This is a story about true love, and what it means to me.
Not the love between families (although I have developed a strong appreciation for that as I get older), but as you will find out, I am talking about the love between two people who were made for each other. Peta-Jayne, my sister….and her husband, Simon.
I want to take you back…to when I was just a young little, Hayden.
I am fortunate enough to have a few siblings. Two sisters, and one brother.
- Big Brother Glen (15 years older),
- Big Sister, Peta-Jayne aka “PJ” (13 years older, and the subject of this story),
- Another Big Sister, Emma (2 years older).
Some people would call it a ‘big’ family, But I guess it never really felt ‘big’ as, during my life it was basically just my Mum, Emma and I living under the roof (at least from the age of 8 onward).
But looking back now, I was pretty lucky to have siblings.
PJ was your typical ‘cool’ older sister. She had her own car, always had the best gaming consoles, and always had her own house to live in…!
She was always there for me when I needed a chat and knew all the cool tricks (like when she taught me how to stop irritating mozzie bites by simply making a cross over it with your finger nail. Or the time she bought me a ‘magic kit’ for my 10th birthday that I used to perform countless (poor) magic acts in front of patient family and friends.
As much as I love PJ, there is one trait that she has never managed to shake. For as long as I can remember, PJ has always been ‘the late one’.
Christmas mornings as an 8 year old were agonising…! Having to wait until 11am to open your presents was practically unbearable…! *first world problem, I know*
Part of the Wilson family tradition was that ‘Santa’s’ presents could be opened when we first woke up, but family presents must be opened as a family….in what we called “The Tree”.
As you might have guessed from the name, The Tree is where we would all sit around the Christmas tree, and one by one, ‘Santa’s Little Helpers’ (which was the responsibility of the youngest, aka Emma and I), would distribute one present at a time, watch the receiver open it, and move on to the next.
My sister, Emma, and I used to love the tree, but used to HATEEE waiting for PJ. In fact, we used to try and get our mum to tell PJ to come at 9, that way when she was an hour late, she would rock up perfectly on time. It still didn’t seem to work…!
Looking back now, it really does not matter, and I should have been grateful to have presents…but when you’re 8, you don’t think like that. Instead of focusing on the gathering, the food and time off school….you’re much too concerned on what surprises await underneath that brightly coloured wrapping paper!
All in all though, PJ is the best sister you could hope for, and if that’s the only bad thing I can say about her (which it is), then it shows you how amazing she is.
From the age of 18, she had moved out and wanted to explore. Even though there was a perfectly good house in the same town that we currently lived in, with 4+ bedrooms, she wanted her own freedom and independence.
Which was great for Emma and I, as it was always a great adventure to go around to one of PJ’s houses and spend some time with her.
Even one time when she was living in Melbourne, my sister Emma and I came up to see her…! When you’re young, and from Shepparton, anything in Melbourne is cool!
But living out of home is expensive…especially in Melbourne. Sometimes you need to just make ends meet.
One thing I have always admired about PJ, is her ability to work hard. This is a trait that was instilled to us early on by our parents and still sticks with us today.
But as a lot of you will know, you can be the hardest worker, but unless you’re in the right room, no-one will notice you.
To get by, she cleaned apartments, worked in the hospitality industry, had random odd jobs and also worked in a fine wares shop.
PJ was the first to admit she wasn’t really sure what she wanted to do, and for 5 years she lived like this. Supporting not only herself, but her partner at the time. Which is a an amazing effort considering Melbourne’s rental prices and the general wages of an ‘unskilled’ worker.
After her exposure in the hospitality industry, she decided that she was going to proceed down the path of studying to be a chef. So she enrolled in a course in Melbourne (where she was living at the time) and for the first time, she finally felt like she had clarity in what she wanted to do for a living.
After successfully graduating only a week before, PJ wanted to show off her new culinary skills to the family. We all agreed it would be terrific and expose us to some new flavours. So Mum, Emma and I, got excited about the exotic dish she was going to prepare for us. Given we were your typical Australian family, dinner was generally around 6pm-7pm. So when 7:15pm rolled around and PJ hadn’t even finished prepping the veges…we got a little worried.
In the end, I think we finally sat down at around 9:30 to enjoy the meal. And from memory the veges might still have been a little underdone, but full points for trying! and by that stage, we would’ve eaten anything.
Ultimately though, the late nights, split shifts and the overall environment weren’t for her. She decided that her full time career would not be in the hospitality industry, and so the journey continued.
In 1998, our father passed away. It was a sad time for all of us, and to help ease the pain, my Mum decided she was going to take Emma and I on a 5 week trip of a lifetime to America.
We started off on the West Coast for an 18 day tour of California, Nevada, Utah and Mexico. We visited places like Hollywood, San Francisco, Universal Studios, Disneyland, Vegas, The Grand Canyon and more. After that, we would fly to beautiful Colorado and stay with some friends for another 14 days before heading home.
Although given my age, and what was going on at the time, it was hard to appreciate the situation at the time….plus I was only 8, so how could I enjoy Vegas?!
To help with taking care of Emma and I during the trip, my mum thought it would be a good idea to invite along PJ for the West Coast portion the trip.
BZZZ. Big Mistake.
You know the effect of Kerosene on fire? Imagine that + 10 sticks of dynamite, a bunch of gun powder and a couple of nuclear missiles. OK, maybe not that bad, but PJ and I fought. A lot.
Everywhere we would go it would seem we would disagree. What was supposed to be a break ended up being stressful for us all!
What I wasn’t taking into perspective at the time was that PJ had been away from her long time boyfriend. This is before Facebook, before mobile phones and before we had emails, and the only way she could communicate with him was via public phones and an international ‘calling card’ which at the time were very costly. I couldn’t empathise at the time, because I had no concept of ‘love’, so had no idea how hard it must have been.
We continued to fight day in, day out, until finally, a couple of days before she was scheduled to leave for home anyway, Mum decided it would be best for her to go home early. Given how much she missed her boyfriend and how much her and I were fighting, she was glad to get a return flight on the plane.
To be perfectly honest, it wasn’t until I turned 18-19 that I truly started to appreciate what an amazing sister she is and just how much she did for Emma and I when we were growing up.
Babysitting, Giving my mum a break, Inviting us over for nights away from home, taking us out to the shops, all of these things contributed to my development and also had positive impacts on those around us.
But life is funny like that, often times you’re so stuck in your own bubble, you don’t realise these things.
A few years after the USA trip, PJ and her previous partner went their separate ways. In a way we were happy for her, because all of the stories she had described of that boyfriend indicated she was carrying him. To me though, he was a nice guy and I didn’t know why they broke up. Looking back now, she really did carry him and it was for the best as you will read further along.
Having been through a couple of breakups myself, I can now appreciate how hard it must have been. Unfortunately it is just a part of life for those who play the love game and as anyone who has had their heart broken will know, breakups are one of the hardest things you will ever go through. Nothing takes the pain away, besides time. Which none of us have control over.
So for the next couple of years, PJ had to ‘find herself’. When you’re with someone for a significant amount of time (for PJ, it was a huge chunk of her entire life), you become very adapted to that person. Then once they’re no longer in your life, you tend to feel lost.
We saw PJ struggle at times, (understandably), but were always there to support her. She was so tough during those times. I often think of her strength when I am having a down moment and it helps lift me up.
Then in 2009, PJ came to us with some big news. She told us how she had met someone. ‘Simon’ was his name, and he was a backpacker from the UK. He was traveling around, exploring our country and working random farming jobs. PJ had met him one night in one of Tatura’s pubs, which is especially funny, because that particular night she wasn’t even going to go out….her friend dragged her out! (often the best love stories have the best starts though).
She came over, made the announcement, and you could just see how happy she was. After a couple of down years, it was so great to see our big sister happy again.
There was just one problem. Simon had returned to the UK due to a very unwell relative.
So at this point in time, none of us had seen ‘Simon’.
It was a bit of a running joke that ‘Simon’ was made up. Of course we knew PJ wasn’t crazy…but it was funny to make a joke of it at the time.
Every time we made the jokes however, she assured us that he was coming back. Such confidence in her voice too. By this time, emailing was popular, and calling internationally was a lot cheaper. So she would often tell us what he was up to and various stories from back in the UK.
Sure enough, 6 months on, there he was, in the flesh.
We finally met, Simon.
A slightly built guy, with a nice nature and general kindness about him. He was well educated, had no problem finding a job over here in Australia, and most of all, made PJ happy.
By this stage, PJ was working for a reputable manufacturing company as a logistics manager. She was gaining a lot of experience and her workplace was more than happy to put her through various educational training.
Things were really looking up and we were all happy for her.
In 2010, after a few of years dating, PJ and Simon decided to tie the knot.
I still remember the phone call from my mum telling me that they were going to get married, and I remembered feeling so happy for them.
You just know it’s a forever thing.
Here was the deal though, because they’d been living in Australia for some time now, it was only fair to Simon’s family, that the wedding occurred halfway across the world back in the UK……..in the middle of Winter!
Initially I was unsure if I could make it to the wedding….I mean I had to go, but the timing wasn’t perfect..sounds selfish, which I was at the time, but those were my thoughts.
- I had just started my first proper job after finishing University, and I had to let them know that in a couple of months time I would need four weeks off work…!
- I was big into my fitness at the time, and didn’t want to take time away from that.
- I was concerned about how I could afford it? Surely these holidays cost $10k plus!
Fortunately, work gave me time off, I got over myself and realised 4 weeks wasn’t going to destroy my hard work in the gym, and my dear ol’ Mum helped me with the airfare meaning all I needed to worry about was the accommodation and spending money.
Turns out, it was one of the best trips of my life and had a huge impact on how I saw and appreciated love.
I told a few of my friends about the wedding, including one of my best mates, Winchy. Winchy is a pretty special friend. I’ve known him since I was 4 and is just someone you can always count on. Given how long Winchy has been in my life, my entire family knew and loved him (in fact the running joke is that he is the true golden child of our family), so he too got an invitation to the wedding.
I floated the idea with him, and without hesitation, he jumped at it.
Awesome….we were off to the UK for PJ and Simon’s wedding!
This would be my first international trip since USA (where I was too young to do anything independently), so I was excited about the adventure. The best thing was, Winchy had already spent 12+ months over in the UK after we finished high school so he knew a bit about that part of the world.
We decided that as well as going to the wedding, we would turn this into a great little Euro Trip.
One day describe the Eurotrip in detail to you, including how we nearly missed the Wedding, but for today I want to keep it about PJ.
The day of the 28th of December 2010 came and we were all excited to be in Simon’s hometown, which is a few hours out of London. Given the wedding was nearly 17,000km from Melbourne, the Aussie guests were few and fair between. It was Emma & her Partner (also from UK so he doesn’t really count), My Mum & her Partner, Winchy & myself, as well a couple of PJ’s closest friends from when she was growing up who had made the trip over.
I was in the bridal party, so I was to wear a 3 piece suit. I was pretty grateful for that considering it was minus 2-3 degrees at the time. I tried the suit on the morning of the wedding at Simon’s parents and all was good. I grabbed all of my stuff, including the suit, and left to check into our hotel for the night. Given Winchy and I had been staying in Hostels for the past 3 weeks around Europe, we were fully appreciative of anything better than a $20 mattress and even more grateful not to have to lock our luggage each night.
The thing was, even though I had remembered to bring my bags, including my suit for the wedding, I realised I had left my wedding shirt in the bathroom..!
The wedding was in less than 3 hours and I didn’t even have a shirt, nor did I have a way of contacting Simon’s parents…..!
Luckily, trusty ol’ Mumzena (mum) had picked it up and was on the way. Crisis solved.
We relaxed for a little bit before all getting ready, and making our way to the Church.
First came the ceremony, where the beautiful bride, PJ, who must have been FREEZING given her dress and the weather, but I’m sure that was the last thing going through her mind. She walked down the aisle, with my Mum having the honours of ‘giving her away’. It made me so happy to see all of my favourite people in one room. We all knew this was the right decision.
I was so happy for them. They were, and still are, perfect for each other.
After the Church proceedings and a few dozen photographs, we made our way to the reception venue. It was here that my enlightened ‘love’ experience was finally fully seen.
In Western culture, it is tradition that the Bride and Groom have ‘The First Dance’. Now, I don’t proclaim to be some kind of tough guy and never cry….but the truth is, I rarely cry. I feel sadness, and have emotions etc, but rarely do the water works come.
But when my big sister, and the love of her life started dancing to what I knew was the first song that was playing when they met in that Tatura pub, my eyes welled.
True, 100%, honest, love.
I have never been happier for another person, and it remains to be one of the happiest moments in my life.
There was my big sister who 5 years before, was lost, in a job she didn’t enjoy, without a partner, and a lack of direction….
Now, she had a great job, was stable & settled and now had a brand new loving husband who we knew would treat her right.
Moving forward 5 years beyond the wedding, they have just started a new chapter in their lives after recently moving to the UK with their two wonderful little boys.
Thank-you for being such a nice sister PJ. I look up to you every day and wish you and your little family all the best.
p.s the mozzie bite trick still works, thanks PJ, love ya heaps!