It’s a wet winter day in Sydney
3pm, that time after lunch before the rush hour, the streets are empty – office workers huddled behind steel and glass – hovering on the floors above the city. Looking out on grey skies…
I’m looking for a café food place that won’t serve me plastic with my meal- I think I’ve found one , and sit down and order a coffer and sandwich. The coffee is less than hot and the sandwich is encased in plastic…. I pull out my computer and type…
I just got new teeth – upper denture and I bite into my afternoon tea! Its the first time in weeks I can bite without fear of cracking my denture into two pieces. Eating has been a forced exercise in mindfulness!
Walking the wet streets I’d recalled my mother and thought of the days I pottered along behind her and Aunt M – looking for a little café to have a coffee and a sit down. These were tiring and long days – catching the steamer from Campbelltown and later the red rattler. Mum always liked a coffee and a sit down and when with Aunt M there was always so much to talk about. I used to have an orange juice – if it was fresh or a milkshake. Either way both were always too much and made me feel sick…
Today it’s a mocha on skim….
When I was young Mum’s favourite was Vienna coffee. Wide brown coffee cups with lashings of whipped piped cream piled above the coffee. In later more health conscious years cappuccino was the go. The last cap I bought her went cold on the bedside table of her deathbed… as we fought with our father to let her have what she wants and not what is good for her …
Today I recall our many trips to “town” for shopping or a museum or gallery visit. Sometimes to go to David Jones for shoes and jumpers or the Strand Arcade boutiques where Mum would try on smart suits and dresses suitable for an Infants School Principal – The Infant’s Mistress as she was called.
A favoured task was looking for hand-bags, she had many handbags. “Handbags” she said “should always match the shoes”. Or browsing in Dymocks or Angus and Robertsons, where she would stock up on crayons and stars, stamps, coloured paper and colouring books for her classes. She didn’t really approve of colouring books, “they stifle creativity” she said, but we often got one to take away on holidays. As a treat! I liked the magic ones that changed colour when a wet brush was wiped across them. Sometimes it was Christmas shopping and on a few rare occasions a trip to the movies or even a live show.
When Aunt M was in town we might follow the day with a meal at the Masonic Club or even the Menzies Hotel. For a real treat and family special occasions we ate at the Australia Square Tower or the Opera house.
Today sloshing through the rainy streets, with my new teeth, I think of Mum and how much I’d love to just have a coffee with her and a bit of a chat. She had false teeth all her life – they removed them all when she was 17. “They did that sort of thing back then” she’d said.
I remember when we went shopping to buy me “suitable clothes for practise teaching”. In search of a compromise between my preference for overalls and gum-boots and what might be suitable for a teacher to wear. It was a beautiful grey linen suit that smelled of India, flowers embroidered on the double collars with a longer than normal skirt- it was the 70’s after all.
Sometimes when we went into the city there would be vegemite sandwiches to eat from home. Sometimes savoury mince when we met up with Dad after his day at Teachers Federation Council meetings. On other occasions, tucked away somewhere in a small restaurant: Chicken Maryland was a favourite of Mum’s. Toasted cheese and tomato sandwiched or thick cheesy asparagus door-steps. She liked nice food and was always introducing us to something new and contemporary.
Today I am sad, the streets seem more empty as I recall her swishing skirts and Aunt M’s Scottish brogue. Many memories wash around me as I drink my mocha and eat my egg sandwich. The city was a special place with my mother, always a sense of adventure, of being important – of seeing another side of her – a free spirit, a bit naughty, a supportive adult who enjoyed life.