In the past year, both of my cherished grandmothers passed away. I've been working on a tribute to Nanna for months now between everything else and have finally "finished" typing. It's not perfect, I know the tenses get all muddled up, but I wanted to put it out there. So here goes.
Orchid leaves brushed our hair as we ran down the side of her house, hoping she didn’t catch a glimpse through the open kitchen window. Giggling, Tamara and I huddled close behind any bush or object we could find, rising only for a peek – had she come? Had she known it was us, did she know we were hiding? Perhaps we needed to ring the old bell again?
Mum and Dad walked casually down the narrow path and right to the front door.
‘Get back!’ Tamara commanded in a forceful whisper.
‘Get back! We’re hiding!’
I giggled some more and motioned for mum and dad to hide.
It didn’t work.
Dad rings the bell again and bellows something out to his mother, our Nanna, who has come to the door. Sloppy kisses are exchanged and soon Nanna is “wondering” where we are.
We shouted and ran to Nanna, sure she had no idea we were coming. More sloppy kisses, cuddles are exchanged all around, and we entered with great grinning faces.
I notice Nanna has few more of those long funny chin hairs, but being Nanna, it doesn’t really bother me for long.
After some commotion, a discussion on how the old-style bell works, and friendly reminders to not forget the umbrella that’s being left at the front door, we move swiftly through Nanna & Alan’s old Willoughby house down on Alexander St – around the corner from the park with the swings.
Catch up tales are told, yet all Tamara & I can think of is “Where are the butterfly cakes!?” She almost always makes them! Eyes are bench top level, we search until –
“I know what you’re looking for!”
Nanna’s no fool.
She hands us a plate and instructs us to take them to the lounge and offer them to the family. We follow with great obedience but our faces grow solemn as we realise our precious cupcakes are getting fewer with each person’s selection. Finally, when it’s our turn we dive in leaving but crumbs. Nanna returns and is shocked how we’ve demolished them. Before the last two have been claimed, she promptly licks them over, declaring “Right. These are mine for when I’m done cooking".
We pretend to be disgusted, but really find the whole thing quite funny and start imitating immediately, licking our respective cupcakes.
Following, we sit up at the table in the dining room – itching to play the piano which displays the family photos nearby. Alan, always a stickler for fine manners, teaches us the “proper” way to use cutlery. Tamara and I try; we really do, but soon enough, due to hunger, revert to our knife swapping technique. After all, who could wait when it came to Nanna’s baked dinner. The ‘from the garden mint sauce’, gravy, ooh and the onions! Unusually for me, I even ate the pumpkin! Of course it was delicious – although I must admit my curiosity as to what waited in the kitchen for dessert was what drove me to finish my meal. Whatever it was, it would surely have cream!
Soon discussions would trail and the sound of the Sydney Swans playing weekend football made for background noise as we started new conversations in the lounge room. Teas were had and we girls rejoiced as the fire place was lit. When allowed, we poked and prodded, watching the fire grow and dim, grow and dim, until our eyes became sore from staring.
It was too cold to play our usual ‘bowls’ game kept in the “grandchildren draw” tucked neatly away in the back sun room. Instead we took out scrabble and headache and set up under Alan’s table, our new hideaway. When that became boring, we set out spying. We studied EVERYTHING in that back room. We memorised poems on wall tapestries, titles of Readers Digest books, crocodiles on the table and –
‘Don’t you girls touch anything!’
Alan was rather protective of his long table with all his collections spread out upon it. We asked then, if we could play the organ and he kindly agreed – as long as we weren’t too loud.
The adults closed those glass and wood doors and I secretly glowed. I loved doors like that, almost French like but with glass allowing for you to only see shapes and colour on the other side.
So we played and sang and created little ditties until fighting over whose turn it was brought mum out with a simple “enough now girls”.
Back in the lounge, Nanna taught us how to make little ‘pompoms’ something in which we took great delight. This kept us entertained for a while, especially as we could listen to their conversations and even add our own innocent view point where we thought it would really count.
Next, after failed attempts to borrow nanna’s hand drum, we sat down with her on her orange lounges and an atlas in hand, she explained how she travelled out to Australian from England. To this day I’m not sure if she was 12 or 3 years old or if they sailed this way or that, I have only clues left by others.
Whatever her story was, this is mine. The Tale of Visiting my Nanna.