Dad’s sister is the first to arrive. She’s driven down from the hinterland through the former dairy country, now avocado and citrus farms and past the country dance hall at Meerschaum Vale.
She’s close to eighty and is a clone of her brother in appearance and attitude. When these two siblings share an afternoon chat family stories, which should be well kept secrets, tumble forth. Their shared memories paint the love, pain, the long forgotten but never forgiven transgressions and the complex personalities of the extended family.
In their conversation grandfather and grandmother became Poppa and Nonna; the distinctive scent of homemade salamis and sweetmeats, which I’d never tasted, flooded my nostrils somehow conjured up from the curing room (once a laundry) of fifty years ago; his prodigious vegetable garden flourished, filling my imagination with bouquets of colour, the droplets of early morning dew on deep green spinach sparkling before me. Amongst all this the tension between the Irish matriarch and the stern Italian peasant father became silently and sadly palpable.
Here she was. His sister. Ever loyal. Committed to being with her brother to the very end. Her body frail. Her bent back cursed by arthritis. Teeth gritted she eased her painful way out of the Toyota’s driver’s seat. Once free, the agony of movement is quickly transformed into a sparkling embrace. I face my beloved aunty. Our northern noses compete for airspace. I am the third clone.
She is a Wardell girl again.