Sunday, April 25, 2010
One of the reasons I started this blog was because Eunice, my paternal grandmother was no longer with us and I had forgotten to ask her twenty million things. I was too absorbed in travelling the world, being young and discovering the amazing, to realise that a whole heap of history was about to pass me by. I guess I wanted to record snatches of the everyday ordinary as well as the significant, before they were buried under all the things that will happen tomorrow and the next day.
It’s my grandfather’s birthday today. I never knew him, so it’s strange that I always shed a tear or two on this day. I do because even though he died due to a dodgy heart forty three years ago, I know that today still prompts my maternal grandmother and my Mum to remember with shining eyes.
Recently, I came to hear the story of the marriage of my grandparents. Granny worked in the shoe department of Myer and my grandfather was one of two window dressers. Phil had his eye on Granny, but Granny had her eye on Gil. At almost seventeen, Granny was fending off boys left, right and centre and was fatigued with letting them down gently when she grew tired of them after two weeks.
It was at a ball, held at the Malvern Town Hall, when Granny first danced with Phil. Dressed in her debutant gown, with a boy she was “ready to get rid of” on one arm and another she was “ready to start with” on the other, she was barely in the door with her velvet evening coat off, before Phil claimed the first dance. Not long after that first dance, tired of dealing with dumped boyfriend devastation, Granny laid her cards on the table: “I won’t go steady with anyone until I’m at least eighteen.”
A few years later, in 1941, my grandfather was called up for National Service. After an initial three months training in the Australian Army he arrived home on four days leave before being posted who knew where, for who knew how long. It was a spontaneous decision to marry, involving begged permission from parents, a sprint to the bank before a 3pm close for money for an engagement ring, the lucky availability of a church, a frantic search for a borrowed wedding dress and a celebratory tea of vanilla slices supplied by country relatives who happened to be visiting. 24 hours later, my gorgeous Granny was a blushing bride. Part way because, her cousin, Dorothy, had stepped on her veil, pulled it off and revealed hair still slick with olive oil, which she hadn’t had time to wash.
That was Thursday. On Saturday my grandfather left to fight a war. He came home four years later. But he did come home and he and Granny had four children together and loved each other to the moon and back and were each other’s world and universe and stars and light before he died at 46. It’s a story that I hold close. Happy birthday Grandpa.