Whilst walking through the aisles of my local supermarket two weeks ago, I spotted the familiar packaging of a particular brand of biscuits. The memory of these biscuits had been pushed way back into the dark recesses of my mind, many years ago. On impulse, I grabbed a packet off the shelf and made my way to the checkout.
The biscuits were placed onto my pantry shelf when I arrived home, again forgotten, until just last night when I opened the packet to share with my seventeen year old daughter.
The texture and fragrance of the biscuits, along with the thin layer of chocolate on the top, invoked memories of a time long gone…
When my Mum and Dad first arrived in Australia they had become friends with a lovely couple, who had also recently arrived in the country. They were from London, and as it turned out, they had all travelled to Australia on the same ship, without meeting.
A friendship, which lasted for the rest of their lives, had begun.
To me, this wonderful couple were my “auntie” and “uncle”. My uncle enjoyed photography; in fact, the first colour photo ever taken of me was one that he had taken.
When I was only four years of age my auntie taught me how to knit. This was my first memory of her, and every time we went to her home to visit, she would ask did I have my knitting with me, for further lessons.
Oh, how I enjoyed visits to their home! They had a very large property by today’s standards, in the suburbs of Sydney. I would sit with their old dog, Patch, to keep him company, (he was too old to play), and I remember only too well the hollow feeling I had inside when, on one of our visits, I found that Patch’s kennel was empty….
My auntie and uncle had a formal lounge room at the front of their house, but the room we would visit with them in was at the back of the house and it adjoined the kitchen. What a wonderful room it was! There were huge comfy chairs; their fabric hidden by hand knitted rugs and pillows. Books were piled on top of small coffee tables next to the chairs along with magazines, invariably opened to the pages of half finished crossword puzzles. This room was so happily “lived-in”. If the walls could talk, many a wonderful story could they tell.
The round wooden table in the far corner of the room, where we shared many of auntie’s home-cooked meals, also doubled as a card table after dinner. Not that I knew how to play cards in the beginning, but I was the one who usually won the game, thanks to all of the help my auntie and uncle gave me! We played for money, so I would often go home carrying a huge number of coins, maybe up to a whole thirty cents!
Auntie never bothered to clean up the dishes after we had eaten. She was far more interested in spending time with her friends. She must have been at least ten years older than my parents were, but she was so full of fun and life! Her eyes permanently sparkled, especially when telling a story and what a wonderful story-teller she was! Auntie had a knack of turning the most mundane story into the most thrilling adventure!
After auntie had made cups of tea and coffee, it was my job to offer around the large, metal biscuit tin, which auntie kept on a shelf in the kitchen. In this tin, she kept the boring, plain, grown-ups biscuits…my biscuits were hidden away by auntie, so while I wasn’t looking, out would come the chocolate wheaten biscuits, with the layer of chocolate on top! And, she usually let me have two! (if it wasn’t too close to dinner time, that is). What a treat those biscuits were…
I always liked to take my biscuits outside to eat, so as not to drop crumbs in the house, I said. Or, perhaps it was my opportunity to visit the mulberry tree.
Right up at the back of the garden was a self-contained flat and next to the flat grew a massively huge mulberry tree. The branches of the tree positively dripped with berries when they were in season and whenever I had pet silk-worms, I always knew where to find fresh mulberry leaves for them to munch on!
I would have been about twelve years old when Mum and Dad decided we would move out of the area. My auntie and uncle came to visit us and my auntie had a gift for me, saying that I was now old enough to look after it.
When I opened the tiny, flat box she had handed me, inside I found a beautiful gold antique flower necklace, with tiny green and black beads. When my auntie had started her first job after leaving school, she had saved her money each week for the first few weeks, just to buy the necklace. On the lid of the box, she had written “Don’t Forget Me”.
I have treasured my necklace, along with my memories of my amazing, sparkling, kind, gentle, fun, outgoing, generous “auntie” and “uncle”.
We may not have seen them as often after we moved, but we did see them quite regularly. Both of them lived to an old age and my sister still keeps in touch with their son.
And, as I turn the pages of my parents photo albums, they are there. They shared with us the weddings and birthdays, all of our special occasions throughout the years….they were like family.
Such wonderful memories….