Tag Archives: memory

Looking back…

My wonderfully talented sister wrote this about our grandmother. The little girl in the second photo is me!


A little over a year ago my dear, sparkling, much adored grandmother (or Mama as we lovingly called her) passed away. I wrote some words in my journal back then, when I had first heard the news. In truth, writing words down doesn’t really help the pain of the goodbye, but it can help try to capture in some way a mere slice of the vast joy that was the “hello”. Seeing as it was her birthday recently I thought I would post a little blog for her and include some of my journal writing from last year.

One of my favourite photos of Mama and me from Christmas a few years back- such joy! One of my favourite photos of Mama and me from Christmas a few years back- such joy!

When someone transforms from a person who Is to a person who Was, so much changes. Suddenly your experience of them becomes that of an observer, looking upon their masterpiece of life- as opposed to seeing them as a person with…

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Special Birthday Edition

I meant to get this post up yesterday, the 15th, which was my birthday, but didn’t quite manage it. 

birthday cards

This is a quick, unpolished post, the electronic equivalent of scribbled notes, but I had to write something about today because it was so beautiful.  I want to capture it and remember it always.

I am 33 years old today.  When I sat in church this morning, as Matilda, Christopher Robin and Harry trotted off to Children’s Liturgy and Annie happily defaced a Vinnies Christmas Appeal envelope, I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude for my love-filled life.

roses from my garden

Last night, I had a group of dear friends over for a relaxed barbeque.  I had tidied the house and made it beautiful with fairy lights and candles and fresh flowers from my garden.  After we had picked at the last of the salad and the birthday cake crumbs, Mr Knightley lit a bonfire and we all sat around toasting marshmallows until the guitars came out.

I think it might have had something to do with the plastic cups of very lovely champagne (a Christmas present from her very generous student) that Lydia poured out liberally for all, or one of the most delicious and rather strong vodka cranberries that Lovely M kept making me, but I sounded AMAZING.  We all sounded AMAZING.  Like magical gypsy minstrels.  Those weren’t fumbled chords.  Those were highly sophisticated improvisations.  It. Was. Awesome.

By all rights, I should have felt rather poorly this morning, but I did not.  My children tumbled into bed with me and gave me presents and kisses.  My husband cooked me bacon and eggs (even better: he fed and dressed the kids!).  We got to church on time, too (this is big)

I was still feeling the love while Matilda, Christopher Robin and Harry walked slowly to the front of the church in the Offertory Procession with the other Children’s Liturgy kids.  Harry solemnly delivered the corporal cloth to Father Jacob and then swiftly ran away, first in the wrong direction, then turning and racing back, almost knocking the priest and half the gifts over in the process.  Annie, meanwhile had quietly progressed to colouring the hymn books.

I felt so good.

These aren't from my garden, but a present from Bess

Later that day, I would eat brunch with Bess and George, my old uni friends ; my parents-in-law would drop by with a lovely present and my house would be tidy (win); and I would have a delightful afternoon tea at my favourite place with my parents, and brothers and sister (Jan’s in England, but was there in spirit).

I was yet to be showered in presents (and so was Cindy, my twin, who turns 23 on Tuesday), was yet to eat delicious gluten-free cake, but I still felt so good and so grateful.

At the end of the day, I would snuggle up with my darling love (my new curling iron) and my husband and watch a movie so compelling I couldn’t blog through it and post this in time.

A day might come that’s not like this one at all, when I feel blackness and despair.  Maybe I might feel consumed by anxiety, like I can’t cope, like I always fail.

Perhaps it might not be blackness and despair, but greyness and blah.  I might feel numb to joy, like I’m just surviving in a bland world of sameness.  I might forget how to be happy and just settle for smug.

A day might come when I really need this post.  When I need to remind myself that things aren’t really all that bad.

Things can be pretty damn sweet.

Don’t Read This on a Japanese Train

Mama and Me

After reading a delightful post by Misadventures in Craft  about Crafty Minx’s nan, Lillian, I learnt about the “Granny-a-Long” hosted by Meet Me at Mikes and I couldn’t resist joining in.

My Mama lived at home in my big and noisy family when I was growing up and is a big part of who I am today.  I’ve been feeling a little emotional about my lovely Mama of late, so you might find this post a bit of a departure from my usual cheerful style.  I also wrote it in present-tense-second-person for no good reason.  Deal with it.

Mama and Me

Last night I visited you in hospital.  You have a brand-new hip now, but I don’t think you understand that.  Lost in a bewilderment of tubes and bleeping machines and white linen, you look so small.  You have always been little.  We used to tease you about it.  In the noise and laughter of our dinner table, you would stand up to get our attention and bang on the table to cancel out the five-conversations-at-once.  We would giggle and say, “Mama has an announcement! Stand up, Mama! Stand up!” And you would laugh and swat at us with your napkin and call us cheeky.  But now, in that bed so high off the ground, you look tinyLike a baby bird, too weak to fly.

Harry is excited because he can see a train out of your window.  The hospital is next to the train station.  I remember when I was a little girl, you would take me on the train with you on your excursions to Town.  How we would emerge from the exciting, subterranean station, pay a visit at St Francis’ church, and wander through the department store wonderlands so you could run your errands.  After this, if I had been good (and you always thought me good) we would have a special treat for lunch before catching the train back home.

The train pulls away, a snake of lit windows in the night, and Harry and Christopher Robin wave at it.  You don’t like this hospital.  You hate being sick.  When I was a little girl, I loved being sick.  You would bring me downstairs to your big Queen Anne bed and bring me cups of tea and fried eggs on a tray with flowers.  After lunch, you would perch on the bed with me and watch your “serials’, Days of Our Lives, The Young and The Restless.  You thought them very silly, but you never missed an episode.

Last year, when things got really bad, the doctor said you would have to live in a nursing home, where you could have full-time care.  We had all thought you would live at home forever.  We had never realised that one day that would become impossible.  In my grief, I swung into action mode and sought comfort in lists and research and pros and cons.  The home you live in now was number one on our list.  Tall trees, warm nurses, close community, fun activities.  But it’s not home.  And you know that and we know that.

The hospital confuses you.  “Is that George over there?  That can’t be George can it?”.  It isn’t George.  George is one of the other residents at Cottage Four who has a great-grandson just Harry’s age.  Actually, George isn’t even George. His name is really Walter, but you’re never one to let silly facts like these get in the way.  Walter just doesn’t realise his name is actually George.  Christopher Robin says that you’ve given Walter a nickname and I find it hard not to call him George myself sometimes.

You’re getting tired, it’s time for us to go.  Harry bounds over to give you a hug and a kiss and Annie bounces in her dad’s arms saying “Mama!”.  Christopher Robin gives a small, sad smile and a wave and Matilda lingers reluctantly at the foot of the bed.  But you don’t notice this.  “You have a beautiful family, you should be very proud” you murmur sleepily.  Pride in your grandchildren used to be a full-time sport for you.  If one of us came home with a glowing school report or a certificate from a science competition or pretty much anything with a gold star on it, you would whisk it away to some hiding place in your room, only to mysteriously produce it again whenever important visitors came around.  It was so embarrassing.  But you had the sort of personality that could get away with anything.

Matilda is subdued in the car ride home and as I tuck her into bed, she is crying.  “I wish Mama was living at home with Grandma again.” she whispers.  Matilda remembers what you were like before, when you were only a little bit forgetful.  We talk about the little impulsive gifts you bought her and the special lunches at the food court of the local shopping centre.  By now we’re both crying, but it’s dark, so it’s not so bad.  “I know it’s harder for you, Mum”, Matilda sniffles, “because you’ve known Mama for longer.  But it’s still hard for me.”

I want to say something really wise.  To talk, maybe, about how some goodbyes are swift and jarring, whilst others are slow and gentle.  To reflect on the ways in which love and relationship can transcend language and intellect and even memory.  But the words won’t come, so instead I hold Matilda tight and smell her beautiful hair.  And we stay like that for a very long time.

The title of this post is a warning to my older brother.  In Japan, public displays of emotion are kind of frowned upon.  Except that frowns are too expressive for Japanese public transport.  My brother complains when my posts make him laugh out loud when he’s on the train.  It makes everyone around him quietly tense.  If he were to get a little teary, his morning commute would get very uncomfortable.

Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if Mama had known about my blog.  Mama was never tech-savvy at the best of times, but I can imagine her brandishing print-outs of my best work to distribute amongst all her Church Lady Friends.  I can hear her hassling the parish priest after Mass:  “Did you know Katie got a Liebster award last week?  Let me give you something to read…”