I can remember exactly when that feeling came over me that here was one of those moments when, through some “native intuition”, you can feel that it is the ending of an era…a passing of a moment in time when something important is being lost…
I was at my aged mother’s house doing some regular maintenance..I am a carpenter and her house, built by my Italian father just after the second world war, was a hotch-potch of scrounged materials and added-on-as-needed rooms that now, some sixty years later was a veritable endless loop of patch-up and maintain.
My mother was quite old at the time…she is deceased now..and I was there having a small lunch after doing the jobs..and it was at the moment when I was spreading some honey on a bit of toast that I remembered something..
“Mum….do you remember telling us about that old chap back there in your Mallee days, who used to raid those honey-bee hives in the hollowed trees and he had a big square tin of honey and comb mixed that he used to give you and your brother and sisters a scoop of honey and comb in a twirled cone of wax-paper when you went past on your way to school?”
My mother was fussing around over at the kitchen sink as I asked..fussing over nothing in particular..as mothers seem to be able to do..
“ Oh, yes…old Charlie Rhidoni…yes…I remember..”…she had looked up and now went back to whatever she was doing.
“Yeah…I suppose that’s him..if that’s his name”…I continued..” You oughta jot that little story down so others can read of what life was like out there in the Mallee in those days.”..and I bit into my toast.
“Ah…nobody’s interested in those silly yarns anymore.” Mother absently remarked.
“I don’t know..” I persisted..”there are so many I remember you telling me of those days..like the Italian men at the charcoal burning camps near the Murray River during the war, where you met dad when he was interned there…and that old German man who carried a small pebble with him every time he crossed the river because he couldn’t swim…an’.. (here, I paused, hoping my mother would pick up and run with the yarn…but she didn’t) ..and he did so because he said the little pebble represented his soul..and if the punt started to sink, he believed that if he could throw that stone to the closest bank and it reached the bank, he would be saved..but if it didn’t and fell in the river..he would drown…That’s a good one too!”
But my mother just kept at her business in the kitchen sink, neither acknowledging my enthusiasm nor exhibiting the slightest interest in my talking..so I had to catch her attention..
“Mum…?” I called to her gently.
“What?..Oh yes…they may have been interesting then, but people are busier with other things now..There’s mortgages and car payments and the cost of living and all that…even IF they have a regular job now..they don’t have time for some old stories of olden times…nobody’s got time anymore for old stories.”
And that was the end of that.
But as I sat there, I could feel like an essence of spirit was escaping from me..a losing of that muse of enthusiasm when YOU are the only one showing keenness in an idea and you have to let the feeling go. So I didn’t press on with the conversation…but I sure as hell could feel that at that particular moment, an era was passing from my grasp..
It saddens me at this moment to even write about that time..it gives an ache to my body..for now, my mother..both parents to be exact..and all those earlier generations I grew up with in those times…grandparents and their friends, Uncles and Aunts ..have all gone and with them passed away a record in oral anecdote and short tale all those wonderful, colourful, terrible and tragic snippets of stories of when work, home and childbirth was an enormous struggle with life itself..just to survive..just to make ends meet..especially if you came from the place where my folk came from..and so many others of that class of people.
So I have written them down..as close as I can remember them having been told to me..I have written them down, but now too, I am getting old..and being a recorder/writer of no note, I am certain those stories will die with me. There is not many in my immediate family holds great interest in either story, anecdote or the times and the people. It is like a whole episode of the past has been boxed and sealed off and put up on the dead-storage shelf to be forgotten.
I have written of that old man with his pebble crossing on the punt on the Murray River .. https://freefall852.wordpress.com/2016/08/12/a-small-pebble-2/ …I have written of the birth of my Aunty in a smaller punt on the river whilst my grandfather wrestled with the mid-wife who was trying to trick them out of the birth-endowment money from the government.. https://freefall852.wordpress.com/2016/04/01/proverb-parable/ .. I have written story and tale of love affairs and loss in the Mallee.. https://freefall852.wordpress.com/2019/03/09/the-seven-weeping-men-of-sedan/ story after story of that generation who had so little that they would be willing to take a chance on WHATEVER came their way..truly courageous folk hardened in the wars and a great depression..Their everyday events taking on a almost mythological epic…like the story of old (now long deceased ) Alma suddenly breaking pregnancy waters at home with no-one around to help her with the birthing save her own thirteen year old son…who had to act as mid-wife to the birth of his brother…story after story…moment after moment..I cannot empty the pail for them..the stream of stories is unending… https://freefall852.wordpress.com/2018/11/22/joyce-delivers-the-flowers/
For me, I will persevere while I can maintain this isolated enthusiasm…I work on alone.
But not for my mother…her enthusiasm for a past was being slowly squeezed dry..where once there was enormous enthusiasm to write of the world around her, I could now see that the weight of social responsibilities in trying to raise six children in the city suburbs drained the last bit of creative energy from her and she sacrificed her story-telling ambitions for the duties of a hired domestic cleaner to wealthier ladies who could afford to pay (so little) for time to persue THEIR own pleasures. Here is a little of her writing : https://freefall852.wordpress.com/2017/08/26/renmark-to-mildura-in-a-rowboat/ .
I remember she paused at one moment in what she was doing at the kitchen sink and spoke out to her garden outside the window there..and in that last mention of the subject, in that hiatus of forever, what she said sent a shiver through my soul and I could hear in the emptyness of her words the passing of time itself and a portend of the possibility of my own loss of connection to the past…
“No…no-body’s interested in those old things anymore…there comes a time, I suppose, for the end of stories..”
The Vanishing Door.
Though pleasant enough ;
These days of wine and roses,
When the wash of an evening sunset
‘Purples the fleece’d horizon.’
And yet..yet..does this doubt seep
Over me, like the fevered shiver
Of an approaching cold.
I have everything..and yet the
Small freedoms I have traded
For some obscure security
Seem to hark back to me as whispers
From behind a wall..or door!
A vanishing door!
Through which passes every thought,
But I stay.
I see them vanish, but I stay.
Last night’s dreams..I’ve forgotten,
Yet , I still feel I enjoyed them so.
Gone, with my youthful memories,
Through the vanishing door.
And even the door soon will close forever.
But I fear;.I will stay…