In breaking news coming out of the Clarence Valley this morning, members of the Cornell Family – Father Darren, siblings Phoebe and Scott, and Uncle Barry, (visiting from Tasmania) – are still coming to terms with the confronting realization that the family’s matriarch, Meredith Cornell, is not their tireless domestic slave, and is, in fact, a regular human who occasionally needs to rest and recharge her batteries.
The explosive revelation occurred early last evening, shortly after the last member of the Cornell family had returned to their holiday rental after a full day’s activities that – between the five of them – included: surfing and bodyboarding; a stroll along a section of the refurbished Yuraygir Coastal Walk; nine holes of golf (followed by a cheeky beer in the clubhouse); a viewing of the latest James Bond film; hot chips; ice creams; a nap, and three disagreements between Phoebe and Scott, only one of which escalated into an argument requiring adult intervention. In all, it had been a typically delightful Christmas holiday day in the Clarence Valley.
Witnesses report that at approximately 6:30 PM AEST yesterday, the perpetually hungry Scott Cornell, 14, walked into the kitchen expecting to see his mother diligently preparing the evening meal – as he had become accustomed to over the 5000 or so dinnertimes of his life so far. Puzzled, he stepped out to the balcony to find his mother reclining in the outdoor lounge, with a glass of wine, a small assortment of dips and nibbles, reading the latest Liane Moriarty book.
Next door neighbour and local busy-body Harry Fenner – out watering his Grevillias and within earshot of the exchange – recorded the following exchange on his iPhone
Scott: “Ahh, there you are Mum. Well, don’t you look comfortable. Uhhh, do you know what time it is?”
Meredith: “Oh, hello love, oooh, you got some sun today! Ah, yes it’s 6:35, why do you ask?”
Scott: “Well, yes, it’s 6:35. Shouldn’t you be… you know…”
Meredith: “No, I don’t know…”
Scott: “Mum, There’s no easy way to say this so I’ll just come right out and say it – it’s dinner time and I’m HUNGRY!”
And it’s at this point that Meredith Cornell, 44, calmly uttered the chilling phrase that would become part of family folklore – “You can get your own dinner, I’m on holiday too”.
Ten simple words that threw the Cornell family into a bewildered panic.
As busybody eyewitness neighbour Mr Fenner tells your reporter, “There was no threat or malice in her tone, but young Scotty’s legs practically gave way underneath him, he just steadied himself on the railing and stared at his mum, open mouthed, like she was a total stranger for a second or two, before raising the alarm, calling for the rest of the family to come out to the balcony ‘real quick, something’s happened to Mum’.”
Father Darren was first on the scene, followed quickly by Phoebe and Uncle Barry, and once they established Meredith to be of healthy mind and body, concern for her wellbeing turned quickly to anguish for their own as they dispersed to consider the prospect of preparing their own evening meal.
Father Darren paced the living room determinedly, back and forth, calling to mind the Macaroni Cheese he had pulled together in the summer of ’88 as a first-year uni student and wondered aloud if he could repeat such an accomplishment; Scott recovered from his initial shock and managed to find where the coco pops, milk, bowl and spoon were kept; Uncle Barry, who could afford to drop a kilo or three, retired weeping to his bedroom, and Phoebe turned to social media to complain about the unfairness of it all and ask for suggestions. She would later cobble together a more than decent toasted sandwich (cheese, tomato and avo, with a bit of relish), which not only tasted amazing, but proved surprisingly photogenic, and imagery of her #toasty garnered much approval and comments of solidarity among her Instagram followers.
As for Meredith, sipping on her dry white, turning the pages of her book as the lowering sun turned everything gold, this evening proved a watershed. For too many years now she’d just found it simpler to do everything herself, but it really was time the rest of the family started putting more effort in, and tonight’s simple act of putting her own desires at the same level as theirs marked the start of this journey. She looked up over her book, out to the deepening ocean with the afternoon’s whitecaps starting to subside, grateful for what this day had provided.