

My last partner and I had a significant ceremony of commitment, witnessed by women friends, which was preceded by another string of miracles. That relationship was the “agony and the ecstasy” and if that’s my last lesbian experience then I cannot complain.

My comprehensive, explicit, erotic, poetic journals and artistic photography tell the whole story and have been bequeathed to the JSNWL. This was an important part of my life and I would like to know my story will be appreciated by women of the future. The soft serve is succulent, creamy, smooth and delicious and most of those years were all of that.

The ice cream has been licked into the cone which is in its wholeness. I took the opportunity in my early fifties to matriculate through TAFE, winning the Student Achievement Award in my division. I then went to Southern Cross University where I studied Applied Science and Media. It was a wonderful part of my life, mixing with such a diverse range of people.

The ‘V’ shaped cone is still filled with the delicious soft serve. However it no longer drips and oozes, but is contained. This was the eighteen years of my marriage. “Some Enchanted Evening” was the beginning; conventional wedding and three delightful, healthy children were my reward for being a contented home-mother and ‘good wife’. So I wasn’t complaining about the containment for many adventurous and happy years.

Still going backwards I recall beginnings. The last delicious mouthful of the cone is now soaked and malleable, I lick my fingers with contentment. My three siblings and I had a safe and happy childhood. The Kuringai Chase was our backyard where we explored waterfalls and unpolluted creeks.
We travelled in steam trains. There were milk carts, unsliced bread, ice chests, animals, cubbies, playmates and cousins. Our dear parents were fine examples of a steady, 1950s couple. These all added up to happy memories which were recorded in my autobiography in 1987 entitled “Rarely a Dull Moment”.

So the ice cream is finished but what about the future? Each day I give thanks that I have pursued my dreams, been given adventure and opportunities and taken the risks. My basic spiritual belief of trust in the goodness never waivers as each day offers me a chance to go out into the world and share my day with others, using the gifts and talents I have been given and learnt.

It feels good to be post menopausal and know that I’ve achieved so much, not always in the conventional mould but the way I wanted to do it.

There are still dreams, the strongest being to see my latest manuscript being made into a film called ‘Beyond the Edge’ – it’s how I’ve dared to live.

Story contributed by Helen Ruby.

A story from the Tapestry collection at the Jessie Street National Women's Library.