The Story of Rachel

When I was 3 or 4 years old, I lived next door to a girl called Rachel. We were the same age. She used to come over to play from time to time, and I remember having a bath with her once at her house. Our fathers were friends; Rachel's dad was a graphic artist and they used to work on oil paintings in a garage studio. 

Rachel played rough with my toys. She often broke them, and in particular she used to grind the belly of my Fisher-Price aeroplane into the concrete walkway in our backyard. It made me mad.

Our place was enclosed by a wall-of-splinters fence about 2 metres high with a gate set in it. It was all painted mission brown because 1970s. One day Rachel came to the side of the house where I was playing and asked me to open the gate. To spare my remaining toys from destruction, I said no. She ignored me and began climbing over the fence, but not before she asked me to hold her Vegemite sandwich. The sandwich was a single slice of bread that was buttered and Vegemited on one side, a fact that will become relevant a couple of paragraphs from now.

Now, I had been counting on Rachel not making it over the fence - the thing was at least twice her height! But she did. In fact, she did it easily. She even took a big splinter to the hand in the process, and it didn’t seem to bother her at all. I was seriously impressed and a little bit envious.

Despite my admiration for Rachel’s incredible feats of dexterity, strength and fortitude, she was still a threat to my toys. I felt obliged to protect them, which was why instead of putting her Vegemite sandwich back in her hand, I mashed it into her face. It clung to her nose for a second before plopping onto the lawn. She stared at me, shocked, and then burst into tears. I opened the gate and she went home sobbing. It wasn't something to be proud of, and I wasn't, but in my defence I probably hadn’t turned 4 yet. Toddler politics can be brutal. And I doubt Rachel even remembers any of this, anyway, or at least I hope she doesn’t.

This next bit doesn’t have anything to do with this particular story, really, but Rachel’s parents were anti-vaxxers. Rachel gave my mother rubella (German measles) that same year, and it turned into meningitis and encephalitis. Mum almost died. She was herself unvaccinated because she was born in the 40s and the vaccine wasn’t widely available until the late 60s.

I guess if there’s a take-home message here, it’s twofold: don’t screw with my shit, and vaccinate your fucking kids.


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