My grandmother’s Rhodesian jacaranda

jacaranda-paintingFor as long as I knew her, my grandmother had a painting of a jacaranda tree hanging in her house.

I have been particularly fond of jacarandas all my life because of this painting, and when I see the rich purple flowers I think of her.

Living in Melbourne I see the occasional jacaranda but when I was in Sydney a few years back, I saw that the trees are everywhere, particularly on the North Shore, and they make the place look magical.

I decided to look up ‘jacaranda’ in Wikipedia and I found a photo from 1975 of the trees in Salisbury, Rhodesia. This is exactly where my grandmother lived. I opened up the photo to full size and saw a large avenue with jacarandas in full bloom, running the entire length of the street. And then I realised something.

The painting of a jacaranda hanging in my grandmother’s house wasn’t just a painting of a tree. It was a door into her life after she moved from England to her adopted country, where for thirty or so years she raised a family, ran businesses, loved and lost love, and farewelled her family when they emigrated to Australia. Despite joining her family in Melbourne in 1975 and living here until her death three decades later, my grandmother’s heart and home remained in Rhodesia.

And then my mother told me the painting was actually one my grandmother had commissioned, of a jacaranda on the tobacco farm my father had worked on. Dad told me the scene – of the tree and the distant hills – was the view from the kitchen window of the little cottage he lived in.

I realised this painting kept alive my grandmother’s connection with a life in another country, a place and time which in many ways no longer exists, and yet will always be there.

(Published in “In Their Branches“)

It’s sometimes the small things that say so much

I would never have thought a gift of a chocolate biscuit from my father could mean so much to me.

Last night I dropped in to see my parents and while I was there my dad told me about a little Tim Tam biscuit he had been given, as was his wont.  Being a fan of Tim Tam biscuits I asked if I could have one and he said sure and went away to get one.  While he was out of the room Mum told me that there was only the one biscuit, which she had brought home from work for him.  Not realising this was the situation I was upset that I had asked for the only biscuit my dad had to offer.

I called out to him saying I was happy to leave it for him and not to worry, but perhaps he was out of earshot, because he didn’t respond.  Mum said to me that it really wasn’t a problem, and that “he would do anything for me”.  I was deeply touched by this sentiment, despite feeling so bad that I left my dad without his Tim Tam biscuit.

The next minute, he returned to the room we were in, with a bite-size biscuit delicately placed on a tissue, serving both for presentation and function.  I accepted this gesture of kindness, father to son, and proceeded to enjoy it.  Really, it was wonderful.  Dark chocolate with a little sliver of biscuit inside.  I did remark to my father, who didn’t eat chocolates on principle, that there was in fact more chocolate than biscuit, so it probably broke his rule.  We laughed.

In this brief interchange with my father, over a tiny chocolate biscuit, I felt a connection with him in a way I hadn’t in a long time.  It was a special moment for me in our relationship.

Thank you Dad.  You’re the best.  🙂