Get Up Mum: Turning 13

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of becoming a teenager, here is a special birthday excerpt. (Childhood memoir Get Up Mum is out now in stores and online. Signed copies HERE).

Justin birthday card

I wake up cosy in my bedroom in Burnie. We’re all back from camping and it’s still school holidays.
I look at my watch.


The two famous people born on June 12 are the Australian fast bowler Terry Alderman and the bloke from Roxette, Per Gessle.
I was born at 7.33am.
‘Like the records that you play at thirty three and a third speed,’ as Mum says.
My tradition is to count down the final moments.
There’s four more minutes of being twelve.
Four more minutes of being a kid.
This is big. Soon I’ll be a teenager.


Each year it’s a chance to do nothing but watch time for a whole minute. My watch is on the exact time because yesterday I rang up 1194 and the man said ‘On the third stroke it will be…’ This is my way of celebrating – a quiet time to reflect, just
for me – before I open the door and Mum greets me and the celebration begins.

I think about my childhood and the past. I used to go to the phone box around the corner on Mace Street and press any buttons and pretend I was talking to Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. Once I dialled the operator by accident and a woman’s
voice answered and I dropped the phone and ran home, thinking I was in trouble.


Orange, green and blue. Those are the colours I remember from when I used to help Pop work in Cosi Cartie’s garden. The orange of carrots he’d pull from the ground. The green of the lawn. The blue of the sky. Pop and I exploring someone else’s
garden. White moths and rainbow mist, grabbing handfuls of freshly cut grass.

Seeing the tall ships with Mum in Hobart. Some teenagers had a skill tester where you had to move a small metal ring around coils of wire. If the ring touched the wire it buzzed. I had three goes. My hand wobbled and I buzzed. I tried going faster, which made it shake less, but I wasn’t good enough. I remember how the boy and girl smiled and were kind to me.


At the Civic Centre in Burnie we saw a play of Snow White. The characters were gathered down at Kmart. One of the dwarves took a step backwards and trod on my foot. His heel was so hard. It surprised me so I cried. He turned around and apologised.

I feel a tingling. A force field.
I will remember these moments.
The events of my life.
The blue of the sky and the grey of the footpath as Mum pushed me to Burnie Park in my pram. My first ever memory.
I’ll be wide awake and ready the second I turn …
My eyes go fuzzy. I’m ready.
The dots blink on and off.
On           off
On           offJustin 13th birthday card
On           off


I’m thirteen!
The hairs on my neck prickle.
Twelve is over.
I’m no longer a little kid. I might miss the days of Play Doh and fairy bread and ‘Duck Duck Goose’. Rubber spiders and pink scented note paper that smelled like girls.
That’s okay. I’ll make more memories and have new adventures inside the grown-up world.