Those of you who know me will realise I celebrated a significant birthday this year. Andrew celebrated the same milestone last year. We also clocked up a thirtieth wedding anniversary. A party was called for, invitations sent out. People flew in from interstate. We had a great night. One of the highlights of the evening was Seth’s speech. Here it is for those who couldn’t make it, with my short response.
Naturally I have only heard anecdotes about my parent’s time before marriage. If I trusted them, I would tell you about Andrew Corbett at the Helsinki Olympics. Instead, I thought it best that stick tonight to cold hard fact, verified by those who have lived it.
So here we go.
Quite surprisingly, after being deprived TV until I was 12 years old, I have a soft spot for movies. I therefore can think of no better way to express this speech but with obscure film references. My first thought was to compare Mum and Dad’s marriage to my favourite film trilogy: The Before Sunrise Series. The series follows the life and relationship of two people, Jesse and Celine, over the span of 20 years.
The first movie sees the pair fall in love in Paris.
The second sees them reunite 9 years later in Paris again.
The third sees them married with children
The more I looked, I found that a direct comparison was impossible:
Firstly, Hawthorndene and Vermont are not exactly Paris,
Secondly and most importantly, mum and dad achieved what took the Jesse and Celine twenty years, in the space of twelve months.
So instead myself and my siblings have created our very own film trilogy that better encapsulates the love story that is Andrew and Elizabeth Corbett.
Starring– Andrew Corbett, Elizabeth Corbett, Jack and Phoebe Corbett,
Tagline: Whatever you do…don’t have kids straight away.
Rating: G – minimal drug and alcohol use.
Box Office: limited South Australian release
Synopsis: A young naïve Christian couple fall in love in the hills of Adelaide. A 1980’s South Australian love story.
Things get off to a bad start at the wedding, when the catering runs out. The honeymoon in Robe is tense as Liz realises that the man she has married loves public nudity and outrageous facial hair. Both are studying, Andrew has a landscaping business. After settling into married life, the choice of the Billings method of birth control backfires with the birth of Jack “the guinea pig” Corbett.
Queue montage of chickpeas, no TV – board games, books and singing (Andrew Corbett’s songs), no Christmas presents before church, sugar free birthday cakes, camping holidays. Is this child abuse or inspired parenthood?
Andrew the long haired bearded hippy makes the decision to work for a multi-national oil company. Good thing he does too, because Phoebe “the favourite” Corbett is born shortly after. This is now a relationship of four…
Best moments: Andrew getting a job just before the birth of Jack. The presents from the Grandparents.
Favourite Quote: “We should try the Billings method”
Soundtrack: John Williamson, Andrew Corbett’s back catalogue
Cliff hanger: The Corbett’s move to Melbourne. The first house (paid for by Mobil) is in the inner city. The next, is an hour’s drive from Andrews work, the carpet stinks, rat poo in the oven. Will this make them or break them?
Fiji: there and back again
Starring: Andrew Corbett, Elizabeth Corbett, Phoebe Corbett, Seth Corbett, Naomi Priya Corbett
Tagline: The Corbett lampoons go on an extended vacation
Rating: R – high profanity, nudity, animal cruelty and images of archaic punishment methods
Box Office: Limited Australian release with a cult following in the pacific islands
Synopsis: After the birth of Seth, Melbourne becomes too small a place to keep the Corbetts. This is a family the world must see. (They are also broke and Andrew’s back is buggered). Enter the F word. Fiji. The transition is not smooth. Liz develops the trait of talking in a very slow voice because nobody must be able to understand her. Andrew’s eccentricities become unchecked, culminating in trying to kill the neighbours dogs with coconuts and abusing a confused old man for trying to steal the van. Both done in his underwear. These were the years of plenty – house girl/gardener (babysitter and trips away), resorts. Liz has to join slim life. Sailing, horse riding, embassy balls, more than one ice cream a year, amazing kids parties, sugar and other such novelties, Liz does ladies lunches and runs sea scouts , Dad runs Sunday school music (becomes a legend in the Sunday school circuit).
A new sister enters the family. Can life get any better?
No. All good things must end. The return to Australia is tough, long trips to work, no house girl, no garden boy, winter, have to wear shoes and jocks, plenty of Hungry Jacks.
Getting a new sister and brother
Trips to NZ
Favourite Quote: “Mobil will pay for it”
Soundtrack: Isa Lei, Paul Kelly, Crowded House, Celtic Hymns
Cliff hanger: The Crows win the 1997 premiership, Darren Jarmen kicks six goals.
Sian! The kids are gone
Starring – Andrew Corbett, Elizabeth Corbett, Phoebe McCann, Jack Corbett Seth Corbett Priya Corbett, Vanessa Corbett, Andrew McCann and Monique Corbett with guest appearances from Carine from Holland, Winnie for a ‘Willage’ in the Faroe Islands and Alice from Switzerland and, finally, Biskit “the bloody dog” Corbett.
Tagline – They’re still married? We’re as surprised as they are!
Rating: G – a great film for the family.
Box Office – World-wide release, with record sales in the Faroe Islands, Switzerland and the Netherlands.
Synopsis: living their “young adult’ years with their young adult kids. The Corbett’s settle back into Melbourne life. Mum takes up a variety of hobbies, becomes a Librarian, begins to write a book. Andrew begins to collect a set of hobbies of his own. Hiking, Canoeing, Fly Kites, fishing. The number of recycled art items begins to increase spreading from the chicken coop to his office, to the house. Ladders, chains, corrugated iron chickens. They are doing things backwards. One after the other the kids fly the coop. Half way through shooting the film, the production is halted as the money is all tied up in a government backed tree scheme. Finally, after more than 20 years, the day arrives. Drew and Sian move to Coburg. These are the hipster years, riding bikes, op shop clothes at retail prices, more art work, writing, learning welsh, teaching welsh, music. Andrew flourishing in the recycling era, hard rubbish collecting now socially acceptable (compared to us hiding in the car on the way home from church while dad searched for stuff).
Elizabeth Jane the writer is born.
The exchange students- lots of cul’cha.
Monique. And Vanessa and Andy.
Google has revolutionised family debate (just unfortunate that Google has multiple answers sometimes).
Dad realises his dream of being a grandparent by fifty.
“It’s a big bad world out there”.
“Where are you? Nobody is home, shit’s flying”
What better parents to have. As these films have shown, our parents have taught us a lot:
- Family is important but be an individual.
- It’s a big bad world out there, but it’s also an exciting and interesting place so go out and live.
- Never be afraid to talk about money.
- Music and stories should be cherished.
- Don’t ever stop doing new things.
Whatever happens next, I am sure our days of being cooler than our parents are long gone.
So, here we are. Fifty years old and thirty years married. We have been together longer than we have been apart. And if you do the maths, you will realise we got married quite young. And if you have looked at Phoebe’s photo collage you will also have noticed that we were still children when we started having kids. Were we too young for marriage? Absolutely. Did we know what we were doing? Not at all. Should it have been a disaster? Well, yes, statistically.
But by the grace of God here we are.
I expect if we were clever we would create a formula and write a best selling book something like ‘the seven habits of marrying too young, having kids, struggling financially, and trying to stay sane.” But I’m not sure that there is a formula, apart from loving, living, listening and forgiving. Life is a messy business. And as for the sanity, that’s an illusion (on my part at least).
Yet, here we are.
Tonight, I want to thank Andrew for letting me grow up in my own way in my own time, with all my fads, fancies and obsessive interests. I want to thank our children, Jack, Phoebe, Seth and Naomi Priya for being part of our journey. For our children in law, Ness, Andy and Monique, for loving our children and joining our family. And, of course, our AFS daughters who have enriched our lives. I also want to thank family and friends who have travelled interstate to celebrate with us tonight – Ma and Pa, Willem, Jack, Ness and Charlie, Paul, Rod and Sue Mitchell. Finally to thank each of you for being part of our journey thus far. And for those in Coburg who have more recently become part of the journey. No man is an island. No marriage or family exists in isolation. Your friendship, support, love and laughter have all helped bring us to this point.
We consider ourselves fortunate.