by Dean Mayes and Keryn McEwan.
The squat little heater that sits on the hearth in the North Road living room. Its kerosene globe glows red, warming our bodies as the rain patters the tin roof. We watch the black and white TV; munching her homemade pasties as big as house bricks, or perhaps it was a bowl of her famous pea and ham soup. We play along with the quiz show and we marvel at her sharp mind, her worldly knowledge, as she deftly answers question after question in between the click-clack of her knitting needles - with a wink and a smile.
The tall glass bottles she collects; Alpine soft drink all the colours of the rainbow. She serves them with ice blocks on warm summer days with her legendary Anzac biscuits and we sit under the liquid amber, playing with Matchbox cars at the base of the trunk, contemplating – but never conquering – a climb of that mighty tree. Her eyes were everywhere, our safety never in question when she was nearby. The empty soft drink bottles we carry to the corner shop, exchanging them for coins to then buy bags of lollies. We return to her in our sugar rush and she greets us by her rose bushes with her wink and her smile.
The chintzy silver Christmas tree, the only one I ever knew existed. Adorned with bright, colourful baubles that reflect the love of family gathered in the living room to exchange gifts, warm hugs and festive laughter. She sweeps into the room with platters of treats, inviting us to eat; her bell voice urging, “Come on, come on, there’s more to come.” The tiny kitchen has been prepared, a banquet of her finest cooking. Christmas ham, vegetables, her handmade Christmas puddings and cakes. She stands at the head of the table, ready to receive her diners, always with her wink and her smile.
Her beloved fuschias; her pride and joy. Little fingers always found their way to those fat, pink teardrops to squeeze and delight in the pop of the buds – not appreciating it was too early for them to bloom. There’s not much that makes her wild, but a popped fuschia always does. The fallen leaves of the liquid amber to, so easy to kick through, spread far and wide across the hillside lawn. She chases us with the handle of the rake as she scurries to banish the leaves into neat piles. Or our feats of daring involving that clothesline. The run-up was perfect. Our leaps superhuman. Our giggles merciless. No wink or smile from her then.
She was at the centre of all of us. Mum, Nana, Little Aunty Jean. As we branched out, embraced our callings and created circles of our own, she gave a little bit of herself to ours, ensuring that she would live on in many lifetimes. We are the chef, the hairdresser, the nurse, the businesswoman, the professionals, the servicemen and women. She has seen us achieve and has reveled in our success – always with that wink and that smile.
A friend of mine recently wrote, “I don’t believe in life after death or even in a moment that stays on beyond itself...What I do believe in is momentum – that one thought leads to another; that people leave shapes in other people, and those shapes carry forward.”
Nana has left shapes in all of us.