A friend of mine is turning 80 and his daughter, planning a collective gift, asked me to share a memory of Gerry. I’ve known him since 1976 – 45 years, not yesterday. I thought about my early days at Dalhousie’s Department of Education where we shared office space and often argued on the same side in department political skirmishes.
Then I remembered one of my trips to Australia – I was on sabbatical, in the country for close to three months. Gerry and his family were then living outside Melbourne where he was headmaster of a private school. It was early in the trip when I visited them. Terrific hosts, I was taken to various significant locations you must see when in that part of the country.
One of our stops was in Mornington – at a gallery which showcased contemporary Australian artists. The art was interesting. One particular piece – a large 21″ ceramic plate called out to me:
Bryan Trueman – Ceramic – Gum Trees
I’d have bought it instantly if I could have figured out either how to ship it back to Halifax so it would arrive intact or how to package it so I could carry it as carry-on luggage for the remainder of my travels.
That was Friday afternoon – I left the gallery without the ceramic. However, I wanted to see it again, so late Saturday morning the whole family and I returned to the gallery and I stood in front of the plate and still couldn’t make the purchase. Once more, I left without it.
That evening, Gerry and his wife and I were at a dinner gathering of friends of theirs and everybody at the party knew the plate. There was a lot of conversation about it and encouragement for me to buy the damn thing and then figure out how to travel with it.
So once again, Sunday morning, Gerry took me back to Mornington where I finally bought the plate. The gallery packed it for me in a huge wooden crate – definitely not carry-on baggage.
I took the crate with me the next day when I returned to Melbourne – by car. I was staying with an acquaintance and we discussed alternative ways I might pack the plate so I could travel with it. Finally decided on bubble wrap and a typically Australian woven plastic zippered shopping bag large enough to hold the bubble-wrapped plate.
Next day I ended up at the post office to purchase bubble wrap. Standing in line I starting kibitzing with the woman in front of me. When she learned what I was looking for she invited me to accompany her home – she’d just had a large parcel arrive from England and had a lot of bubble wrap she could give me.
I went with her, had a nice cup of tea, returned to where I was staying, unpacked the crate, rewrapped the plate, put all my lecture notes and study materials in my checked bag (praying my luggage would arrive with me) and headed to the airport. I kept the plate with me as carry-on when I boarded the small plane to Wagga Wagga. I carried the plate with me on each subsequent flight, and I did finally get it back home in one piece.
The Bryan Trueman ceramic hangs in a prominent place in my apartment, and I think of Gerry and that visit to Melbourne each time I glance at it.