My Short Stories

Hurlstone Park Tales


Home | "Interior Communications with God." | ESSAYS. | COFFEE CLUB | Thought for the day. | ancient australia-2

Chapter 1. Grandma.
The matron of the family is sitting on the verandah rocking gently, totally out of tempo with the furious fast pace of stiches as she knits and yet, curiously, they are both in tempo with another kind of rhyme, the rhyme and the season of the life all around her. The picture is silent and yet speaks volumes of peace and serenity. It is not as though nothing is happening it is just that it is happening quietly. The matron is being. As is the season and its attendants, the plants, grass, cut and smellling like cut grass. The air itself is resting, as guided by the sun, and little children are running towards the home, down the slope of the hill where moments earlier their noise and appearance was invisible on the other side.
Just then, Grandma stops knitting, she smells her daughters meat pie which she has just taken out of the oven. "Thats lovely dear, I can smell it from here." she calls in a voice determined yet soft, its joyful lilt canary-like, yet volumes of timbre, synchronic of her age, flows down melodically through the house and enters the kitchen which produces a smile.
The table is set. The babble reaches the front porch and the sound of feet scuffling and children kick off their dirty boots and run into the lounge off the verandah. the mother of the houseishes out carved-cut portions of pie onto various plates and calls to her husband who has been washing his hands upstairs in the one bathroom in the house. Gradually as he descends the stairs the children of the neighbours join their own children, filing into the kitchen as this is sunday and they have been invited to lunch.
Prayers are said, as grace, by father,dressed in his best Sunday suit and a fire is lit to heat the kettle for tea whilst they sit down to eat.
Grandma sits at the end of the table. Her daughter-in-law at the other end, her husband next to her. All hands on the table face up, inspected, passed, having been washed at the tap near the dog kennel, in front of the garage - this is a ritual which was long observed, as these children, except on rainy days are either at school or outside playing.
A horse neighs on the hillside as they begin to dig into the delicious beef, onion and pumpkin pie made especially for the visitors. They are oblivious to the sound  except grandma who smiles quietly to herself at the attendant scene against the backdrop of horse neighing. her plate is the smallest.
she is slim, or thin, depending on her, or her daughter-in-laws perspecrive. her dresses are long, herhair grey to silver through a head of hair that was originally black, tied neatly in a bun at the rear just above the neckline showing clearly its potential for length. Her hands are wrinkled. Her fingers long  and  slender, she carves at the pie daintily with her knife and fork and takes the longest time to raise the smllest portion to her mouth whose lips are still ruddy pink, moist and healthy despite the wrinkles and dryness of her face. Her eyes which were once blue are now tinted grey as the soldier of time marches on, but her liveliness and gaeity of spirit, whilst diminished have in proportion been replaced by a happy serenity which has increased with age.
Grandma has a prominent place in their hearts. She is neither disabled nor distempered. She belongs. Her counterpart is dead and so are both their husbands and she is treasured, respected and wanted, in making the family complete ... as if every household should have a grandma.
Years had passed since she sat on her own waiting for  family which never appeared. except initially on the first sunday of the month, as if there ws a kind of law governing it. Little did she know then, how different her son James second wife would be, who would not hear of her being locked away in a home for disabled elderly people simply because she had no house of her own and could not  bear to live in the insecure environment of rented apartments where elderly people wee frequently ejected for no reason other than their age. Landlords did not like the responsibility and were prone to slap use-by dates on many elderly occupants without fair warning.
She slept in a makeshift room, in a makeshift bed, both of her own son's craftsmanship, but she did not mind one iota.
James McKilroy married Isabelle five years ago. His first wife ran off with the butcher, two years prior to that, leaving him with no children, after 4 years of marriage. Just as well he thought. They now had two children aged 4 and 5. James Jr. and Marigold respectively, which they shortened to Mari. his wife is Danish. Jorgensen is her maiden name, and they migrated, her parents and her, an only child, from Denmark in the early 50's. She was just one year old. She is now 28.
It is 1980 and Fraser is running the country.James is 34. His parents believe he was conceived on Armistice Day 11/11/45. but he has no way of knowing. Although they would not be specific they said it was certain as they were already beyond having children but were too overcome by the joy of the occasion to practise safe sex. ( in those days safe sex meant something quite different.)
James, therefore was a child of peace and he wanted his child to be so too remembered hence he gave him the same name as himself thinking that this would carry on the tradition.
James brother had been much older and died in the Korean War, having been conscripted almost to the day his future sister-in-law was to have arrived in Australia had they not been delayed by bad weather.
So James thought he had a double reason to want to keep up a tradition of peace.
His parents were both Irish ad he never forgot it. Neither did he feel he owed them a Irish daughter-in-law. His first wife had been of Irish descent also. times were changing andood blood not necessarily Irish blood was what needed preserving! his father had disagreed but at least finally he had agreed to disgree.
His father died leaving no more brothers. Just a sister who migrated back to Ireland in 1976 together with her Irish husband and no children.
Perhaps in the fertile fields of and blessed earth of Ireland they would get lucky or so the prevailing wisdom had it.
Jim as left alone for a while. His mother refused to talk to him after his separation from his first wife believing it was his fault for not giving her any children. They had not wanted any. (at least his wife hadn't). Children solidify a marriage.
Six years down the track when Isabelle heard about a "recalcitrant" mother-in-law she visited her and found her wasting away. Within six months, as soon as the add-on could be built, which she, Isabelle had insisted upon, she had moved into the farmhouse and her health improved almost overnight. It had been her privelege ever since to gaze at the skies and give them a new meaning, as they found a new meaning for her, one of protection, whereas before they had signalled only the hopeless unreachableness of her own happiness. She remembered a time in her youth too when they had meant something quite different.