I only argued with my Nana once, that I can remember.
I was young – primary school young – and my journey home involved a schoolbus and a detour, that even at a young age, I thought was dumb. Despite only living 3 streets away from the first drop off point, the route the bus took meant I was actually one of the last people on the bus. As a child, the half an hour lost on this bus journey was a critical waste of my free time. As an adult I would spend the same amount of time trying to recall events from my childhood, and consider it time well spent if I managed to get even a loose grasp on any single thing.
One day, young me had enough; I decided I was going to get off on the first stop, and brave crossing the 3 roads to make my way home. I had an aggressively independent streak even way back then. Even back then.
As the bus pulled up to the first stop, I felt myself rise and begin to stride down the aisle of the bus. I couldn’t be that far from the front of the bus, but the aisle drew long before me. I was doing it. I was invincible.
Just before stepping off the bus, I heard my younger sister asking me where I was going?
– Don’t worry, I’ll see you in the house.
I doubt I actually said anything more than a quick shush, but these are my memories to edit as I wish.
The journey home was uneventful. I had been, or was going to be, a part of a road safety primary school quiz team, and we came second place, so I knew what I was doing. Look right, look left. Don’t get run over. As I aged, I became less stringent about trying not to get run over, but I was still young, and that was all still before me – right now, I was a child, a brave child. A brave child who was a road safety master.
As I approached the group of parents waiting at my drop off spot, the faces I assumed would be fawning with admiration at my self-reliance, were actually distorted into grimaces of concern. Their children weren’t as knowledgeable about the world, so clearly they had all been involved in a tragedy only I had survived unscathed.
– What’s happened?
– Where’s so-and-so?
– Is everything okay with the bus?
I was brave, but I was anxious. I ignored the parental interrogation, keeping my head down, and escaping to the safety of my home.
There she was.
Sitting in the chair that, a few years down the line (how many I forget), my father would be sitting in to break the news of her death, was my Nana. She was scowling.
I remember little about Nana, apart from the nightingale tattoo on her backside and the sickly perfumed smell of her bedroom. I also remember the words she said as she held me as a baby.
– I adore him.
I don’t actually remember these words, but the story was told to me so many times by various members of the family that they became a memory. That is enough for me. Any memory is enough.
Despite what little I remember, the look of anger, or annoyance, maybe some pride, is burned into my mind. As a child I was amazed that she knew about my transgression, as an adult I know she was a smart woman who was able to piece together my early arrival home, and the sounds of concern from outside, to figure out what I did. The world loses some of its magic the older you get.
What was said between us, I couldn’t tell you. I only remember the disappointment. All my other memories of Nana were passed down to me from those who knew her better, and for longer.
– She even drove herself to the hospital for chemo.
– And then she said to me ‘what other bugger would have you?’
– She adored you.
She sat there in the chair, the chair where I was informed of her death, a chair I can’t remember, but know it was a chair. Her death wouldn’t come for a few years (months. days?) but my parents were still married and I couldn’t have been told by my father in that chair if he wasn’t in the home and the chair was also gone.
Years later, I would still mourn that chair, and the death of the woman who sat in it that warm afternoon, looking sternly at me, and chastising my stupidity.
– I’m a road safety master
– I adore you.
The time I spent with her must have been positive for the most part, though I have no specific memories to
– You are adored.
prove the point. Scientifically. However, the general sense of loss and joy I have of her memory makes me believe she was an incredible woman. I just wish I could remember more.
More than the chair.
I’m grown now, and my youth is a haze. I try to conjure up images. Of the chair. Of Nana. Of anything. And I hold on tight. They’re all I have to inform who I am, where I’ve been, and if I’m going anywhere.
She sat in the chair so she must have been alive and the chair was still there when my father told me about her death but neither the chair nor my father were there when my parents divorced and this was all before this moment right now.
This moment right now, it’s all I’m sure I have, but this moment is gone, and now I can’t be sure.
I wonder if even back then I had some idea of what would happen to my mind. I seem to recall focusing hard on moments, willing myself to keep an imprint of them. After all, all the men in my family went this way, standing on the side of the road, and wondering
– I’m a road safety master.
what should I be doing?
I remember my Nana and I remember a chair, and I remember the arguments, the disappointment, and the deflation. I remember very little else about her (about anything).
So I hold on to what I can and I smile. I smile as the traffic roars passed. I like to smile. The memory may not be my own, but I know.
She adored me.