My busted arm ached; I was knee deep in sixty-one years of family memories piled almost to the ceiling of the downstairs laundry. My ninety-two year old mother Ivy is seated outside and waits for me to help value and separate the treasures of her life. How does one emotionally value another’s memories?
Her eldest children are in their winter years, her youngest on the home stretch for the pension. Upon the collection I stare. I remember the original laundry, which contained an old copper washer. A large copper tub electrically heated to boiling point filled with bed sheets or clothing all prodded with hardwood staff. Brisbane came of age with sewage, creating a need to extend the house, which consisted of a large awning roof, a new and fully sealed laundry and separate flush toilet which my father built.
I gazed over the familiar connections to a past life. One of a little boy standing in the summer sun. Surely it was Sunday, my father crowned by an old city hat is shirtless, his skin the colour of old church pews and sometimes he could be just as hard. His powerful calloused hands grasp a hand saw in a to and fro action. A sturdy length of wood clamped to his saw horses. Sunday was father’s day home. Friday night and Saturday were his.
The private bar of the Brook Hotel is where many an hour was wasted throwing good money after dud horses and finding the bottom of too many pots of XXXX beer. But Sunday was for home life. We had a vegetable garden, an endless source of health. The fowl house supplied fresh eggs all year round. Christmas, father would fatten turkeys, on occasion’s ducks. I will never forget us children laughing as we chased headless chooks, their blood pumping from shortened necks. My nostril’s would fill with the foul smell of them repeatedly dunked in boiling water to help remove their feathers.
We were lucky, near on a quarter of an acre sprouted a tiny house. With me, the boys made three in one tiny room and our four sisters filled another. Father’s duty to balance life would include Mum cooking up a treat in a basket and traversing to Shorncliffe by puffin’ billy trains hauling timber carriages with black leather seats. On we’d climb to the other side of the hill. At its base, gentle waves rolled over the immaculate sand of the beach. Next to the sand stood great trees thirty foot high that sustained large oval leaf canopies that blossomed pink in spring. Underneath families would gather around timber topped tables and fixed bench seats. This must be the mid to late 1960s? He certainly was a man of his time. Both Mum and Dad grew through the hard years of the depression.
It’s hard throwing out mum’s life. The people she knew and loved, life without her mate via the curse of cancer. She misses him deeply even if he was tarnished. We all do in our own way.