It was a weekend afternoon, the sun well on its way to the horizon, and I was a little kid, maybe eight or nine, and we, the parents and I, had come to visit my Uncle Bill and Auntie Rita.

The thing is, though, when we arrived, and it was time to get out of the car and actually go down the steeply sloping red path (manicured lawn on each side), I could not bring myself to exit the car.

And this wasn’t the first time.

By this point Mum and Dad knew it was pointless arguing with me (tears, yelling, the whole catastrophe), so they got out of the car, deeply not happy with me, and they went down the sloping red path, up on the porch, knocked and were welcomed. I stayed in the car, in the metal box of heat, starting to sweat, and feeling a tangle of sticky, horrible feelings.

I knew I should be with Mum and Dad in the house. And I did love Uncle Bill and Auntie Rita. They were wonderful to me at all times. Uncle Bill was a retired grocer. Auntie Rita, ten years older than Uncle Bill, was my dad’s father’s sister, as far as I could figure out. I mainly remember her kindness and her sweetness.

But I also remember I was deeply weird around them. I would sit in the car for, it felt like, hours. Sometimes I would muster up the nerve to go down the path to their door, and they would welcome me, and I remember they never made a big deal about it. It was as if I had simply been unavoidably delayed, but was here now, and that was lovely.

I remember feeling so shy and very likely anxious that I would burrow in next to my mum on the lounge room couch, and sort-of try to hide behind her.

I would hear about all this later. It was embarrassing, and not right. But I couldn’t help it. It also didn’t have anything to do with Uncle Bill or Auntie Rita. They were lovely. I was blessed with a wonderful extended family. No, the problem was me, and the way I just didn’t much like being with people. Being with people made me feel on edge, not sure what to say or how to just be there with everyone. I was quiet, usually in my own world, even when otherwise present.

From this distance I no longer remember whether I did this anywhere else. I have fleeting fragments of something that might be memory telling me I did do it with some friends of the family, and possibly when we visited my maternal grandparents in Fremantle, but I’m not sure. I might ask my parents what they remember. Certainly they have told me many times that I was a “difficult” kid in many ways. And probably most weird, and most difficult when it came to food and eating.

But that’s a story for another time.

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