Autobiography of my life


1. Growing Up With Grandma

Growing Up With Grandma


My Grandmother had a rather large property out in Capel, well it seemed large to me, when I was a child. My Grandmother had her house, quite a big house, three large bedrooms, a huge, homey kitchen, a large lounge room and. . . well point is that it was large. My great Grandmother, who was still alive at this point, lived with her husband, my great Grandad, in a separate little apartment on my Grandmother’s property, maybe 50 metres from my Grandmother’s house. I don’t think I was there when my Grandmother moved in and I think they had either built it or renovated it from a shed. My great Grandpa died when I was probably around one or two and so I really have no recollection of this man, except one photo remains in my brain of my great Grandad holding my older cousin, but I have memories of my great Grandma.


Sheila Chown, in my opinion, the greatest great Grandmother ever, greatest woman ever, but I’m a little biased in that department. Growing up, I knew that my Grandmother didn’t like me and that her resentment of me just grew as I got older, I have heard stories that even as a baby, she didn’t want to hold me in the hospital room but my great Grandma, she was a totally different story. Sheila was kind, beautiful and loving and I loved spending time with her. Quite often when I stayed at my Grandmother’s house, I would simply walk over to my great Grandma’s house and hang out with her and my younger brother. To me though, I feel like my family was confusing. My great Grandmother, I referred to just as Grandma and my Great Grandad was Poppy. My Grandmother, I referred to as Nanna and my Granddad was just Grandpa. 


I have two main memories that stick out most in my head of this amazing woman, one happy, one very sad and pretty traumatizing. My happiest memory involves cooking and fishing shows. My saddest memory involves death.


I ran across the front yard to my Grandma’s. Nanna had told me that Grandma wanted to see Sam, my little brother, and I because we were going to do some cooking. Mum doesn’t let me help much with the cooking, she said I am too little, but Nanna and Grandma, they let us help. Nanna almost never lets us help her, she says we get in the way. Grandma lets us help with her cooking because we don’t use hot things. I got to the front of the apartment and walked through the open archway into the enclosed front porch. Purdy, the tortoise shell coloured cat meowed from the chair, waking up for only a second as Sam and I loudly made our way to the front door. The little green bird jumped against its cage in excitement as we reached the front door where the bird’s cage hung. Grandma heard us and called from inside for us to come in and that she was ready. Sam and I ran inside and gave Grandma a hug and kiss. We stuck our arms out towards Grandma and she laughed, a beautiful, happy laugh, and pulled our sleeves up before we ran to the sink where she turned on the tap and put a little soap in our hands. I rubbed my little hands together, making sure to wash the backs of my hands and brush my fingernails to remove all the dirt and grime from the previous events of the day. Sam did the same as I and then we washed off the soap. We dried our hands on the tea-towel then held them up for Grandma to inspect. She looked closely at our hands then nodded with a smile on her face and told us we could now begin.


On the bench was a big metal bowl, a packet of biscuits, an open can of sweetened condensed milk, a rolling pin, a bottle of Cadbury drinking cocoa and a bag of coconut. Grandma opened the bag of biscuits and tipped half and half into two ziplock bags and handed us each a rolling pin and warned us both to be careful. I felt the grin grow on my face as I brought that first blow down onto the bag of biscuits. I giggled and continued to beat on the biscuits, enjoying the crushing sound. I watched Sam as he beat down on his bag of biscuits. His smile grew, making his cheeks rosy, almost matching his fiery red hair. We beat the biscuits to a fine crumb. Once the biscuits were crushed Grandma instructed me to tip them into the big metal bowl. Grandma handed me a half cup measure and the bag of coconut and handed Sam the wooden spoon. I carefully measured half a cup of coconut and added it to the bowl and Grandma added two spoons of cocoa and Sam mixed the ingredients together.


Now came the fun part. Grandma pulled two teaspoons from the draw and dipped them both into the open can of sweetened condensed milk. Don’t tell your Mum, she joked as she handed us a spoon each and we greedily put them into our mouths, sucking off the sticky sweetness. Once we had completely cleaned the spoons, we chucked them into the sink and grandma handed me the can to add to the dry ingredients. I slowly tipped the can’s contents into the big bowl, making patterns with the sticky liquid as it drizzled over the dry ingredients. Sam began to mix the ingredients and I went to stick my fingers into the can to taste some more of the sweetness. Grandma took the can and jokingly told me off, reminding me of the last time I stuck my hand into a can and how I still had the mark on my right hand to show it. I watched as Sam mixed the ingredients together and the white milk gradually turned a dark, chocolatey brown.


Now… Now is the time that I get to stick my hands into the gooey mixture, I’ll get to lick that off later. Sam and I began to roll the mixture into little balls and placed them on the tray that Grandma lined with baking paper. None of the balls were evenly sized and I had added a little too much sweetened condensed milk and so they were a little sticky but Grandma didn’t mind. We got all the way through and Grandma was going to put them into the fridge before she realised we had forgotten to roll them in coconut. We hopped to the rolling in coconut and then Grandma put the tray in the fridge then walked to the lounge and turned on the tv, sitting down on the couch. Sam and I ran to the lounge with the big bowl and sat down in front of the couch on the floor and began to clean out the leftover goodness in the bowl and we watched fishing shows. I watched a man kiss a live fish before throwing it back into the water, it was so gross but Grandma explained it was his ‘signature move’.     


Some time passed, a few minutes, half an hour, until we realised Grandma had fallen asleep. Sam and I waited, making sure Grandma was really asleep before we left to continue playing outside, watching the chickens, which I later found out that those chickens would be in my soup, and shooting each other with Lego guns we had long ago made out of the collection Nanna kept under the beds.






How old? How old do you think a child should before they are introduced, first hand, to death? Should you begin to give them a talk about where their meat is coming from age 1 so that, once they do understand what you're saying, they've subconsciously heard it before and the impact is small? What about pets? It’s always sad when a pet dies but should you tell them their favourite pal, their old dog, has 'gone to a farm upstate', or should you tell them the truth? Should you tell your 5 year old child that their dog was hit by a car? These are hard decisions but then again, when do you introduce a child to the death of humans, something that they can only really process at a young age as that they will die one day, and so will you, their parent. But can you really avoid introducing your child to death? Sure it may be hard but it is something they have to learn about. . . But the way you do it is your choice. . . Choosing to do it in a way that won't traumatize the child is up to you. Unfortunately, I had a rather traumatizing first encounter with death. My honest first encounter would be with Merlin, an old grey cat we had when I was a baby. I don’t remember Merlin at all, so I must discount that. My Great Grandfather, my Poppy as I called him, died when I was very young and although now I wish I could remember a thing about his funeral, if I was even taken, I cannot, so unfortunately, I must discount this too. Great Grandma? Yes. I have memories, maybe vague, but memories none the less, of this amazing woman. My first firsthand encounter with death was my Great Grandma.




The room seemed dull, especially for a hospital room. It could have been because of the bad news, everything felt dreary though the day had been good for everyone. This day didn't match the news. Aunty Claire and Nanna had got their nails done at this fancy nail place in Perth, Perth is so big, I've never been into the actual city before. It was exciting.



As I sat in the salon my Aunty and Nanna got their nails done. I sat excitedly beside my Aunty as she got acrylic nails painted on, my fascination grew as I watched. Finally the smell of the liquid attacked my little nose and I pulled my knees up to my chest and gripped my nose with my fingers. My Aunty chuckled and told me to go look at the designs and such on the walls. My mum warned me not to touch anything and I tucked my arms behind me, holding my hands together behind my back as I quickly walked to the wall. A huge wooden frame sat pressed against the wall, multiple little shelves with rows of different nail polishes. I was so excited. Finally I watched my Aunty get her nails set under a UV light. . . Isn't that dangerous?



After the nail salon, that happy, intriguing event, we went to the hospital. Maybe the curtains were closed, maybe my memory of it is clouded because of how harsh it is, but the room seemed dull and dreary. The lights flickered as I clung to my mum in the doorway to the hospital room. She laid still, my great Grandmothers body was lifeless on the bed.  The thought didn’t occur to me yet that I would never see her again, never cook with her, or sit and watch boring fishing shows with her just because I knew that she enjoyed it.



Slowly I walked over towards the bed, Grandma looked like she was sleeping. Eventually I was stood beside the tall bed, the edge of the bed seemed so high I would probably have needed help getting up onto it. I reached my hand out slowly and cautiously laid my hand over Grandma’s. Her hand… Her hand was so cold. I felt a shiver run through my body and I instantly pulled my hand back to beside my waist. Her hand felt colder than ice. My eyes flicked to where her hand lay on the blanket, the blue tint of her hand was stark against the white of the blanket. I looked back up to my Grandma’s face, her lips were blue and she no longer seemed like the lady I knew. The thought of death imposed on my brain, this was death. This lady I grew up with, that I loved and that loved me back, my great Grandmother who really was great, was never going to see me again, I would never see her again. There would no longer be any cooking with Grandma, making chocolate balls with coconut, no more watching fishing shows or sitting at the table eating homemade chicken soup. Grandma was dead and I had just touched her corpse and it took me that long to figure out what death meant.



A while later I went to Grandma’s funeral. I watched the casket get carried in. On top of the casket were lots of little objects and flowers, one object to stick out in my mind was a little doll my Nanna made. This little doll was wearing a green dress and had little elf ears. I got to wear a pretty dress but I managed to ruin the day by throwing up. I didn’t see Grandma again, obviously. The last thing I remember is being allowed to go into her little apartment on Nanna’s lot and being able to go through the knick knacks that Grandma kept and picking a few things to remember her by. Mum got a few things, little dolls and other memorabilia but all I got was a single nail polish. At that age of around five or six I only owned two nail polishes and having one from Grandma felt special. I used it only a few times before I decided I wanted to keep it as a memorabilia of my own. Not long after Grandma passed, Nanna sold the house out in Capel and my adventures stopped. No more horses to chase, no more cooking with Grandma, no more play times with my older cousin, Sam and I sleeping in two beds on either side of the room with my cousin between us as we talked about Candyland to sleep. Grandma passing and Nanna selling the house ended most of my childhood adventures.

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