this (less-trav­elled) life

The Weekend Australian - Review - - LIFELINES - Louise El­liott Re­view wel­comes sub­mis­sions to This Life. To be con­sid­ered for pub­li­ca­tion, the work must be orig­i­nal and be­tween 600 and 650 words in length. Sub­mis­sions may be edited for clar­ity. Send emails to this­life@theaus­tralian.com.au

DUR­ING the past few years an ex­ten­sion has been made to the Ade­laide tram line and the jour­ney can now start at the Entertainment Cen­tre on Port Road and travel through the city and sub­urbs to Glenelg.

Fer­gus and I catch the tram from Stop 1 at Green­hill Road and he chooses Glenelg, long a favourite, or more re­cently the Entertainment Cen­tre. Our rou­tine is pretty fixed. Fer­gus ar­tic­u­lates where he wants to go and goes to the cor­re­spond­ing side to wait ex­cit­edly, with re­minders to stay be­hind the white line. He con­sults his cut-out tram pic­ture and stresses he wants it to be a red one (the new ones).

I counter that with the warn­ing it could just as eas­ily be a yel­low one. Fortunately, he will get on what­ever the colour. The only time I have seen him baulk was when the Glenelg tram was over­flow­ing with pas­sen­gers as it was a warm day and ev­ery­one was head­ing to the beach. That time the tram driver stopped the tram, made her way to the door and asked us if we wanted her to find us a seat.

I love the ser­vice on the tram. We passed on the seat, but this in­ter­ac­tion gave Fer­gus the courage to board.

Fer­gus has firm ideas on where to sit, usu­ally at the front be­hind the driver. He also likes stand­ing but needs to be re­minded to hold on to a pole. At ei­ther des­ti­na­tion we dis­em­bark, then watch with en­thu­si­asm as that tram leaves and the next tram ar­rives. We hop on this next tram ready for the re­turn trip.

I pre­fer Glenelg as a des­ti­na­tion as we can go to the sea (we are up to light pole No 5 along the jetty). Fer­gus is al­ways wary the tram will go without us watch­ing, so we don’t spend a long time. Also, the con­duc­tors ride the trams to Glenelg on week­ends. Fer­gus has a tram pin from one of them. Some of them re­mem­ber his name. They of­ten stop and chat. We al­ways feel wel­come. Soon the con­duc­tors will be gone from the trams and I will miss them. The gen­eros­ity of spirit they have dis­played to Fer­gus and me has en­cour­aged me to per­sist in this week­end rit­ual of ours.

Fer­gus, like many small boys, was al­ways fas­ci­nated with buses, trams, trains and trucks. We be­gan with watch­ing buses and trains at the corner near our house. Grad­u­ally we pro­gressed to catch­ing a bus, then fol­lowed with trains and trams. Af­ter years of learn­ing the pub­lic trans­port week­end rou­tine we are com­fort­able on the jour­ney.

If we have been to the Entertainment Cen­tre we will get off at the train sta­tion and catch the Belair train home. This train leaves on the hour on Satur­days so we have to get the tim­ing right. I think this is why Fer­gus has cho­sen the Entertainment Cen­tre des­ti­na­tion more of­ten re­cently. A tram and a train on the same day is pretty spe­cial. This is capped off with his fa­ther col­lect­ing us from the train stop. We could walk, but it just doesn’t have the same drama.

Dur­ing the week Fer­gus re­minds me reg­u­larly that on the week­end we will be go­ing on the tram, train or bus. He is more non-ver­bal than ver­bal, but can ar­tic­u­late th­ese words read­ily enough. His bed is an odd as­sort­ment of cur­rent favourite things but in­vari­ably will have the lat­est tram, train or bus cut-out from the in­ter­net.

When con­fronted with a chal­lenge (most things can be fairly chal­leng­ing), he asks to be re­as­sured that at least on the week­end we can get a tram, train or bus and then all will be well in his world.

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