The Spice Girls greeted us in Brisbane. At least, as soon as the plane landed and the “seat belts on” light went off and the cabin lights went on, the radio started playing, and I heard those sonorous sounds of the 90’s:
I’ll tell ya what I want
What I really really want
So tell us whatcha want
Whatcha really really want...
Ok, so "Wannabe" was always a stupid song. But it welcomed us to Australia.
|I figured you'd rather see a sunset than the Spice Girls.|
“Awh, the Spoice gihls uh roff!”
I swiveled my head and saw a dryly grinning steward. I liked that guy. Soon the power was restored and things went on as usual.
Speaking of things you might rather see than the Spice Girls:
|"Friendship never ends" - The Spice Girls|
After passing through customs, the airport corridor forked and we were forced to choose between a sign that said “Pilots” or “Airline employees” or something on the right, and a huge, glamorous display of liquor on the left. Couldn’t see another door anywhere. The lady in front of the liquor display saw Mom and me looking confusedly around and pointed through her store. Apparently, we had to run the gauntlet to get out of the airport.
“How’d you know [we were wondering where to go]?” I asked her.
“Jist a woild gies,” she said, smoiling charmingly.
Soon we met a car rental employee whose English was hard to make out (it wasn’t his first language, and an Aussie accent to boot made it a little tricky for us). Eventually he said something condescending, as if we were a bit slow to not be understanding him, which irked me a bit. We were trying to wade through his perhaps oily attempts to upsell us when he made the comment. My mom brokered peace and settled on a higher rate than we probably wanted for insurance (which we hadn’t been told about when we’d booked the car in advance), then told me not to let it bother me. It wasn’t worth it. It’s easier to write about now since I got Qantas to revoke his VISA.
|(I'm actually a conservative, but I thought this would be funny.)|
Actually, the rental company asked later about our experience and that led to things smoothing over. Much calmer by then, we still weren’t sure how to put it and the manager insisted on a true report. I said the guy probably shouldn’t suffer any sort of punishment, but just a tip that his tone could be gentler might improve people’s experience. That was right before we left Brisbane to Cairns (where the next car we’d booked was unexpectedly upgraded to a chartreuse muscle car, perfect for navigating jungles and mountains near beaches), but that comes later in the story.
The sturdy wood door of the mission home—headquarters—opened, but no one stood behind it. To the right, a cute lady with a silver bob haircut and twinkling eyes appeared, wearing a nametag that said “Sister McSwain” and holding a video camera. My mom turned her head to the left where a radiant face framed with dark blonde hair appeared—Sister Snow, Malissa, the littlest of her children, from whom she’d been an ocean away for about a year and a half.
“Mom!” Malissa said, in a tone that said happiness and relief and something so sweet there were tears. Mom didn’t say anything, she just cried and took Malissa in. Malissa beamed with her eyes closed, holding Mom tight, leaking tears down her cheek.
It’s quite a sight, the reunion of an empty nest’s guardian and the last and littlest bird to leave it. I didn’t see Mom’s face for awhile, but I’m sure it mirrored Malissa’s. They have a similar beauty—people commented on it all through Australia, how they resembled each other—and similar spirits, sweet and caring.
I wasn’t sure I should have come, thought maybe this was supposed to be just a trip for the two of them, but Malissa sweetly beamed and hugged me too, and later in the car she turned back from the passenger seat to take my hand and say, “I’m glad you’re here.” She always gets whatever she wants,” I’ve said many times, in reference to getting to serve in Australia for example, “but she’s so sweet no one can resent her for it.”
Despite an inevitably busy schedule, President and Sister McSwain nonetheless took the time to welcome us to their home, talk to us about Malissa and her good work and influence, and give us tips on enjoying our trip. The welcome occurred largely in their living room—a sunken room with a vaulted ceiling that had clean grey couches and a hearth with a beautiful picture over it—Carl Bloch’s famous painting called “The Rich Young Ruler.”
In it, the Savior calls the attention of a
|The truly conservative--and liberal--candidate.|
President McSwain had made his money in the gas and oil industry, which he’d worked in over in Roosevelt—eastern Utah. He was probably well off himself, like most mission presidents—to drop all business affairs for three years to simply serve, one has to be well-situated. It illustrates Jacob 2:18-19 for me, how if we find the kingdom of Christ, thereafter if we seek for riches, it will be with the intent to do good. It’s neat to me that he was an example of what he was trying to get his missionaries to be.
Sister McSwain might have impressed me even more. She was sweet, energetic, and caring—things that are tremendous when you actually encounter them, although as a description they might not mean much, since those words are too often and irresponsibly used. The way she took my hand and looked at me seemed to recognize my worth and affirm it. It mattered to me. She didn’t know me at all, besides as Sister Snow’s older brother, but she cared. I think she would have whoever I was. When she learned about our tangled flight plans, she offered to have someone bring Malissa’s luggage to the airport to meet us, so she could take a simple travel bag for the next three weeks. It was an unexpected offer to sacrifice on our behalf in a very helpful way. More movingly, it was a sweet, energetic, and caring gesture.
After dropping off our stuff at our lodgings, Mom, Liss and I went off in search of dinner. Google Maps told us some cheap Indian food was .3 miles from our place, so we decided to walk.
It was winter dow nundah, what with the season of the southern hemisphere being opposite ours in the north, so though it was only 5 or 6, it was already totally dark. The Big Dipper, North Star, and Little Dipper were all gone as well—or rather, they shone somewhere directly up from below us, on the other side of earth (although it was day there, so northerners wouldn’t have seen them shining). As a coastal city, though, Brisbane’s climate was moderate though, so walking was nice—especially when we caught a whiff of Indian food on the breeze. We joked about following our noses instead of the Google Maps directions to find it, which suddenly struck me as an actually brilliant idea,
|"If in doubt, Meriadoc..."|
Malissa laughed at the delicacy of Mom’s insinuation and the differences between Mom and I, then Mom and I laughed too. Turned out we probably wouldn’t have found the food but I still would’ve liked to try. The food itself was delicious and the menu was excellent, with the chef straight up dissing dishes he didn’t like. Gotta love personality. (Sorry I don’t remember his disses, just that he was anti-sugar.)
Waddling homeward after stuffing ourselves with chicken tikka masala, we detoured to pick up some groceries for breakfast. I asked the cashier how his day was going, and he said it was great until just now when he’d had to call a guy out for shoplifting. Just then, Mom asked me if I had put everything on the scanner and in context it seemed like a gentle hint to cough up whatever I was hiding. I suddenly panicked and worried I actually did have something hidden, and the cashier—a chill guy of about twenty—bobbed his head to one side then the other, seeming to scan my pockets and hands. My hands came out empty and we all laughed and shook our heads.
“’Bye!” we told him.
“Cheers,” he said.