Connie Starr was always a difficult child.
Her mother, Flora, would tell everyone that when Connie was born she brought the war with her. This wasn’t actually true as Connie was born on the first Monday in April, 1934, at twelve noon exactly – a good five years and five months before Australia was to plunge itself into the Second World War. But Flora knew as soon as Connie entered the world and opened her lungs to scream that there was more chaos in the world than before and that the chaos Connie had brought would work its damage until the day Connie left the world, which she would not do until her ninety-second year – though Connie would spend the last thirty-two of those years declaring to her children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren that this would be her last Christmas.
When Connie came into the world there was no time for Flora to get to the hospital. Her husband Joseph knew that was certain because he’d seen three babies birthed by his previous wife, so when Flora’s waters spilled in a pond on the kitchen floor, he took Flora to their bedroom, where he ripped back the apricot bedspread with chenille tufted rows and tossed it to the floor where it landed in a crumpled knoll, soon followed by the woollen blankets, and Connie was born on their bed, on the lemon flannelette sheets. Within an hour of the waters breaking she had slipped easily into the world, there were no contracted pains, no writhing and crying out. Joseph had been ready with a damp flannel to wipe the sweat from Flora’s brow but there’d been no sweat, and already it was as if Connie had always been there. As if all it took for her to be birthed was for them to notice her.
As they gazed at their newborn, Connie gazed back, not with the milky eyes of a baby but with eyes sky blue that could see things no one else saw. Flora saw her accusing eyes and felt a shiver run through her. But Joseph saw himself in the sky-blue ponds…