Dad held his scotch glass to the light inspecting it for dust and dirt. I stood underneath his arms looking up through thick base, trying to spot errant fingerprints. Dad always washed and dried his scotch glass with a special lint free, clean, cotton towel that mum washed and returned, neatly folded, to the cabinet each week. He held the glass up for a final time, then with a nod sent me off to the freezer to retrieve the ice tray while he set the glass on a coaster and made the afternoon's selection. He told me that fine spirits are like whisps of fresh air. You have to weigh them down in a decent glass so you can take your time to sip them slowly like a bee sips precious, drops of liquid honey. Drinking, he proclaimed, is a luxury that you should never take for granted or abuse. He carefully poured a measure of scotch and let me lift ice cubes with silver tongs from the ice bucket, gently placing them one at a time in the glass.
Once, I asked if I could wash and polish the glass. I almost dropped it when he first handed it to me but dad was ready to catch it. He smiled , gently advising me to clasp it with both hands and guiding me by the shoulders to the kitchen sink. I held that glass like a precious orb in outstretched arms. Dad always asked mum if she would like something to drink, even though he knew that she hardly ever drank alcohol. Most of the time she would screw her face up in disgust at the suggestion and jokingly ask who would wash the dishes after dinner. Mum was notorious for dozing off after one glass of champagne during Christmas dinners and claiming she was too drunk to do the dishes. Later when I was old enough to have my first glass of champagne I was surprised that it didn't make me sleepy and figured that I must take after my father. Now, I realise how exhausting preparing Christmas dinner can be and smile at my mother's ingenuity.
Sometimes mum would agree to partake in a small port and lemonade. On these occasions dad would pour a couple of drops of port topped up with lemonade into a small, pink rimmed, cut crystal glass for me. Taking the tiniest sips of port, pink lemonade, I'd try to make it last as long as dad's scotch. Sitting on the lounge room floor, listening to Nat King Cole records and to mum and dad chatting about various relatives and friends, I never sensed that adulthood could be weighted with anything heavier than love, patience and respect.
©2011 Lenni Morkel-Kingsbury.
Cooked green vegetables: cabbage; beans; brussel sprouts; and peas should not be grey. My mother's boiled green vegies never were. On the contrary, they were always strangely incandescent and greener than green. Mum used to say that fresh, green vegies like cabbage, brussel sprouts and beans had a wild taste. My grandmother taught her to boil these vegetables up with a spoonful of sugar and bicarbonate of soda to take away the "wild" bitter taste. It is the bicarbonate of soda that accounts for the luminosity of my mother's cooked, green vegetables. Later when microwaves were first introduced, mum would complain that her green vegies stayed too crisp, looked dull and tasted bitter.
The first time I ate grey, green vegetables was at aunty Mary's house in Casterton, a small rural town on the Glenelg River in South West Victoria. Grey cabbage and beans were piled up like a tiny mountain overlooking a valley of whipped-cream, mash potatoes and a river of rabbit stew. The vegies were always freshly harvested from aunty Mary's luscious, vegetable garden. The rabbit was also recently trapped, bled, skinned and cleaned. Tufts of rabbit fur littered the patch of yard just behind the laundry shed and scraps of rabbit kidneys lay in the cats' food bowls.
Aunty Mary bred Siamese cats. Dad once took me to see one of aunty Mary's new litter of kittens. I was overcome by their blind helplessness and cried. A few weeks later I was excited to see the kittens vigorously running around aunty Mary's billiard room. One grey-point kitten was standing in a small bowl of milk lapping it up with much gusto. That kitten came home with me that night, bundled up in one of aunty Mary's old jumpers.
Aunty Mary wasn't really my aunty but a close friend of mum and dad. She first met my parents when her husband Rupert hauled our furniture and crates of belongings from the docks to our new home in Australia. Back then aunty Mary and uncle Rupe lived close by in Glenroy. They were my parents first Aussie friends. Aunty Mary had ginger, red hair and pale white skin. She sang with a soft, Irish lilt and always smelled of roses and strawberries. Later as aunty Mary aged her hair became more and more sandy in colour and then white, but it never turned grey like her cooked vegetables.
©2011 Lenni Morkel-Kingsbury.
About this blog
many roads... ...on the journey words follow me, push me forward, and sometimes, overtake me.