I remember my first Easter in the remote Kimberley. I’d been camping with friends the previous week, then driven home to Noonkanbah alone. All other teachers were away as were most of the Aboriginal families - the usual exodus to town or to the coast.
I’d be alone all Easter Sunday, but I didn’t mind that. I could go for a swim in the river, where there would be people to talk to. However, most of the day was spent attaching a disposable gas cylinder to my new little lamp. I must have done something wrong because gas started to pour out of a hole I punctured. Fortunately, it wasn’t lit at the time but to be safe I placed the cylinder in the middle of the road outside my camp to let the gas escape. Then, with much fear and following the instructions carefully this time, I connected my new lamp to the gas cylinder again. It worked!
After that I moved on to my fridge and managed to get that going too. It had been turned off while I was away, to save the bottled gas.
I reveled in my sense of independence. I had a cold fridge, a lamp that worked, and there was water in the hose. That night I would treat myself to the fresh fruit and chocolate Easter eggs I’d bought in the Derby supermarket.
Billie, father of four school kids, appeared holding out the school keys. ‘Did you have a good trip?’ he asked. ‘Any photos?’
I enjoyed sharing them with Billie until his smile vanished. ‘Grasshoppers ate all the school trees’, he said softly. Almost apologetic. There was more. The pumpkins, zucchinis, beans, the basil bush, the coral tree and the spinach were all gone. What could I say? Everyone in the school had worked so hard to make the garden. We’d been planning what healthy meals we’d be able to eat.
‘Sorry,’ Billie said as he left me. His family would be waiting.
My Easter was as ruined as the school garden! Everything had been perfect before Billie came.
I wanted revenge. Weren’t chocolate coated grasshoppers a delicacy in some countries - or was that some other insect? It might be Easter, I thought, but being dipped in hot chocolate was too good a punishment for them.
What could I do to make myself feel better? I opened the fridge and removed an Easter egg. Then I lit my lamp.
Suddenly insects invaded! Black beetles and flying ants swarmed around the light and then moved on to my head, getting in my eyes and ears. When I opened my mouth to curse them, they flew into that too!
That was the last straw. For some reason I began to chuckle at the thought of chocolate coated insects. Get over it, I told myself. Look at the fading sunset. Eat your egg. Eat two. Or three! Then go and have a shower.
I walked down the road to the public shower (I had no bathroom of my own). On the way back I could hear someone playing a guitar. There was laughter in the distance. I passed Billie’s house. His family were cooking yabbies’ on an outside fire. Billie’s wife played a guitar as she sang a slim Dusty song. All the family joined in.
‘Teacher,’ Billie called. ‘Come here. We’ve got plenty yabbies’ for you.’
It was a good Easter after all.