Boomers are chameleons in societal change

(Front) Leanne, Maureen, Nadine, Rose (rear) Pam, Julie, Fiona, Glenda and Gill.

No-one told me book clubs were so interesting, not so much because of the books under discussion,  but by the real life circumstances of the women attending.

When my friend Glenda asked me to be a special guest at the meeting, when members would discuss my book From France With Love, I eagerly agreed as long as I didn’t have to give an address.

However, that adage “Life is stranger than fiction” revealed itself over the course of the evening’s chatter.  These eight women had taken their fair share of life’s knock-downs, but they had all picked themselves up and simply moved on to other things – and other men, other marriages and other jobs.

Buoyed up by flowing French champagne to suit the mood of the night, they shared their life histories and I marvelled at their adaptability and how they reflected the average boomer’s life course. Baby boomers were born post World War II between 1946 and 1964 to flood Australia with babies, who grew up to be the first generation to be termed “teenagers”, who became the “Me”” generation and the divorce generation in adulthood.

In the book club seven of the eight women have divorced and only dark-haired Julie is still married to only husband Bruce.

Three women have remarried to create new family lives.  Maureen is married to a school principal, Gill, a home economics teacher at Seymour College has a second husband, named Udo who is a very German teacher at Westminster School and Pam and Roy are also on their second marriages.  Leanne and Glenda have male partners. Blonde-haired Rose, who chooses to sit on the floor and quiet brunette Fiona are single women and both admit to being on the look-out for Mr Nice Guy.  Long-time divorcee Glenda reckons she has found hers in Andrew, also divorced, whom she has known for six years. Late last year, she moved into his apartment.  “I decided that the timing was right for me to move in with Andrew. I do feel as if we have been together forever,’’ exudes Glenda.   “His daughter left home and my daughter had got married and it just seemed the natural course to take in our relationship”. Glenda is the instructor in charge of the swimming with a disability program for the Department for Education and Child Development.  She teachers swimming at Minda to 120 intellectually disabled children and adults aassociated with Minda and another 310 students with a disability.

Glenda, who works a 25 hour week, says she loves her new apartment lifestyle. “I had  a large house, tennis court, pool and a big gardens and it is a change to coming back to an apartment after a days work. I have a cup of tea or a glass of wine with my feet up. But it will only work if you accept such a change.”

Meanwhile, I am the only widow and noticeably vulnerable among these fun-loving women.

The women have been meeting at their book club since their children all attended Coromandel Valley  Primary School and those very children are now breeding making Rose and Fiona, grand-parents.  I am the third grandparent with four grandchildren.

These women have been chameleons, changing to suit their changing situations and roles. As a group they personify the broader baby boomer female demographic and all – aged from late 50s to early 60s – are still in the workforce.

Julie is busy at this time of the year working in marketing at the Adelaide Show.  The single-agains Fiona and Rose are very work-oriented. “I am the nurse in the group,’’ says Fiona, who says nightshift at Flinders Medical Centre tends to “blur the brain”. “I don’t get involved with many medical discussions because I leave it all at work.’’

“I am divorced with four children and even though the youngest is 29 this year, they will always be my boys and girls. I have one grandchild, a boy named Charlie, who is almost three years old and another  – a girl – is due in November.’’

Meanwhile, Rose has found a niche as a hairdresser for a retirement village and what began as an invitation to visit a former client from her salon when she entered a retirement village has became her business. Maureen, who was an air hostess in a former life, now works in tourism organising flights for clients.

Gill’s superb French-style macaroons

Effervescent Pam is the business woman of the group, as a wholesaler of imported scarves, jewellery and other exotic accessories.  Most of the women wear either one of her scarves or a piece of jewellery she has sold them at one of her clearance sales.  Pam was an extra in the movie Shine and has promised  to teach me how to wear scarves with French style.  Leanne has changed direction turning from hairdressing to working in the retail sector selling material atg a fabric store on Marion Road in Marion.  She plans to retire soon and will be the second woman in the group to retire.

However, the other “retiree’’, Gill has recently stepped out of retirement to return to teaching at Seymour College. She was previously a home economics teacher at Annersley before the demise of the college.

She is the  renowned cook/caterer andruns a small catering business from home, Girls with Nothing Better To Do.  To prove it she has brought a plate of her home-made authentic French macaroons for our book event. Gill also enters her baking and cooking into the Adelaide Show and usually walks off with prizes.

Gill has hopes for a bigger home, but husband is immovable. “We are till in the 1980s small deouble brick three-bedroom house we built,” she says. “Not the right time to sell in this area, but I would love a sea change soon. I still will need a small garden and space to do our own thing, but I want a big house before I die.”

Gill has discovered exercise and has completed the City to Bay run three times and the Mothers Day Classic once.

Housing is also on Pam’s mind as she has her children living at home. “The kids leave all their stuff at home while they travel the world then come home for a few months or years…Meanwhile we get to retirement age and don’t know whether to stay in the famioy home as long as possible or try to find something perhaps a little smaller with less garden, or even a new home,” she says. “It is all linked to your financial situation as housing has become more expensive. The money issue is quite important as we have greater expedfctations of our later years than generations before us.   My only solution is to keep working.”

Meanwhile, Julie and Bruce have placed their  big, old home, which has been in the family for generations,  on the market.  “We would like to down size,” says Julie. “We are hoping to move to something smaller closer to the beach. The house is getting too much for us to look after and too big for our needs”.  They also want to free up some money for travel. “Bruce being self-employed we did not travel overseas when we were younger.”

All of these interesting life journeys unfolded as we sipped French champagne and nibbled hors d’oevres  before consuming every last macaroon with coffee at the end of the evening.

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