I have been re-reading Mum’s reminiscences, written about twenty years ago in her neat, self-disciplined longhand. Mostly they concern her childhood in East Gippsland and Geelong, but make for pretty painful reading. This is not because the contents are other than delightful, though from time to time a measure of wistfulness and melancholy does creep in, but far more because they remind me how much I miss her, now more than ever. She’s funny, of course:
Much later during the war when Mongie lived with us for quite a while at 188 Noble St., Newtown, she organized John and me and our friends David Salmon and Janet Nicholson in a pretend radio show. We had hours of fun and it still makes me laugh to remember Janet, well padded with a half-full hot water bottle concealed on her knee being interviewed as a visiting European operatic star with a bad case of indigestion.
Mum was mighty tough also. At Raeshaw, when she was no more than nine years of age:
One of our great pleasures was to watch Matt the Italian handyman cut up a sheep. We never witnessed the killing but were allowed to watch once the animal was hung up to be skinned and gutted. I can still remember the colorful sight when all the innards gushed out, steaming in the cold air. It made Anne keen to be a doctor.She was also very good at using plain objects to put her recollections in order:
Searching in a cupboard for a thermos I find an old green jug, decorated with the figures from a story by an American (I think), Florence K. Upton—The Adventures of Two Dutch Dolls and a “Golliwogg.” The spout is broken but I have kept it because it is a link with my mother who first read to me the rhyming adventures of Mr. Golliwogg, etc. I experience a minor pang when I realize that there is no one, now that my sister is dead, who would experience the same affectionate reaction upon seeing the jug as I do.
Mum’s minor pang gives me a major pang, for I am quite certain that after she died the old green jug with the chipped spout must have gone to the Salvos, the Brotherhood, or the tip, unless Nick intervened. I remember the jug, and I also remember wondering why on earth she held onto it. Now I know. Having now tracked down the Upton book, I recognize the cover too, so her copy may still be at Metung. Or perhaps I saw it in Myamyn Street or even at Balmadies, though I recall absolutely nothing about the text or the plot. I presume it is now banned.