Sunday, July 20, 2008

Randwick Racecourse

World Youth day has been a big part of kids school holidays since they began two weeks ago.

We had our overseas pilgrims, we went to formal and serious Norwegian masses, an "all singing all dancing" youth mass at the local high school, the huge Myuna Bay day of Mass, BBQ and Bush dancing, went to evening choir practises, sat around burning camp fires way beyond the kids normal bed time and took a zillion photos only a small handful of which made it onto the blog here. When we waved goodbye to our pilgrims we took a step back from the next group of WYD activities that were based in Sydney. We felt the kids had experienced enough WYD activities for it to be a memorable event that they would remember as they grow up.

My brother Joe in Sydney asked me a few times would I be travelling down to try to see the Pope as he drove around the city and said different masses. The media had suggested that there would be large crowds of half a million or more at some events and with the kids being so young I just could see loads of reasons why it would be more stressful than fun trying to bring them down. Joe and Rhonda had two tickets to the final mass in Randwick race course on Sunday. They were like gold dust and without a ticket I could see no point in travelling down in the hope of a glimpse of the event through a huge crowd.

On Saturday night I took the kids to a friends house for tea to let Byron and his friends have their "Beer Fest" We got home after 11pm and the kids fell into their beds asleep on their feet. At 11.30pm I was getting ready for bed when I saw a message on my mobile phone from Joe. He had two extra tickets to the mass the next day. Did I want them? I needed to get to Sydney by 7am to collect them.... It was too late to ring him and make a plan and the idea of getting on a train in 5 hours time seemed impossible. Also, who to bring? When you have three kids and one extra ticket you know two kids are going to be very disappointed.

Byron was surprised that I was turning down the tickets. He told me I was mad. I went back downstairs and spent the next hour on the Internet checking train times, charging my mobile and getting shoes and coats at the door. I fell into bed at 1.30am and after two hours sleep I was getting dressed and waking Sian to come on an adventure. I justified bringing her because she was the oldest and the most likely to stay calm in a crowd or handle being lost.

We drove to the local train station and waited 45 minutes on the platform in the freezing cold watching our breathe form clouds in front of our faces. The train was late (HOW can a train be late that early in the morning and when there are hardly any passengers on it?)

When we got to Sydney Central we met up with Joe, Rhonda and Cian without any difficulty and got our tickets from them. We all got on a shuttle bus which brought us most of the way to the race course and walked the rest of the way.

It was so worth it. As we went into the racecourse the excitement was immense.

The Pope was being driven around the track in the "Popemobile" and I put Sian on my back just in time for her to get a perfect look at him. As he passed us the crowd was cheering and waving and at the perfect moment the crowd seemed to part and Sian and I looked straight at the Pope as he turned to us with a smile on his face and raised his hand and waved. Sian turned to me and said "Mum, He waved at ME!" I know he was waving at the crowd but at that moment it felt like we were the only people he was looking at. That was the moment I knew that the whole journey had been worth it.

We found our space in the huge racecourse and sat down on our plastic sheeting and spent the next 3 hours watching the mass on the huge screens dotted about the race course. We were surrounded by French, Spanish and American groups of teenagers. We kept spotting Irish flags flying in the distance and I had to hold back from running to find the people waving them just to say "Hello"

At some points of the mass I became very emotional. It has been a difficult time for our family since Byron lost his job and the uncertainty of when he will find a new job has left me with a knot of anxiety in my stomach. When the Pope asked us to pause and call to mind all of the people who are dear to us my mind was like a whirlwind of pictures and names. Family and friends from Ireland, England, Wales, America and Australia. The chances are that if you are reading this, I was thinking of you.

When we were next asked to call to mind all the people who were dear to us but had died I went to pieces. I cried as I thought of my Granny Luddy who used to say my prayers with me as a young child and read me poems when I woke in the mornings, my Grandad Luddy who gave me sweets from his special tin above the fireplace, My Granny Sheeran who drove Mum mad by shaking boxes of Smarties outside the window when she came to visit (just before dinner time), My Grandad Sheeran who died long before I was born, Byrons Nanny Ponty, my friend Louise, our baby. It was so overwhelming.

At 1pm the Mass drew to an end and Sian and I started walking back to Sydney Central with Joe, Rhonda and the sleeping Cian. It took us until 4pm to get there and Sian was exhausted by the time we found our seats on the train.

When we got off the train we saw Byron, Gareth and Rhiannon waiting for us on the platform. I felt exhausted but very glad to have had the exerience. I am so grateful to Joe and Rhonda for offering me the tickets and for Byron for pushing me to go.

It was definitely a day I will never forget and hopefully Sian and Cian will always remember it too.

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