Memory rings true
This is my story.
But first, you have to know about my Grandma to understand my faith about how things turned out.
Grandma came to stay with us when my third brother was born in the late 1940s, so I wouldn't have to miss school. I was almost twelve then. It was lovely to have Dad at home even though his return to the mine in some remote part of far north Queensland was imminent. Grandma took charge and it was like Mum wasn’t away in hospital at all; everything went like clockwork. The only difference ― there were no rows.
Looking back, it seems strange Grandma’s passion for life had flown under my radar before this. But in those few days, something indefinable drew me into her orbit and I realised how special she was.
Because I was a quiet listener people didn’t always register my presence, so I heard lots of things. I knew she was born in the late 1800s. A few people said, “She’s a handsome woman.” I thought she was beautiful ― her long hair that reached below her waist was shiny black and she mostly wore it piled into a twist on the nape of her neck. And I remember the comforting smell of her when I sank into the softness of a cuddle, and I loved her creamy white skin. Mum got mad when she tried to persuade us to keep out of the sun. Turned out Grandma was right; several of us suffered with skin cancers.
Even when she was much older she was slim, elegant, and always wore a hat and gloves when she went out. She was tall (six feet in the old money). I didn’t notice it at the time, but looking back, there was a different kind of bigness about her. Not really physical ― more her exuberance, a generosity of spirit, the candid way she expressed herself, and the age-old wisdom she dispensed. I like to think some of that came from her Danish heritage, although she was born in Australia. And she seemed to throw out an all-encompassing love to include everyone and everything. It was much, much later before I questioned my pre-teen opinion of her.
Of course none of this was part of my conscious twelve-year-old thinking and I hadn’t thought about her much for a long time. It’s over forty years since she died. But recent events led me to talk with the few surviving family elders and my siblings and cousins, to test my sense of how she really was. Recollections were a bit mixed. But everyone recalled her love of poetry and nature and her fund of remedies for just about any ailment you could think of.
Mum’s reminiscences were flawed; the beginnings of Alzheimers had scrambled everything. The mother-daughter strain between them probably hadn’t helped memory either.
Grandma moved a lot. We moved around a fair bit as well. That meant we were out of touch for long periods; probably that accounts for the vaguer memories of my siblings. I was disappointed they didn’t even remember the special treats she dreamed up for each of us. Mine was an exciting visit to the Ballet Rambert and the magic of Swan Lake. I remember saying “nothing will stop me being a ballerina”. Wise Grandma didn’t tell me that height and meagre family finances would rule that out. Reality came gently in its own time.
For the brother next to me, it was a visit to the circus. He raved about the clowns and how deliciously scary it was to be pulled from the audience to balance on the galloping ponies with the pretty girl in a leotard. These treats were extra-special Grandma events. Staying with Grandma in the flat behind the dressmaking shop when she lived in Brisbane was another sort of fun. We all had our turn of that too, but the younger ones didn’t experience the same affinity with her. Maybe it seemed a bit old-fashioned to them. I was overseas then.
Mum’s much younger sister attended boarding school because Grandma moved around so much. My aunt’s recollections were hazy but she did remember the time her mother worked in a factory, helping to build planes for the war, thriving in the company of lots of other women, and earning good money. She looked happy in a photo, dressed in a boiler suit and turban, and wielding a screw driver.
One of Grandma’s sons told the story of her attending a community gathering disguised as a man. That was when they lived in the outback. She did it just for fun and even hoodwinked the family till she owned up to the prank.
That was my Grandma. Pretty special!
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish