Magical Memory Maker

Once upon a time there was a little fairytale worker’s cottage in Murarrie
where a grandma with big bear hugs squeezed the air from little chests
and ginger nut bikkies and ginger ale were devoured
by knobbly kneed kids, unaccustomed to such delights.

This Grandma was a magical memory maker
and cast her spell on all her grandchildren
so that one day they would also become magical memory makers.

She had ginger hair, turned grey, deftly brushed and restrained
with brown squiggly hairpins, into an abundant bun, always.
She was short and plump, but strong in arm and opinion.

A macadamia bush would greet us, alongside Grandma, at the front gate,
dark green and rich with nuts, more scattered on the grass
leathery casings with lips cracked open to reveal the shiny brown prize
the macadamia nut
eagerly collected by the grandkids, and placed carefully in a hole
in the cement three step staircase leading to Grandma’s kitchen.
Crack!
Hammer smack.
don’t eat too many or you’ll get a tummy ache
wise words dismissed without delay by hungry children.

Running like crazy around yard and house
searching for new surprises,
close scrutiny of bookshelves was a must
scrabbling through the ever-changing hodge podge
collections of tattered paperbacks
Biggles and Boys Own Annuals
the three boys had grown and left home but the books wanted to stay.
Reading material was given, taken, returned, taken again
an intergenerational book merry-go-round.

Wood and glass cabinets were full of dust collectors, but
endlessly fascinating for the mind and eye of a child.
Old styled dressing table with large mirror, so full of stuff
large hairbrushes, bobby pins, talcum powder
dangling necklaces, jewellery boxes,
old fashioned perfume decanters
perfume dispensed at the squeeze of a fabric covered air bubble
yellow tinged formal photographs
of a long time ago, with
Grandpa, black and white and well dressed
for the annual photo of union leaders,
heading up the plasterers.

A pot belly fridge choking with ice
grumbled at the back of a tiny kitchen,
resenting little hands
opening and shutting,
opening and shutting
don’t let the hot air in.

Monstrous mango trees cooled the little Queenslanders’
and protected skin, tin and timber from scorching rays.

A dilapidated wooden fence peeked out from under
the the tight embrace of a mulberry bush,
the luscious fruit blushing.

A crooked, cracked pathway on a lumpy backyard
led to the outhouse
one room backyard dunny
placed as far away from the house as the garden would allow.
A bucket of wood shavings beside the grim toilet was used to hide offerings.
Grandma would say discretely
I’m off to visit me Aunty
or
I’m going to drop a penny
when needing to go to the backyard dispensary
and I wondered where this lady was hidden, and what happened to the coins.
At night it was always wise to journey to the outhouse in pairs
hearts pounded fast, only slowing when safely back in front
of the old black and white box television, with alien antennae.

Grandma the cat lady
cats, cats and more cats
there was the inner circle, her own cats,
and there was the outer circle,
the motley crew of strays,
diseased, skinny, mouldy cats
scary cats
the smell of dried and tinned cat food
competed with sunlight soap
for a place in our memories of
Grandma’s place.

Then there was the thick, putrid smells from the local tannery, punishing our nostrils
when the wind made a bad choice in direction,
hanging about like crows in the school yard,
waiting for the children to finish lunch.

A Westerly wind would answer our prayers
and the smell was gone
replaced by freshly mown grass
marble cake and tea.

Time spent at the gingerbread house
under the spell of the memory maker
weaved some magical memories indeed.

The End

24 thoughts on “Magical Memory Maker

  1. Oh you are brilliant – I love ‘the books wanted to stay’ – THAT IS WHAT HAPPENS IN OUR FAMILY. Thank you for the gentle memory-making in this poem. d.

  2. Dream paralysis, mental health issues and Grandma. After reading your last few posts I am not sure what to say except that from my early childhood experience they are all interrelated. One of my Grandmas was a magical memory maker for sure. The other had a fine china house with a very cold and damp basement in which to keep the little Grandkids away. I wrote about them a few times but never with the charm that you have here, Gabrielle. A drafty poem indeed.

    1. You must give me the link (maybe you had an aspie Grandma on one side of the canyon – who knows!). I’m glad you had one magical memory maker Brad – we all need one to hug the crap out of us.

  3. Yeah, talk about versatile topics! You sure keep us on our toes! What a lovely tribute to your grandma. Lucky you. Thanks for the journey. I think I’ll go crack a mac now.

  4. fantatic poem Gabe. Took me back instantly. I remember the kerosene smell most of all, and the lingering hugs. Mmmmm. Ta

    1. Ah, I forgot the kerosene – actually I was wondering whether whether we used torches or kerosene lamps when we went to the toilet at night? If in doubt, I leave it out. I was happy when she got sewerage connected. Thanks Lisa. This one you can give a copy to Daniel and Mum 😉

  5. Reminds me of going to Aunt Hester’s ,her house still stands a couple of stones throws to the south of here.
    Funny thing though she didnt have any macadamia bushes or mangos.
    She had the cats and all the love.

    I love those outhouse phrases!

    thank you so much for sharing these priceless memories

  6. I love, love, love this piece very much Gabrielle! I feel like you could have reached into my mind and drawn from any number of similar memories within … so wonderful and real.

  7. I love this poem. The dressing table particularly got to me because my Scottish grandma had a wonderful walnut dressing table with all sorts of treasures on it. I would spend hours just sitting and looking and pretending I was a very posh lady. Magical Memory Maker is exactly what it was like!

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