My nostalgia grows with my years. Is it the same for you?
Some of my most powerful memories are of the holidays I spent at my grandparents’ houses – first in Cessnock, then in Hawks Nest.
The Cessnock years are pretty patchy – being rushed to hospital one night after having an anaphylactic reaction to penicillin; getting into trouble for tipping over my sister’s stroller, which had a carton of eggs on top of it; patting my nan’s beloved long-haired dachshund Mickey.
Hawks Nest is more vivid. I’ve written about it before, in a blog post called “How could I forget?”
We scattered my Nan’s ashes on the Myall River back in 2012. I stood on the shore and pointed out landmarks to the kids from tales I’d told them about my childhood – the sandbank where Aunty Kathryn cut her foot … the spot where we caught guppies in buckets … the little balls of sand made by the crabs digging … the spot where my great-grandmother lived on a beached houseboat …
My sister and I spent every school holiday at my grandparents’ house.
Nan would have a pot of old-fashioned Keens curried sausages and heart-attack-inducing slice waiting – biscuit base, caramel filling, Dessert Whip topping and sprinkles – each time.
We’d make meat pies on dinner plates and decorate them with homemade pastry off-cuts.
We’d pack picnics of cold pie and heart-attack slice and wander along Hawks Nest beach to the base of Mount Yacaba to hunt for cowrie shells in the rock pools.
We’d fill an old wash-tin with sand and salt water, then add guppies and brightly clawed crabs that we caught among the mangroves on the riverfront.
Nan would buy mullet and bream from a local fisherman, toss them in flour and Season-All and fry them with hand-cut chips in well-used oil. Then we’d debone a special piece for Choo-Choo the dog to scarf.
Pop grew peaches, plums, lemons, mangoes and mulberries in the backyard and we’d eat them straight from the tree.
Nan would wake us at dawn to swim in the Myall River during the chilly king tide and feed us so much junk food that we’d get heartburn.
She’d let us watch so much TV that our eyes went square and challenged us to endless games of Scrabble and dominos and Five Hundred.
They’d give us holiday pets – guinea pigs, ducklings that mysteriously grew into geese, cockatoos … then tend to them once we’d gone.
Oh how I wish we could sit around their kitchen table together again on a Sunday afternoon after a roast dinner lunch, flicking through the latest weekly gossip magazines and talking up a storm.
So I felt a bit teary when a post popped up in my Facebook feed this week entitled: “What I wouldn’t give for one more day with my grandparents”
The author wrote: “I still have dreams, you know. Dreams where they are both still alive and I am on the couch. My grandfather is smoking a cigar in the recliner and I can smell lunch cooking. She speaks to me so clearly and calls me Al in her sweet, Southern voice as she asks me if I would like some sweet tea or if I want to go for a walk around the neighborhood.
“I miss my grandparents so much. I miss the couch and the yard, the smells and the sounds. All of it, I miss all of it. And now, at 41 years old, not being there more with them, for them, is my biggest life regret. What I wouldn’t give for one more meal, one more hug, one more anything.”
Me too. Me too.
PS Thank you to everyone who contacted me about yesterday’s post – it was wonderful and reassuring to hear from you.
Song of the day: Barbra Streisand “Memory”