the beautiful mess of her

On Friday a piece from daysofhilda was published in the big paper, on-line, not the hard copy. The piece was read by someone who invited me onto her radio programme to talk grief for a couple of minutes. Talking grief is something I can do. This was never meant to be a grief blog, but it is what it has become. That’s okay, grief is way more universal than my favourite off road track or what I think about adverbs (you don’t want to know).

When I was on the radio a woman rang in who’d son had been killed in a motorbike accident. She had kept some of things including his hairbrush and all these years on the brush still smells like him. She said he’d adopted him and that next year she travelling overseas to meet his birth mother. So sad that his birth mother didn’t meet him in his adulthood but how wonderful for them both they have a link to him in each other. His birth mother may get a sense of her son’s personality, his history, from his adoptive mother and his adoptive mother will for sure see her son in his birth mother’s face. It’s sort another chance with him, that’s how I look at it.

The piece I wrote hit Facebook and ran and I read some of the comments, most of them talked about smell and feel and family customs. One that struck me as though I can see it was a woman who’d kept her Grandad’s Brylcreem because it has his fingerprints in it. You can get a sense of the man from imprints he made in a tub of Brylcreem. Another wrote that she’d kept the spoon her grandmother had used for breakfast and that for thirty-one years she’d been using it as her own. Cereal and a daily reminder.

Love and loss is an everyone thing.

When Libby was in her early teens she was quite the cook. Messy, sticky, she dirtied every dish and surface. She made the evening meal now and then, and sometimes cakes, and she excelled at biscuits. She was the Queen of the Honey Jumble. Her biscuits would come out misshapen, extra big, and she’d ice them up with hot pink icing, sticky, a little icky-too sweet. We’d gobble them down and harass her to make more.

What’s the big deal about Libby’s honey jumbles?

I still have the mess she made.

I’m not sure how I finished-up with my mum’s Australian Women’s Weekly Cookbook, 1977 edition. I believe I may have stolen it. I haven’t checked because I like the domestic romance of pinching it. Anyway. I didn’t use the book much when we lived at home but Libby got right into it and there are traces of her everywhere. Not so long ago me and my middle son were making scones and we found a sultana that must have been there for at least twenty years. You talk about your fancy bookmarks. Pages and pages of the book are yellowed, and floury, and greasy. There are notations and cross outs. It’s a Libby time capsule. My middle son is enamoured with the book and it his goal to have his own cookbook and ‘mark’ it in a similar fashion.

Yes, Libby’s goneness is inexplicable. It makes sense on a practical level, she had a heart attack and didn’t survive, but for Libby to have walked the earth, spoken, cried, loved and to not do it again, my heart can’t fathom it. Still, I have my bits of her. A hair, her boots, a tiny fragment from her ashes, and the recipe book that makes me smile every time I open it. Thank you, Libby.



3 thoughts on “the beautiful mess of her

  1. Nicki if you want to preserve the book (and I’m sure you do) put sheets of newspaper between the pages and it will help to stop it ‘foxing’ – so I’m told by a librarian. I’m sure Libby loved you as much as you loved her and would have a good laugh at how you’ve described her cooking 🙂

  2. Bike girl your sister sounds absolutely intriguing and so very original. Her own person. No wonder you, and her Darren, miss her so very much.
    She must have been fun, I expect she’s still laughing and joking somewhere. I can under stand why you treasure her hair, boots, etc after my Dad died I wore his dressing for about nine months. No I didn’t wear it to the shops or on the train. I still have my Mum’s doily thing and some doilies and I’m not a doily person. I’ve her sewing scissors too. (“Not with those scissors you don’t.) We have keep some ordinary things that are so much the person we have lost. Alex

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