In the early-morning-bound-to- be-a-scorcher-later-on sun, Soapie turned to me and said, “ A man’d be a mug, Blue. A mug.” Words remembered from over 20 years ago…
They all rushed to the corner of the shop where the keys to the local hall were kept on a set of nails that had probably seen fifty years or more of service.Two kids burst out of the shop and our three boys followed at a gallop. Traffic was not a threat, so we strolled behind, catching up ten years of life: you don’t drop in to Walpeup because you happen to be passing through.
The kids flung back the doors of the hall and the bright light slanted into the dark building. Again the kids led the way, their footsteps rapping against the polished wooden floors, their voices clamouring in the silence.
“I did this.. Grandma helped me… Bi-Centennial project… Mum show em your bit…”
Then with a look from their mother they fell quiet, stood back and we all glued our eyes to a 2 metre by 4 metre, stunning woollen tapestry which depicted layers of the history of the town. In the next 20 minutes or so the children explained bits of history and the tapestry making process, and their joy at having helped create such a wonderful work was effervescent; it cascaded and bubbled out of them. They glowed with authority as they told us who did which bits, how the tricky bits were done and how some ladies did the really hard bits- naming every neighbour and relative who had been involved.
It was outside that Soapie turned to me and said, “ A man’d be a mug, Blue. A mug. Never seen them so proud and involved, and owning of the place. And I missed it all. I missed the chance to be part of something …” And words failed him. “ Too … , thought it was for…”. He shook his head sheepishly and stared into his hands.
“A man’d be a mug,” he repeated as we followed the sounds of kids let loose on a quiet Mallee morning.
And so it is with community projects. Whether it be a tapestry that lives in a local hall, or bollards, or mosaics or sculptures, or community performances, it is in the conceiving, the doing, in the connecting that joy is found, that once in a lifetime experiences are shared, that something original is created, and that pride and belonging are nurtured.
And those who don’t jump on board for the ride? Who can’t see the value, who carp and heckle and block?
“ A man’d be a mug,” said Soapie.
By Jeannie Haughton