By Karen Trappett
Every Sunday of my youth was spent in Nanna’s old Queenslander at Sandgate for the ubiquitous Sunday lunch. I didn’t even know there was a beach near her house until much later, which was a shame, I could have used the escape; but as a single digit kid, I had no say in the matter.
Corned meat and vegies was the go to meal, and a dessert of custard and pudding. If it was rhubarb anything, I’d eat the custard around it and try to hide the rest. I learned to be skilful at deception after being forced to eat a whole bowl of it – twice. We’d all sit around the big kitchen table; Mum, Dad, Nanna, Wally (Nanna’s third husband – but that’s another story) and me, and sometimes a cousin or two. My brother and sister where a lot older than me and went through the ritual before I was born, as I found out later – I thought they missed out. Suffice to say, the corned meat meal appeared for several decades before age and infirmity halted its practice.
I always remember arriving at the house to see Nanna standing at the door and Wally sitting in his settler’s chair on the verandah. A quick kiss and a hug from Nanna and a slobbering one from Wally and we’d be inside the semi-darkened interior, cloistered and hot for most of the year. No air-conditioning in the 60s and 70s and fans weren’t the best back then, so we all sweltered while waiting for the afternoon breeze. In hindsight, a salad might have been a better choice, but back then, a salad was lettuce and tomato – not a meal.
The kitchen rivalled hell – boiling meat; bubbling potatoes, carrots, fresh peas and cabbage; then the white sauce, all steaming on the old stove. The women looked after it all while the men lounged on the cooler verandah and I swished the flies away. I remember every pea – that was my job; to pick them off the vines in the backyard, then shell them. She must have had a lot of plants to have them every week; but there they were, her endless line of peas all in a row, bursting with pods every Sunday. She had a few avocado trees too, but they weren’t a big thing back then – I could handle an overabundance today, much better than throwing them out.
At last the meal was ready, 12:00 on the dot. I sat in my chair and contributed nothing to the conversation while we ate lunch – children were not allowed to talk with the grownups. Anyway, their conversations were boring so as soon as I could escape after dessert, I did – but not for long. There was the wiping up to do – eye-roll and shuffling feet, trying to postpone the inevitable but doing it anyway (I still hate wiping up). Then I was free while they played Euchre.
When I was very young, I had to stay inside, and that was boring. I can’t remember what I did, but I remember being bored in the house. There were many things I couldn’t touch and rooms I couldn’t enter. The house was a mystery and on my own I sometimes thought it was terrifying – lots of dark corners and things that almost moved. As I became a teenager, I grew out of that and discovered the end of the street, and a park with swings and a slide – not the fancy ones of today; the hot metal ones that burned your bum. My cousins and I would disappear after lunch and wouldn’t come back until mid-afternoon – even without watches we knew when to get back. We’d always find Wally asleep in the settler’s chair, we could hear his snores from three houses away. His snores were epic – they echoed through the house and sometimes we waited to see if the next breath would come, but it always did. I’m sure they would have diagnosed him with obstructive sleep apnoea today.
We would stay for afternoon tea before the drive home. Usually some type of cake, always with fruit and a pot of leaf tea – Bushells (the tea of choice, then and now although a good English breakfast is smashing) – then the drive home.
I find I’m feeling quite melancholy writing this story, nostalgia does that when we remember events and people. Most of them are no longer with us – it’s just Mum and me now, and my sister. I still love corned meat and hate rhubarb, but I love the way the people and the companionship make the moments we share so special. What is an event without food? When food is prepared with love by those who love us, and shared in companionable surroundings, it creates a vista for the soul and the picture it makes is etched on our hearts forever.
Karen Trappett is a third-year university student in Brisbane (Australia), studying Bachelor of Arts: Writing, Communication & Cultural Studies which will be completed mid-2019. She is a Christian and is married with three adult daughters. She has had three short stories published so far and another will be published in a university anthology in early 2019. She loves to write uplifting and empowering stories and hopes to continue to be a life-long writer.
Her personal website is www.karentrappett.com