My sisters and I were born in the 1950s. We grew up in a semi-suburban small town, very wowserish, in a time when attending Sunday School was the norm. When my little sister was still a baby, my elder sister and I went dutifully to Sunday School with our two cousins, also young girls. There was the tiny wooden church, nestled amid the gum trees, surrounded by rolling hills of orchards.
Afterwards we would all visit our grandma, who lived not far away, in a very old house. This home was where my father was born in 1918, and built to last. It is still standing on the same large block of land, more than a century later.
Grandma’s loving hands would embrace all her granddaughters, and welcome us with a singalong. The little maids we were gathered around Grandma playing her old pipe organ, imported long before on a ship. We would joyfully sing such classic favourites as ‘Onward, Christian Soldiers!’, as Grandma taught us her beliefs about Heaven, where summer fragrant flowers bloomed for our souls’ eternal bliss, under perpetual light, with green soft pastures, and beautiful clear streams.
In reality, my grandpa was a bit of a dictator, as he would not even ‘let’ Grandma grow flowers, only vegetables and fruit trees. Following our hymns, Grandma would play some fun songs, like ‘Clementine’, and ‘Molly Malone’. I can still visualise Grandma’s loving hands playing the organ keys.
Then we would troop into her kitchen, where the one-fire stove was always blazing, summer or winter, with pots ever bubbling on the stove top. Her little granddaughters sat around the old scrubbed wooden table. We had to show good manners and respectable behaviours. Grandma was very old-fashioned, hair in a grey bun, her apron covering her floral frocks, dour but sensible flat shoes and appearance. But she was loving, in her own kind way. We drank unforgettable cocoa from enamel mugs, and relished Grandma’s baking. No packet mixes here, all those beautiful sponges baked in the wood fired oven, melt in the mouth. Her pikelets were incomparable, slathered with best butter. To finish, crisp fresh apples. Old school motto, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” These days, it is more like, “A coffee a day keeps the grumpy away!”
Grandma’s loving hands would embrace and bless us, as we fondly parted, until the next Sunday. She never learned to drive a car, it was a different time and place. In those days, there were many home deliveries, in carts drawn by clopping Clydesdale horses. Grandma walked everywhere and lived to a ripe old age.
We can still recall her vision of her Heaven and hope she found her fragrant flowers there. Our childhood, part of a family tapestry, faded into history. Some part of her little maids are still shaped today by our grandma’s loving hands.