I have had my dear friend Deirdre here for tea tonight – pizza no less – and discovered that her birthday, 25th October is one day short of the birthday of a very dear person in my life, who died 20 years ago this year.
Auntie Betty lived down the road from us in Auburn when I was a child. She had been a home economics teacher before she was married – in fact, she must have taught other things as well, as my dad had her for a teacher when he was at Riverton High School in the 1930’s. She was only about 10 years older than him so it must have been one of her first jobs.
She was great with kids, and all the neighbourhood children, and there were many of us Baby Boomers at the time in our street, got on well with her. She was funny and warm and good fun. I got into the habit as I got on in primary school, of visiting her after school, and we would read, and talk about books, cook and generally hang around. We put on a dinner once, for my folks – a rare, rare thing at the time, a dinner party!!!!!!!! We made ‘Persian Chicken’ I remember (a sort of chicken casserole thing with currants in it. It came from the New Idea cookbook. Sounds dreadful, but it seemed pretty fab at the time), followed by pineapple and cherries, how bizarre, but actually delicious. Once we had an afternoon tea too, at our place, for Auntie Betty and my grandma (mama, who has featured here before). Mum and I did sandwiches with the crusts cut off, and Auntie Bet and mama wore their hats and gloves. We all had a great laugh. We used to do the Crossquiz in the Saturday Advertiser – didn’t get many of the clues but tried hard every week.
When she died, I had just come back from being overseas for a few months on long service leave, and heard through mum that Bet O (as she was called) was in the Mary Potter Hospice. I was so pleased to have the chance to see her again (though I was unsure of quite how to handle it all), and went in the next day. She was really unwell, and couldn’t speak, but I had a wonderful time there with her, talking about the things we used to do, and how important she was to me, a bookish, shy child in the country. The room was filled with such a lovely feeling – it felt like there was a lot of communication going on, and such love and connection. It was a very special time that I will not forget.
I’m sorry I don’t have a photo of her, so will put in a picture of her headstone and her handwriting (from one of my recipe books). She, for the purposes of this blog, remains invisible – but then, so much that is deeply important to us can’t be seen, so perhaps that is appropriate after all.