On ANZAC Day a very private ceremony takes place in my backyard. First, I eat an ANZAC biscuit, wash it down with a cup of tea, then march around the yard behind my vintage Victa lawnmower. But this years’ parade will be slightly sadder, because old Victa, like so many ANZAC’s, is no longer with us.
This little ritual began years ago when I decided to mow the lawn while my neighbours were out watching the ANZAC Day parade. I was hoping to hack down my turf without all the old blokes in the street criticising my efforts, but right on cue, my vindictive Victa refused to start, and after I’d finished shouting some very strong adjectives at it, I heard old John laughing.
John was the oldest war veteran in our street, so I was surprised to see him at home on ANZAC Day. Wandering over, I helped myself to some of his bikkies and asked why he wasn’t marching. He poured me a cup of tea, then pointed to three medals sitting in a neat row on his little garden table. Medals he’d earned for acts of bravery he’d spent the rest of his life trying to forget.
He explained that each medal represented a mate who never made it home from the jungles of New Guinea, and every ANZAC Day, he’d sit in his garden, drink a cup of tea, then gently touch each medal and call out his mates’ names. It was the most moving ceremony I’d ever seen.
Afterwards we got old Victa going, and John took it for a lap around my weed infested lawn. “There you go!” he shouted through the fog of thick, blue exhaust smoke, “I did my ANZAC Day march!” Then he toddled back to his garden table where his mates were waiting for him.
Every ANZAC Day since, Victa and I have marched around the yard in remembrance of John, and the many who didn’t make it home. And now my old mower has joined John in that Great Garden in the Sky, New Victa has been conscripted into service.
And after surviving a couple of rounds in the jungles of my backyard, it looks like New Victa has decided to revive another ANZAC Day tradition; the vicious sod is refusing to start.