Lizzie: “Where are you Martha?”
“I’m on the train from Adelaide to Orange (1130 kms/702 miles)! We’ve stopped at Broken Hill. I’m going to have dinner soon and what’s more, I’m going to have a glass of wine with it!” The voice of my 36 year old niece, almost squeaking with excitement, told me how much she was enjoying the journey. She was on her own, with not a care in the world.
Go back a few years, and the epiphanal moment etched forever in my brain, was walking with 16-year-old Martha, down a street near our home, on our inaugural travel-training mission. Martha was going to learn how to get around independently. I soon realised how ill-equipped I was to guide Martha in negotiating these unfamiliar streets safely.
Martha had come to live with us from her home in country NSW in order to take advantage of the fabulous special education facilities at the local secondary college. In my naiveté, it had not occurred to me to think through the nuts and bolts of how Martha was actually going to get to and from school independently.
So, I thought, it will just take a little time. I’ll teach her how to get the bus. And how to cross the roads (how many are there?) to get to that bus. And where to get off the bus… and then how to get to school, and then how to do it all in reverse. The enormity of the challenge came to me within five minutes of leaving the house.
Martha and I reached our first road to be crossed. It was a complicated junction. Suddenly I was terrified for her. What is the point of saying look to your left? Are you always going to remember to do that? Will you look to your left again after looking to the right and then looking at oncoming cars – do you see there is a blinker on that means they are coming towards you as you are crossing, so look to your left again…
I knew that my fear would soon be imparted to Martha, even though she is the most cup-half-full person I know. It wasn’t that she wasn’t up to the task, it was me.
Fortunately, a friend listened to my wail, and made a reference to a service providing travel-training. Very soon after what must have sounded like a desperate phone call from a madwoman, someone appeared on my doorstep and said “I am here to show Martha how to get around”. “I can also teach you how to travel-train Martha”.