my Granny Vik – for her birthday.

the kiss and stick of cold dark clay

  – I scrub the earth from my hands.

the prick of her pin at the back of my kitchen drawer

  – I push it to the dark.

the lowing of the black cow

 – out in the farthest field,

the smell of gardenias.

– Her things

keep finding me,

my old Granny Vik, she was

soft to touch, she had

an iron grip and

a sharp tongue.

So many stories.

When she was a girl, growing up in a Siberian gulag, a man came to the door on Christmas Eve. He wanted some bread and a place out of the cold. But there was no bread and no room for a strange man in the hut of four little children and their widowed mother.

The next day, Granny opened the door, and there he was, sitting on the step.

Dead.

Merry Christmas!

When we were kids she worked two jobs so she could fly us to Sydney in our holidays.

She took us swimming to the Bronte Beach.

She took us to the Luna Park and Taronga zoo.

We caught ferries from the Circular Key and visited the Opera House and walked all the way across the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

It was bloody tiring, but we managed to keep up.

She wore a silky scarf over her dark hair and beautiful dark red lipstick and a camel overcoat, stockings and fawn high heels. Once someone asked her for her autograph because they thought she was Greta Garbo.

Imagine!

My Poppy was in the Czech Resistance. He would wake up screaming in the night. The ceiling above his chair was stained orange-brown from his cigarettes. He often smelled of whiskey. He was warm and witty and bitter. Once he got drunk after work and thought he was Jesus and gave away his pay packet. Sometimes he would not come home and Granny would get in a taxi and drive around till she found him crumpled under a tree somewhere, beat up, wallet gone.

Her favourite sayings:

  1. Marriage is a dark forest.
  2. All men are unfaithful. Some with women. Others with drink or horses.

Her own father died on the way to join his wife and children in Siberia. He was trying to sell their farm. He fell off his horse in blizzard. He died in the snow.

She really loved my Poppy; she always spoke fondly of him and his terrible suffering.

When I was 20 and single and pregnant and scared and everyone was ashamed of me my mum made me ring her and tell her and Granny Vik laughed a gentle laugh and said, Ah it is so. Well if anyone will do this, you will. You have this baby and go back to the university and study and have a good life. That is it.

And somehow, it was.

She always grew gardenias. In her backyard in Sydney and later in Brisbane. And little ones in pots on the balcony of her South Bank apartment. She loved gardenia talcum powder and gardenia soap.

When she worked as a forced labourer in a Bavarian factory for Mr Hitler, the girls slept in straw together. With no sanitation things often smelled a bit ordinary.

The day after Granny’s funeral, my mother’s gardenias flowered for the first time.

Those two often argued, but now Mum has a little shrine in her sewing room. Two photos of Granny, and a little vase of flowers on a doily, arranged on their own little table.

I’m thinking that it’s the most wog thing my mother has ever done.

Kholo creek

above Kholo creek
a pink mountain, pink grassy heads swaying gently against the setting sun.

beside Kholo creek
an imprint of her hand in the cold, wet clay.

lost in the night
three childhoods, his parents’ pride, & little sister’s fierce love.

grief

She came to me last night and asked me to take her shopping. I drove her home and she put on her shiny cream heels, her glamorous fawn coat, her dark red lipstick. She was so young and strong, beautiful and content. I took her to the David Jones, and she lingered over some hand-carved ornaments. She noticed their beauty and she ran a finger over the part where polished wood met an interesting natural edge. She wandered around the coats and jackets, feeling the weights of the fabrics, the luxurious piles, so soft! And then I was all alone, holding her bags and her things.

She is gone.

It’s not like I think of her every moment of the day. And some days I don’t at all. But sometimes I wake up and have another cry. And then I get on with it again.

Dadang Christano nineteen sixty-five

I visited my local art gallery yesterday. The exhibition: Dadang Christiano 1965 is a record of the suffering of the people of Indonesia at the coming of the Suharto regime. I learned that an estimated 1 500 000 people were murdered and many more imprisoned, beaten, raped. I also learned the reason for my ignorance: because the victims were labeled leftist sympathisers and communists (and I’m guessing because they were Asian) the West not only did nothing, they actively discouraged reporting and discussion.

Christano’s art is surely an act of faith: that despite this sorry history of denial, all people now will look and understand, will feel compassion. And so I sat for a moment in testimony, if you like. I sat and imagined ten people and then ten groups of ten people and ten times that until I worked up to 1 500 000. It was very crowded in the gallery, yet solemn, peaceful.

I can’t find an image to post that would not impinge on Christano’s copyright, but here is a link to more of his work.

life moving on

My old Granny is fading. She has been in and out of hospital for the past few months with a number of infections, including one in her chest that seems intractable. At one point it seemed she was actively dying, but it does look like we will have her for a little longer, that she can go home again at least for a bit, and enjoy all the attention she is getting from her children, grandkids and great grandkids. (And she is enjoying it too 🙂 )

Gran has started to reminisce. We all love listening to her old stories, but it is a bittersweet thing for her, to remember and to be the only one left. She has outlived all her friends from the old days, her parents, all her siblings, all those connections to Ukraine, to her childhood, her teens, her young adulthood, all gone.

Personally, I am also feeling some emotional impact, apart from the grief about Gran. That is, I keep getting washed over with nostalgia. I look at my young adult daughters and I wonder where my babies, my little ones went. Where is the girl who wrote in grade one I will be a carpenter and build my mum a house and we will all live in it and we will love each other? Where is the four year old who confidently pronounced that we could fix the shower leak with zelly zorclan (Selly’s all seal)? Where did my little miss who perched on the loo with her nose buried in her skirt disappear?

When I was a girl in primary school one of my teachers said to me you won’t believe this but your life will go by in a flash. Make the most of it! He was right. I didn’t believe him and also, here I am, 46 years and two days old, marvelling at it all. How wonderful it has been, how glorious, how hard too, and how blessed I am 🙂

when I accepted it really is just over for her and there is nothing I can do about it and that I was going to be ok and probably was ok already

When my partner and I got back together after years happily apart most of my family had the shits and one of my sisters just dumped me. I kidded myself for a bit that she would get over it and then got mad and sad when she didn’t. And mad at myself for caring about it anyway. And sad with my family because they wanted us to get over it but I didn’t know how. And sometimes scared because I was going to see her at some family thing and when I did see her I always felt like I was going to be sick. This went on for years, about five years actually. And one day after practicing nonviolent communication for quite a while I actually thought to use it and I asked myself – what is it that I want from her anyway? And the answer was so clear and beautiful – love and acceptance and a little fun. And in that very same moment I knew I had all these things already – with my partner and my daughters, with my workmates and with my friends and I just felt all warm and loved up just walking to work in the morning sunshine on a daggy concrete path, with a straggly jasmine vine climbing over a crumbly wall alongside

white foxes

my friend
there is so much that you have missed

each morning the sun still rises to touch the clouds with gold
that place that sells the good kebabs is making real lemonade again
and Sara’s baby girl giggles in her sleep

they say she couldn’t see that anymore she lived in a world with no colour

but last night, in a world bleached by fog I saw
two white foxes in the headlights
suspended

how I miss you
dear friend

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