I am intrigued by people stories, and I have been blown away by how these stories unfold out of objects. Sometimes when I start a new Arts Therapy group I ask people to bring an object from home that holds meaning for them as a way of introducing themselves. This deepened my interest in the stories objects hold, and how they remind people of different things, and most importantly, how they weave us together.
Above are a set of objects left to me by my late Nanna. Well she didn’t really leave me the head, it was one of the things left over from her belongings offered out to the family – anyone want this? I took it, because I remember this head staring at me from a number of different houses over a long period of time, she was always in Nanna and Grandpa’s house as long as I can remember. She may have a name I don’t know, and she herself does not remind me of much apart from the 60’s velvet painting era. She does however remind me of the terrible bread my Grandpa used to make. He had a heart attack when I was a young teen, and after that began taking long walks with his amazing dogs (always Labradors), and baking this health bread that resembled bricks. I would turn up at their place and he would have just made bread, which smelled good but had no taste appeal to me at that time. When I start thinking of his bread, I think of his dogs. He was a bit of a dog whisperer, and all his dogs had particular talents, such as retrieving archery arrows from great distances out in the paddock behind their house, and one that floated on its back in the sea. I remember the smell of weetbix with hot milk and golden syrup, and old ABC radio news, with the ‘da da dun’ music intro. The other thing about my Grandpa is that he let me, at age 12, become his personal hair dresser- which was quite a thrill. It was just a straight old man’s haircut, but he trusted me to do it, and that really meant something to me at that time.
On the right is the tea set that Nanna did mean to leave to me, as she knows I am quite a fan of the tea party. This was a wedding present, and wears the tag – from Office Staff, Bilson’s PtyLtd, Colac, 11.5.1946. As I write this on 6.8.2012 it is a complete set. 6 cups, saucers, cake plates, milk jug, sugar bowl and big cake plate. I don’t know how often it got used, I only bring it out on special occasions – it’s a big responsibility having a full unbroken tea set!
Unlike Grandpa’s death, Nanna’s was long, drawn out and painful. She died with Anaesthetic Dementia, which means – it came on suddenly and was a slow confusing trot to the grave. She was my shrinking Nanna. By no means a tall lady to begin with, she was a miniature version of herself when she left this realm. She had cool cranky lady stuff going on. I know it was unpleasant for people who saw her more than me, but I really enjoyed her crankiness and dis-satisfaction with the aged care facility she ended up in. I used to massage her hands, and communicate wordlessly with her, and one day when stroking her head I touched ‘the hair’. She momentarily transformed into Medusa, and I did not continue with that!
Another time I visited her and she was playing Bingo. I sat with her a little, dreaming about taking the mic from the caller and breaking into some 40’s show tune as the lights went down and the room transformed into a cruise liner or something, when Nanna says to me in snakey voice (hiss) – “Get me out of here, I hate Bingo”. I was thrilled to rescue her from Bingo.
She cooked things in microwaves for decades, knitted a lot back in the day, and was a big CWA women who wrote the family history and kept so many journals that my Mum and Aunty couldn’t keep them all. I journal – thanks Nanna, this one’s for you….
Over to you Mum aka Marilyn Pearson…..
What do these pictures remind you of?
Memories of a safe and secure childhood that, at the time, I thought was boring and restrictive because of where we lived. In hindsight I realise I am one of the lucky ones who grew up in stable and safe community that cared. I grew up with more freedom than most kids only dream of.
The head has a name but for the life of me I can’t remember what it is. Maybe my sisters or brother will.
My memories of the head are probably merged over several incidents but the first thought she brings to mind is the travelling salespersons who would visit our home in Wirrulla. Mum and Dad had a small general store with petrol bowsers. Dad was also the Shell fuel rep and delivered fuel to surrounding farms.
Travelling salespeople would arrive in their vans laden with a plethora of wonders to show and sell. Keep in mind this would have been in the 1960s or early 1970s. Wirrulla was a small, remote and isolated community. Our exposure to the commercial world was limited to irregular trips to nearby towns and the occasional shopping bonanza’s to Port Lincoln – itself only a medium size provincial town.
I think the head made her appearance the night a travelling salesperson visited following Ormond’s attempt setting fire to his bed. He’d been playing with a lighter and lighter fuel and set fire to his bed. Noela and I threw a bucket of water over it, spreading the flames but somehow the fire was confined to Ormond’s bed. That night one of the regular salespersons arrived bringing with him a bottle of Crème de Menthe. It was the first time I remember seeing Mum and Dad drink alcohol. Mum got very giggly and silly.
The next morning the head was ensconced at the end of the long pine laminated buffet alongside the dining room table. My memory says Dad was the one who was captivated by the head. She kept an eye on us kids for a lot of years. She holds secrets no-one else is privy to and we have probably long forgotten.
She moved to Wallaroo with Mum and Dad and with Mum to Adelaide after Dad passed away. We installed her on the bookshelf in Mum’s room at the Nursing Home to continue to watch over Mum. She has been in the family for around 50 years I would think.
I can’t remember where the teas set lived when we were on the farm but can clearly visualise it in the buffet in the house at Wirrulla – the same one the head lived on. It lived alongside a white fluted tea set that Dad had given to Mum for her 21st birthday (I think). The tea set was often viewed but rarely touched. I don’t remember it being used until we took Mum to Ky’s for a tea party probably about a year before she died. It was one of Mum’s last visits to the outside world. I’m so pleased it now lives where it is treasured.
The head and tea set were never far apart in my memories, living with Mum until the end and now together with Ky. They were kept company by a ruby glass lolly jar which not resides with Kendie.
OK siblings now you can dispute my memories.