“Hi Mum, would you be able to help me with my homework?” Elaine asks when she arrives home from school one day.
Anna looks up from her typewriter. ‘Certainly darling, what do you have to do?”
“I have to present a speech next Monday on someone who inspires me.”
“Who do you want to do your speech on?”
“Well I wanted to do it on you but Miss Day told us that she’d rather we didn’t choose our parents. So I’m not sure who I’d do it on instead.”
Her mother thinks for a second. “I have an idea. Why don’t you talk to everybody over the next couple of days.”
“That’s a great idea. Can I go and speak with Grandpa and Grandma now?”
“There’s some fruit in the kitchen to eat first and then you can go.”
When she arrives at the main house she finds George and Sarah waiting for her in the sitting room. They already know why she is there, she presumes that her mother must have rung them whilst she was eating her fruit. She isn’t quite sure what questions she is supposed to ask them so she just asks them to tell her a story of a time that they felt that they did something inspiring. Luckily that was all the prompting they needed. George in particular told her a lot of stories, some which she had heard before and some that she hadn’t about how he was a politician and diplomat. He spent most of his time talking about how Sarah inspired him everyday to be a better person through her strength and kindness in the face of something called adversity. Elaine asked her mother what that meant later and she told her that it meant people being mean to people who weren’t like them and certain people having to face extra hardships simply because of who they are. She has no idea why anyone would be mean to her Grandmother she is so kind to everybody.
Grandma didn’t tell her any specific stories. She just talked about how she was a nurse and how it was her job to make sure people who were sick and hurt were comfortable until they got better. Her mother rings at 6pm to ask her to come home for dinner. Satisfied that she had gotten enough content for her speech she goes to leave.
“Elaine before you leave, wait here for a second.” Her Grandfather says. He returns a minute later holding a name plate from his time as a diplomat. Her Grandmother then hands her one of her nursing caps. She thanks them and then runs home.
When she gets home she finds her Nanny and Pops had come over for dinner. With her mother’s permission she asks them about inspiring things they have done in their lives. They answer for each other. Jack’s eyes glow with pride as he recounts when Carolyn got elected. Carolyn is equally proud when she talks about how Jack had used his pain from the war to help other men who were suffering by starting the men’s group that was still active today. They promised her that they would lend her one of Jack’s medals and one of Carolyn’s signs from her campaign.
The next day in Saturday. Elaine and her mother attend a garden party with the Swanson’s because her cousins Georgie and David were back from boarding school. Whilst she’s playing with her cousins, John, Georgie and David she tells them about her speech. Georgie tells her about he placed first in a big surfing competition and lends her his trophy that he won. David gives her a copy of his report with his good grades on it. John gives her a story he wrote for school that his teacher had shown the Principal.
When it’s time to eat she sits on a table with all of her aunts. Aunt Emma talks about how she’s going to be admitted as a doctor in a couple of weeks. She hands Elaine her notes from her exams. She also talks about how her own mother inspires her. Elaine had never met Dawn Briggs but she always takes note of the sign with her name on it at the hospital when she goes to visit Pops and Grandma.
Aunt Leah talks about being a nurse. She also talks about her husband, Uncle Larry, who is a musician. Elaine had only met him once because he was always busy touring. She wasn’t old enough to go to his shows yet but her mother often plays his bands’ records and she loved them.
“I have an early birthday present for you because unfortunately I won’t be able to make it to your party.” Leah tells her unexpectedly. She hands her a signed copy of her husband’s next record.
“I’ve never heard of this one.”
“That’s because it hasn’t been released yet.” She winks at her.
Aunt Olivia tells her about how she knits teddy bears and sells them to make money for the Swanson Foundation. The charity raises money to help disadvantaged people all over the world. Currently her husband, Uncle Andrew was building a school in Papua New Guinea and he wouldn’t be back for another six months.
The next day she goes to visit Uncle Harry. Her father unfortunately has to do some important surgery so he is still in Sydney. Harry shows her her father’s certificate that certifies him as a doctor.
“Have you done anything inspiring Uncle Harry?”
He shakes his head in response. Elaine doesn’t believe him.
Mr Briggs and Mr Gibbs come over for lunch. Mr Gibbs shows her his latest painting and agrees to let her use it for her presentation. Mr Briggs tells her when all about how Uncle Harry is a very hard worker who has helped many people.
“Uncle Harry said he hadn’t done anything inspiring.” She tells him.
“Well Mr Briggs helps a lot of people as well.” Harry counters.
After they leave she helps Harry clean up the table. The phone rings. Harry smiles as soon as he answers the phone. He then hands it to her.
“It’s for you.”
“Dad?!” She says hopefully.
“How did the operation go?”
“Well. The patient should recover. I’m sorry I’m not at home with you today. What have you been up to?”
“That’s good and I don’t mind. I’ve been working on a speech for school and we went to a garden party yesterday where I played with David, John and Georgie and Aunt Leah gave me Uncle Larry’s new record which he signed for my birthday.”
“That sounds great, what’s your speech about?”
“Someone in my family who inspires me who isn’t my parents so it can’t be about you or mum unfortunately.”
“That’s ok. Who are you going to do your speech on?”
“I’m not sure yet but I’ve been talking to everybody and I’m going to make my choice tomorrow.”
“That sounds like a good idea. I should be home on Wednesday. I love you and please say hi to your mum for me.”
“I will. I love you Dad.”
The next day Elaine realises she has a dilemma. She finds all her family members inspiring so can’t choose which one to do her speech on.
“Elaine is your speech finished?” Her mother asks her that night.
“Nearly.” She was very happy with her choice.
“That’s good. Can I hear it?”
“I’d rather present it to everyone after I present it at school if that’s ok?”
“Sure. Can you tell me who it is about?”
Elaine shakes her head. “It’s a surprise.”
“That’s ok. Well you better get some sleep so that you are well rested for your speech tomorrow.”
“Ok Mum.” She then goes to get ready for bed.
Her mother wakes her up at about 10pm.
“Is it time for school already?” She asks while half asleep.
“No but there’s a phone call.”
“Who is it?”
“It’s a surprise.”
“Hello.” She yawns into the phone.
“Hi Elaine.” James says on the other end of the phone.
“Uncle James!!!” She says enthusiastically.
“Your mother told me that you’re doing a speech tomorrow and I know I’m probably too late but I wanted to help.”
“You aren’t too late. Thank you so much.”
She’s exhausted the next morning from talking to Uncle James for an hour but becomes exhilarated when she remembers that her speech is today. She gets ready quickly and races to school.
“How did your speech go?” Her mother asks as soon as she arrives home.
“It went really well, Miss Day gave me a certificate because she liked it so much.” She pulls the certificate out of her bag and hands it to her mother.
“That’s fantastic. I’m really proud of you.”
Two weeks later, it’s Elaine’s birthday. It is the first time that her entire family is together except for Uncle James who is in France. She decided that today would be the perfect opportunity to give her speech for her family. She asks her mother after they finish cake and presents. Her mother tells her that it’s a great idea but they aren’t quite finished with presents yet. Anna and Carolyn lead her out to the front of Ash Park. A car pulls into the driveway. A man gets out of the car.
“Uncle James!!!” She yells as she hugs him.
“You didn’t tell me you were coming.”
“It was a surprise.”
“Well I’m so glad you are here because I’m about to give my speech and I can’t wait for you to hear it.” She leads him to the backyard.
After James says hello to everyone, they all get ready to hear her speech. She’s more nervous than she was the first time she said the speech strangely.
She takes a deep breath.
“Good afternoon, my name is Elaine Bligh. I was asked to do this speech on someone in my family who inspires me. The problem is that I couldn’t pick just one family member who inspires me because they all do. My family members are doctors, writers, surfers, nurses, farmers, politicians and others. They have served Australia and the community in all sorts of ways. I have brought in some objects from them that show how inspiring they all are. This is the part where I passed around all the objects you leant me.” She quickly explains.
“So in conclusion my family are my inspiration. All of them.”
Her family are silent for a second after she finishes. They then erupt into applause. She does a little curtesy before going to join her mother.
“That was an amazing speech.” Her mother whispers in her ear.
“Mum?” Elaine says later that night.
“Do you think I’ll ever be as inspiring as everyone else in our family?”
“I think no matter what you do you’ll be amazing and an inspiration because guess what, you already inspire me.”
Elaine was glad to hear it.