Blackheath, New South Wales
The Mittagong of my childhood was a remote country mountain village populated by discreet, honest folk who had no pretensions and welcomed good people into their midst.
There’s a posh girls’ school called Frensham nestled in the bosom of that town, and it was on the doorsteps of this erstwhile establishment that a small babe was placed. It was the end of the nineteenth century. The headmistress took the baby in and raised it to be a servant for the school and so my Great Aunt Eva survived.
When she grew up, the Head mistress granted her a small collage on the edge of school land to be her place of residence for as long as she lived.
My grandfather and his brother traveled to Mittagong to build a church. The brother met Eva and they married despite an age gap of thirty years. Eva fell pregnant and their joy was evident in the little cottage on the side of the mountain.
Unfortunately, the baby died, soon followed by the husband. The mist twirled around the mountain and Eva immersed herself in her sorrow and became a recluse.
When my brother and I were children we were sent to Mittagong for a holiday.
I remember the long steam train ride, the quaint country town, and a little lady, dressed in black, meeting us at the station.
I remember her chuckling delight as we ate ice cream.
I remember her showing us the well and warning us of danger. ‘Don’t go near the edge’.
I remember going to fetch the milk pail from the dairy next door.
I remember her showing me the trunk of tiny baby clothes.
I remember her listening to the radio, baking bread, and telling us that her birthday was on the first of April: April Fool’s Day.
Year’s later as a young adult, I went back to stay in the little house on the edge of the school grounds, halfway up the mountainside.
I was proud to take my Great Aunt out to lunch at the Golden Fleece Café. She told me that she had never eaten in a restaurant in her life. She hoped that she would not embarrass me.
When she was too old to look after herself, one of my uncles arranged for her to go to the Old People’s home at Bowral. By all accounts she was happy there. I don’t remember her funeral.
I’ll always remember her quiet spirit and her delightful smile.
Bio: You can buy Virginia’s book of Fibonacci poetry, Escarpment from Amazon here