Sweet Planetarians, thanks so much for your kind and caring expressions of empathy and support over the past few days since our family friend, Graeme, died. I haven’t been able to blog. So many memories have been flooding back to me, just washing over me as I've tried to keep my head afloat and continue on with daily life on Planet Baby.
We've had to explain to the older pixies about death and what that means for ‘Uncle Graeme’ (my parents had a tradition of naming their friends ‘Auntie’ and 'Uncle’ for us, tags which have stuck to this day, a whole generation on). It’s their first experience of death. They have a very simple understanding of what’s happened, based on what Joshua learnt at school last year in ‘Faith and Life’. He told me, “It’s okay, Mummy. That night, his soul went up to Heaven and one day, we'll meet up with him there, too”. India has given me long, heartfelt hugs, displaying empathy far beyond what I’d expect from a 3 year old.
This is my first time joining in with Bron’s ‘I’m grateful for’ blog hop at Maxabella Loves. I think the time is right.
* I’ve known Graeme all my life, for all my 40 years. As my godmother’s husband, from an early age, I carried the simple, childly reassurance that should anything befall my parents, ‘Uncle Graeme’ would help look after me. That was a great comfort throughout my childhood. He was such a kindly fellow, his eyes always creased with laughter marks. I don’t think I ever saw him get cross, so gentle was his nature.
* Our families are very closely linked so Graeme was always a presence in my life. My godmother and my Mum are childhood friends and the godmothers of each other’s daughters. His daughter and I have carried on that tradition with our own daughters. Our families are intrinsically connected for yet another generation.
* When we were younger, every Friday after school, without fail, Mum would take us up to their house, set on bushland high up in Hobart, for afternoon tea. Graeme would always be there, pottering around in the background, an easy smile on his face. We’d play chasings and tennis against a wall. They owned a chicken hatchery so he showed us children so many interesting sights. We especially loved the ‘hatching season’ when we’d peek in the heated areas to see if any of the eggs were cracking yet.
* Spending that time on their land allowed us children to roam free, without a care in the world. There was so much more space than in our suburban backyard. In summer, Graeme erected their big above-ground pool for us to splash around in. He built a cubby house which provided us with endless hours of delight as we played ‘houses’. In recent years, he made an even more elaborate version for his three young grand-daughters to play in, all beautifully painted in pink. The older pixies delighted in using it as well, having to ‘take turns’ as they couldn't all fit in at once! Elevated on a hill, it has a spectacular view overlooking Hobart.
|Just drink in this view of Hobart!|
* With our families so closely connected and with my parents’ desire for us to maintain close contact with our godparents, Graeme and my godmother were often at our place for a birthday party or the annual ‘godparents’ barbecue’ held the Saturday before Christmas. Our godparents would arrive with their children in tow and we children (up to 18 sometimes) would be left to our own devices while the adults made merry. We hurtled down the nearby grass lane on our billycarts and played ‘Hiacky 123’, ‘Hide and go seek’, ‘Spotlight’ (with a torch) and ‘Murder in the dark’ (are any bells ringing for you Gen Xers?). I only ever saw delight on Graeme’s face as he watched us make our own fun.
|Ours wasn't much fancier than this one|
* Graeme also put on an annual bonfire to celebrate ‘Empire Day’ (remember that? It used to mark Queen Victoria’s birthday.) for family and friends. It was always a grand affair with logs and sticks piled metre high after months of his careful construction work. Back in the 1970s, before fireworks were banned from use by individuals, we had such a ball as we’d shoot off Catherine Wheels and skyrockets from old milk bottles, whilst avoiding the Tom Thumbs the older boys would throw around our legs. All while we stood on the hill, admiring that spectacular view of Hobart laid out at our feet.
* We were invited to Graeme’s bonfire last year, the first in about 20 years for me, as we hadn’t really attended much as teenagers and then Mr PB and I lived in Sydney for 11 years. This time, my parents babysat Sam and we took Joshua and India with us, all rugged up for the winter night. We ploughed on through thick grass, torchlight our only guide. And then we saw it. The most gigantic bonfire we’d ever set eyes on. Graeme had been carting wood there for the previous year and I swear it was about 5 metres high and about 10 metres wide. Seriously. And it was alight. It was flaming, sparks swirling high in the nippy night air. Joshua and India were enthralled. And a bit scared, too. No fireworks nowadays, alas, but we made do with plenty of sparklers.
The whole neighbourhood had been invited and Graeme and my godmother had laid out a huge spread for us, about 3 trestle tables long, just groaning with food and wine. Our little family had a ball. And I had a lovely chat with Graeme who thought it probably would be the “last bonfire as the Council is getting fussy about having a permit and it's all getting too complicated”. And so it was.
Never did we imagine that so many short months later, we’d be attending his funeral tomorrow morning. I’m so grateful his wife and all his children were there with him at the end. I haven’t yet had *those conversations* with my godmother and her daughter, my dear friend. There’ll be time for all that. For now, it’s simply “Vale, dear Graeme. I love you and will never forget you”.