Thursday, 22 March 2012

A letter to Grandma

Dear Grandma …

I was your oldest grandson, so you always had a soft spot for me and sometimes in secret you told me I was your favourite. Then again, perhaps you said that to all your grandchildren. I’m sure we were all your favourites, in our own ways, on our days. Your mixed bag of licorice all sorts, spearmint leaves, freckles and bananas.

I preferred Snakes Alive … and you always made sure the glass jar of sweets in the top cupboard was full.

Now the cupboard is bare. I’m writing this at the last minute, the way I write most things, but I procrastinated longer and more diligently this time, because I knew what was coming: the hurt, the loss, the streams of tears, the creeping years, the burst dam of memories.

And here they come now, cascading through time, bearing me back to 32 Grovely Terrace, a home made from fibro and lino, held together with magic and love. A place where car lights became stars in tinted louvers, carved wooden elephants marched around picture rails, giving me itchy feet, and canaries sung as old dogs went to the front porch to sit in the sun.

That’s where you often were too, peering through Grandpop’s frosted glazing, on the lookout for new arrivals to shower with lollies and love.

You were Ann Tree, our family tree, and beneath your boughs we sought shade.

I don’t remember ever seeing you angry. You were kind, funny, forgiver of foibles, shepherd of black sheep, an inveterate worrier and back seat driver, a hypochondriac who almost made a hundred, and a homebody who later became quite the world traveller.

You didn’t understand my restless soul, yet you never begrudged my life abroad.

You were a flaming red-haired beauty in your day; someone I didn’t know at all. You looked impossibly exotic in the hand-tinted black and white photo that hung above the grandfather clock, as foreign to me as your brother John who never came back from the war.

I can hear the clock’s chimes now, marking the hours, resonating in time. I see Grandpop with his Steamrollers and you with your Snakes. Goodbye my sweetheart.

Yes, we have no bananas. We have no bananas today.