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The Lucy Family Alphabet : Pink Popular Penguins - Judith Lucy

The Lucy Family Alphabet

Pink Popular Penguins

Paperback

Published: 23rd April 2014
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Published: 23rd April 2014
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Judith Lucy has been cracking jokes about her parents for much of her career. But when a birth relative's casual comment implied that she must despise them, Judith was shocked. Sure, for years she had been talking about Ann and Tony Lucy like they were one-dimensional Irish nut bags who'd ruined her life, but who – in the end – doesn't love their parents? If only she'd been told before the age of 25 that they weren't actually her parents . . .

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About the Author

Judith Mary Lucy (born 25 March 1968 in Perth, Western Australia) is an Australian comedian, known primarily for her stand-up comedy.

A is for Adoption

I am constantly amazed by the behaviour people can justify by saying, 'It's Christmas,' largely because that phrase has been as cheery for me as, 'It's terminal.' I think many of us find the yuletide season as enjoyable as an incontinent relative (and some people even have to deal with those on the day), as it is a time when we cannot avoid the notion of family. For some of us, family, alcohol and a day where you wind up wearing really bad hats (who came up with antlers on a headband?) can be a lethal combination.

My family was small. More than fifteen years before I was born, my parents had emigrated from Ireland to Perth. I moved to Melbourne in 1988, when I was twenty, but generally spent Christmas in my home town with my parents, my grandmother and Aunty Paddy, my older brother, Niall, and, in later years, his wife, Abi. In 1993 the gathering was reduced by one since Paddy, who lived with Gran, was holidaying somewhere else. I can't remember where, but even if she'd been staying in a sewerage
tank, I guarantee she wound up having a better time than the rest of us that day.

Niall, Abi and I began the day by preparing for our relatives' arrival at Niall's place. We were preparing and drinking. My brother and I were probably onto our second Bloody Mary by ten o'clock, firmly believing that the only real plus to Jesus's birthday is that you can start drinking at any hour you like without being told that you have a problem.

Lucy family Christmases were a little like one of the rings of hell in Dante's Inferno. (I'm assuming that hell consists of a lot of fighting, screaming and cheap ham.) As a child, every year was the same. We'd kick the day off with Mass, which seemed to go for a good two hours but was nevertheless the high point of the day,
then we'd return home and exchange presents. This was always a disappointing experience. As with most of the parenting, gift buying was Mum's job and the task did not seem to inspire her; it was like she set herself the challenge of buying her children's presents in thirty seconds from the first two aisles at Kmart – I'm sure one year I got some Tupperware containers and a rake. Even when she was pretending to be Santa, the presents usually still had the price tags attached. If I questioned her she would simply reply that Father Christmas had been too busy to make all the toys that year and so had had to send an elf to the shops. Too busy doing what? Découpage?

Then my mother would run around making the house superficially clean for her mother and sister, who would arrive with the presents my aunty's pupils had given her that she didn't want, rewrapped to give to us. We would give them absolute crap in return – I gave my grandmother talcum powder fourteen years in a row.

After the potpourri and the bottles of 'Charlie' and 'Tweed' perfume had been cleared, it was time for lunch. This was not the main meal of the day, yet while the rest of us, knowing what was to come in the evening, ate something quite light, my father would sit down to his two favourite foods: crayfish and smoked salmon. This treat came but once a year and that was Dad's excuse to gorge himself before taking our medieval stereo outside so he could listen to his Neil Diamond catalogue at a deafening volume. My mother would swelter in the kitchen preparing the roast turkey while the rest of us crowded around the airconditioner waiting for the neighbours to complain. Dad saw Christmas Day not so much as a day for family, but a day where he could drink as much as he wanted, eat seafood and rock out to Hot August Night. By the time it got to dinner he was always pissed, full and wanted a hot meal about as much as the rest of us wanted to perform cunnilingus on our grandmother, so every year there would be a fight about the roast my mother had, as she liked to say, 'slaved over all day'. In between threatening to throw the meal out, leave or die, Ann Lucy would ask the rather valid question: 'Why do I bother?' It was difficult to answer.

Finally, for Christmas '91, my brother had hit on the genius idea that if we took our parents out of their own environment and had the day at his place, they might be forced to act in a more normal fashion. We went to Niall's home and he was right – we had our only vaguely enjoyable festive season ever. There were no dust-ups and the only blight on the day was Dad's proclamation to the table that homosexuals should be kicked to death. (You had to admire my father's colourful turn of phrase. I mean, why just kill someone when you can KICK THEM TO DEATH?) I stayed in Melbourne the following year, an option I'd enjoyed whenever guilt had permitted, and then had a long twelve months working on a television program. The ABC's The Late Show was my big break, but I had been nauseous for most of the year – part fear, part hangover. So this year, 1993, I had actually been looking forward to another Christmas Day at my brother's.

My memory is that lunch was uneventful – although my memory is also that my mother's mother did not utter a word the entire day, and that must be wishful thinking. Gran would certainly have lit up the room at some point with her fun-lovin' talk of alcoholism and hell, so the rest of us were delighted when Mum dropped her home relatively early. It was a typically hot Perth Christmas, and completely untypically, we all went for a swim in the river on Mum's return. That might be pushing it: we stood in some water in our underwear. But I could not remember the last time our family had shared an activity that involved more than watching stuff [see: Football and Television].

The Swan River was beautiful. By the time we got back to Niall's place, everyone was happy as well as refreshed and in retrospect this was when my parents should have called it a day. But no-one seemed to be in any hurry to end what was shaping up as the best Lucy family Christmas ever. So Dad, Niall and I poured another drink while Abi and Mum continued to sit on their half a glass of wine.

There was only one clue that the day would end with blood on the moon, and that was the slightly aggressive tone that had crept into my father's voice.

Dad could be great company. He could be interested, interesting, funny and kind, especially if you were a stranger he had met down the pub. Not that he couldn't be like this at home, it was just that he was more likely to sit in the living room twirling his Brylcreemed hair and hatching some theory, only stirring if he was struck by lightning (I'm guessing) or his drink needed refilling. Convinced that he was a genius (this is no exaggeration: Dad's ego was the size of something man-made that could be
seen from outer space), he would then treat the rest of the family to the fruits of his reverie in the form of a lecture.

This was done almost entirely for the benefit of my brother. My father was a big believer that scrotums and intelligence go hand in hand, and he was also one of those happy-go-lucky fathers who liked to compete with his son. It would not have mattered if both men had made their living by scraping faecal matter off statues, Dad would have believed, and told anyone willing to listen, that, unlike my brother, he was gifted with excrement. As it was, I believe it irked Dad that he was an accountant while my brother is an academic with a PhD so, especially after a few drinks, the game was often on. Niall rarely took the bait, but his Achilles' heel was me. If my father couldn't get the appropriate response from his son, he would simply turn to his daughter, often apropos of nothing, and say something pithy like: 'You're an idiot, Judith.'

My brother would always step in and Dad would wind up having the argument he'd been angling for. Late afternoon on this particular Christmas Day it became obvious that Tony Lucy was cranking up for one of his discourses. These could be on anything from Shakespeare to why apartheid just made damn good sense. Dad's favourite topic, however, was economics, a subject that could not have interested the rest of his family less. Everyone else at the table was interested in the humanities, or 'the softies' as my father liked to describe them, which made the arts sound like a disposable homosexual cheese. It was hot, a couple of us were pretty drunk, everyone was
tired and so Dad decided it was time to propose a mathematical equation that supported one of his financial theories. (I would tell you what it was, had I not trained my mind to reject all monetary wisdom.) Since we'd rather have had a sing-a-long to a Val Doonican Christmas record (i.e. blow our brains out) than pursue my father's question, Mum and I tried to change the subject while Abi sat there in silence. Niall was on the verge of death by disinterest as Dad continuously barked at him, 'What
would you do, Niall? How would you solve it?'

After what seemed like a very long time, I went to the bathroom where I lay on the cool, concrete floor and stared at the ceiling. I hoped that by the time I came out, the conversation would have moved on, my parents would have left or baboons would have taken over the planet. I would have been equally happy with any of these options but unfortunately when I re-appeared my father had just become louder and more insistent. Sometimes I could jolly Dad out of his belligerence and, figuring I had nothing to lose, I suggested he put his bottom on the table and let it do the talking as it might make more sense. I also thought that because my father's face was turning a shade of pomegranate, his other end might be more aesthetically pleasing.

This turned out to be a mistake. While everyone else laughed, Dad turned to me and, in a voice reminiscent of Jack Nicholson's in The Shining before he took an axe to his family, growled: 'Judith, do you even know what two plus two equals?'

Dad had been verbally poking Niall in the chest for a good couple of hours and, as my father intended, his comment to me was the final straw. My brother stood up and, without raising his voice, grabbed Dad by the collar and told him to leave. I don't believe that this was meant to be any kind of physical provocation. Niall, like the rest of us, had simply had enough and wanted nothing more than for our father to go. Despite ten hours of drinking, what happened next stayed in my memory not only in detail but in slow motion. Dad had always been terrifying when he was angry, but I had only ever seen him take his rage out on objects. You could almost see him turn green and burst through his shirt before he wreaked havoc on anything from a lawnmower to a can of deodorant. I had never seen that kind of fury directed at any of us. The instant my brother's hand touched my father's shirt, Dad was up swinging wildly at his son while screaming, 'I'm going to kill you, you fucking cunt!' Niall was so stunned he simply stood there while the three women tried to hold Dad back even as he ripped a chunk of hair from Abi's head. The incident probably lasted less than a minute,
but it and what was to follow would change us forever.

Mum managed to get Dad in the car to take him home. Niall had stormed out of the house in the opposite direction. I was left with my sister-in-law. If the day had ended at this point, it still would merely have been a disaster. Instead, now feeling as sober as my grandmother had been her whole life, I poured myself another drink and remarked that my brother's wife had certainly married into a fun family. Abi replied that there was something I didn't know.

Under the circumstances I would have been happy to concede that there was a lot I didn't know: I didn't know why our family get-togethers almost always ended so badly; I didn't know my father had turned into a killing machine; I didn't even know why we told Gran her Christmas cake was great every year when it tasted like dirt. But Abi's tone suggested I was ignorant of some kind of family secret. 'It's not some weird sex thing is it?' I asked. God knows what I meant by that – I certainly didn't think I'd been molested or that Ann Lucy was a hermaphrodite.

Abi replied that the mystery had something to do with me. When you think about it (although I didn't until much later) there are really very few secrets about yourself that you can't know. The first possibility that came into my head was, 'Oh, my God. I'm adopted?' Abi nodded.

ISBN: 9780734311238
ISBN-10: 0734311230
Series: Pink Popular Penguin
Audience: General
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 296
Published: 23rd April 2014
Dimensions (cm): 18.2 x 11.3  x 1.9
Weight (kg): 18.2