Do you recognise those words?
One of my latest followers will, I’m sure, and if she doesn’t it just means she’s getting slower with age!
I can say things like that, because she’s my aunt … a blunt-speaking fearsome woman I’m just a little bit scared of, so I’m only saying this at a distance, through this blog. It’ll be ages before I see her again, and she’ll have forgotten by then, so I think I’m safe!
I received a card from Aunty Jan a few weeks ago and it was interesting that the first thing that came unbidden into my mind was the soundtrack that I associate with her. The house in McMahons Rd, North Nowra; the record player belting out Dr Hook: Walk right in, Sylvia’s Mother, A little bit more, Only sixteen, When you’re in love with a beautiful woman … a little bit racy when I think about it now! I never really liked Dr Hook, but then again, I was only 14 and I wasn’t exactly the Dr Hook demographic. Older bearded, long-haired men weren’t exactly my cup of tea.
Other memories then piled on top of that one. Wiping up is not something that’s usually memorable, but then, you obviously don’t know Aunty Jan.
You know those little grooves around the lids of Tupperware containers? The ones that soap bubbles get caught in them after they’ve been washed in hot sudsy water? When wiping up for Aunty Jan, all those soap bubbles had to be wiped away. “Use the corner of the tea towel, Sharon, and make sure you get them all!”. A war on soap bubbles that we didn’t wage at our place, so I was unskilled in the art of bubble extinction.
Then I remembered the chips. Bowls of potato crisps while watching telly after the dishes had been done and the bubbles had been expunged. We didn’t have bowls of crisps at our place … but at Aunty Jan’s I did.
Then I remembered the argument her and Dad had years before, where he refused to go home till the dishes had been done, but she wanted him gone immediately. I don’t know what the original argument was about, but as a newly minted teenager it felt naughty (and thus its appeal) to listen to two adults shouting at each other about something as mundane as the washing up.
Then there’s the story of Mum and Dad’s wedding. Aunty Jan, eight years younger than Mum, was a flowergirl (junior bridesmaid? I know I’ll get that wrong and someone will correct me) at Mum and Dad’s wedding. She cried (although that’s not the word Dad uses when he tells the story) all the way through the ceremony. A well-meaning person told her that she wasn’t losing a sister but gaining a brother and 12 year old Jan cried, “But I don’t like him”.
I have to admit that I still laugh at that. It speaks to so many things about my family: the two distinct halves, the blunt honesty, the contrariness on both sides (which, happily, I have inherited), the determination (it’s always seemed to me) on my father’s side to be as obnoxious as he possibly can be to Aunty Jan (please don’t put another perspective on that anyone – I enjoy thinking that’s what it is), the teasing nature of the youngest siblings (which, unhappily my (younger) brother inherited), the laughter and warmth despite it all.
And then there’s Uncle Eric. Caring and kind and such an integral part of the family. Hot sugary, cinnamon-y doughnuts and chocolate milkshakes every Saturday morning when I worked in his garden shop as a teenager. Trips to Sydney to check out nurseries or to buy plants or other supplies; my first taste (distaste) of McDonalds; driving very fast but with supreme confidence; long socks, shorts, brylcreemed hair, and dark sunglasses – a distinctive style that has, in his case, outlived the 70s; Latin names of just about every flower, tree, shrub known to man rolling off his tongue; physically damaged but soldiering on with great strength and resilience.
I recently challenged Aunty Jan to support my fundraising venture for Parkinson’s Disease. She told me, in her usual blunt way, that she already supports research into other medical conditions. I thought that was the end of it – and fair enough too; she’s an aged pensioner now and the dollar can only stretch so far. But then a card arrived, with a cheque in it, to aid my fundraising venture.
You’re a real sport Aunty Jan.