This is my space! or Kathleen’s Grandmother’s Magic Shawl.

This is my space! or Kathleen's Grandmother's Magic Shawl.

I fondly imagine that there will come a time when I am not at anyone’s beck and call. When I can suit myself. I turned 50 this year and I am suitably impressed with myself. I am now considering what I might be doing in (da-dah!) 15 years and whether this will involve leisure.

It’s quite difficult to imagine a time when I will not be working, have care of children, be looking after animals or an house. If I wasn’t doing all that, what would I be doing? Hmm, gardening, craft, more gardening, more craft, visiting friends, wandering about. I have absolutely no idea and with the state of my super (lack) I will not be retiring any time soon.

Maybe I’ll just write stories.

These thoughts remind me of one of my favourite stories that I created to hold my grandmother’s words. This then is Kathleen’s Tale.

Let me tell you a story

Every Friday afternoon after school, seven year old Kathleen would come screaming from the playground, swing around the gate, pound up the pathway, fling open the garden gate, thud onto the verandah and bang, on the fly wire door of her grandmother’s house.

Then she waited, until she heard the soft shuff-shuffle of her grandmother’s footsteps. Kathleen opened the fly wire door just as her grandmother opened the other.
“It’s you, it’s you, I’ve been waiting for you!” and Kathleen would be enfolded into warm and wobbly arms and pulled inside her grandmother’s house.

Kathleen’s grandmother’s house was warm and smelled of homey things like lavender and cooking. Entwined they would match steps down the hallway to the sitting room where lived Kathleen’s grandmother’s magic shawl. Kathleen knew the shawl was magic because in her grandmother’s magic shawl, Kathleen could be anyone at all.

When Kathleen was small that shawl had been fairy wings to flitter about, then a cape for a good witch brewing potions, a veil for a visitor from far off lands, a coat for a wizard concocting wicked plans and a simply gorgeous gown. As she got bigger her favourite was to be Red Riding Hood, but not the wussy Red who had to be saved, she was the Red who saved herself!

You know the part in the story where Red says, “Oh Grandma, what big teeth you have!” and the wolf growls, “All the better to eat you with!”? Red screams and runs out of the bedroom, down the hallway, into the kitchen, through the bathroom, back into the bedroom. She charges out of the room and down the hallway, looks over her shoulder and there’s the wolf right behind her! Arrgh! She dashes into the kitchen, sees a great big frying pan on the wall, grabs it down, holds it out and the wolf runs straight into it. Red saves the day and is Grandma’s hero. That version of Red Riding Hood.

So Kathleen knew that in her grandmother’s magic shawl, she could be anyone at all.

One Friday afternoon after school, Kathleen came screaming from the playground only to come to a screeching halt. For there, sitting in their car, with all their things packed in it, was Kathleen’s mother. Kathleen’s mother got out of the car and packed Kathleen into it.

“where are we going mum? is it a surprise mum? are we going to grandma’s mum? we’re not going to grandma’s, no. are we going to daddy’s work mum? it’s that way to daddy’s work mum! we’re not going there. where are we going mum? is it far mum? this is a very long way mum. mummy i’m hungry. mummy i need to go to the toilet. mummy … mummy i’m tired.”

In the morning a very tired and grumpy Kathleen was unpacked from the car, fed and put to bed in her aunty’s house. When she awoke her mother explained that they would be staying with her aunty for a little while. It was a very long little while. Then Kathleen got a new school uniform and went to her cousins’ school. After another long little while, Kathleen and her mother got their own place.

Kathleen grew, got older, finished school and got a job (this was in the days when you could finish school and get a job).

One Friday afternoon after work, Kathleen came home to find her mother sitting in her car with all her things packed in it. She wanted to pack Kathleen in the car but this time Kathleen was too big to pack easily. Kathleen stood in the drive and waved to her mother’s car until she could see it no longer. Then Kathleen turned and went inside her own house.

Kathleen’s house was cold and smelled of nothing.

Then Kathleen packed her own things into her own car and drove out of her driveway, down her street onto the highway. She drove through the town. She drove all night. In the morning she drove into a very familiar town and soon passed a very familiar primary school and pulled up in front of a very familiar house.

Kathleen got out of her car and closed the door. She stepped onto the footpath and walked to the garden gate. She creaked open the garden gate and trod up the pathway. Kathleen stepped onto the verandah and knocked on the fly wire door of her grandmother’s house. Then she waited until she heard the soft shuff-shuffle of her grandmother’s footsteps.

Kathleen opened her grandmother’s fly wire door just as her grandmother opened the other.

“Oh! It’s you, it’s you! I’ve been wondering and worrying about you!” and Kathleen was enfolded into warm and wobbly arms and pulled inside her grandmother’s house. Kathleen’s grandmother’s house was warm and smelled of homey things like lavender and cooking. Entwined they matched shuffles down the hallway to the sitting room, where still lived her grandmother’s magic shawl.

“I’ve been waiting for you.”

And Kathleen knew that she could be anyone, anyone at all.

and that is the end of the story.

(C) CLHarper 2000

Mrs. Higginbottom – A Jumbly Tale

Mrs. Higginbottom – A Jumbly Tale

How often are we impacted by the frustrations of others? When another person is frustrated by your ability to understand exactly what they are going on about, it is difficult at times to remember that it is a reflection on them, not you.

That’s pretty much all I wanted to say about that. How about a Jumbly tale?

Let me tell you a story

Mrs. Higginbottom and the Jumbly Man

Once upon a time, a long long time ago, Mrs. Higginbottom came to live in the Jumbly Man’s village. She didn’t know anything about Jumbly at first but everyone knew just how important she was because she told them.

Mrs. Higginbottom had come to view the delightful cottage on the corner of Market Road and River Rd and the villagers had ample opportunity to view her. She had the unfortunate habit of tilting her head so she could look down her nose, over her glasses, making a moue of distaste. This gave clear viewing straight up her nostrils and small boys would hover about for a glimpse.

Mrs. Higginbottom really liked the little cottage and she could see that she would be a person of some importance in the village. They all knew this because she told them. She really liked the little garden gate, and the tumbles of flowers in the garden, the roses growing up the outside of the cottage and the cosy cottage itself.

The cottage and the village were missing it’s previous owner. Miss Lilly had gone to Heaven and they all felt sad at her passing. Jumbly most of all. So when the new resident moved into her cottage all the village watched with voyeuristic pleasure to find out if she would be anything like Miss Lilly.

Miss Lilly had been Jumbly’s very best friend and the closest he had to a mother since he was a small boy. He was in the habit of visiting her every day, helping with chores and chatting in his jumbly way. Miss Lilly had never the least bother in understanding him. The riotous tumble of flowers and scents that was Miss Lilly’s garden had been their favourite place. Many happy hours of jumbly words and laughter were shared. As Miss Lilly had aged, the Jumbly Man would make sure she had wood for her fire, her errands run and always flowers in her yard.

Everyone liked Miss Lilly. They all took it hard when she rocked herself to her final rest, one slow sunny afternoon, sitting on her porch enjoying her garden and passersby. Jumbly had found her. He was bereft. Everyone understood and they let Jumbly grieve in his own way, keeping their eye on him.

When Mrs. Higginbottom moved in, everyone was intensely interested in their new neighbour and were keen to see how Jumbly would take to her. Mrs. Higginbottom was not so keen. The villagers soon learnt all about her importance in her previous village and how she practically had to run the place herself. How they would all get by without her, she didn’t know.

Mrs. Higginbottom took to sitting in Miss Lilly’s rocker on the front porch, calling greetings to passersby. She did her best to let them know when their dress was not up to scratch, and how the Elders needed her help when she wasn’t quite so busy, and dear me those rascally children needed taking down a peg or two and don’t get her started on the Jumbly Man, after all what kind of name was that? At this point she found that people began walking swiftly by her cottage, too busy to stop and chat. Her only visitors were the same small boys, keeping silent until the soft summer day sent her to sleep and snore. There was considerable discussion about her snoring, exactly what sound it was she made. Small boy treasures were known to change hands when she would snort quickly three times in a row, if the timing was guessed right.

The Jumbly Man watched from a distance as Mrs. Higginbottom settled into Miss Lilly’s cottage and made it her own. He watched as she harangued the villagers and set her tongue to scolding. Jumbly heard her calls unheeded and watched people scamper out of her way when she went to market.

Mrs. Higginbottom found this village just like her last. The people who were so friendly at first, now avoided her and wouldn’t listen to her good advice, and she had so much good advice. Why she had an opinion on everything. It was just the same all over again as if she was invisible.

One bright morning as Mrs. Higginbottom settled herself on her porch, she noticed the Jumbly Man standing directly across the road looking at her. At first she looked away, then snuck her eyes back to see he was still looking. Not only was he looking, he was smiling. Well. Mrs. Higginbottom pulled herself out of her rocking chair and marched to her garden gate. Jumbly crossed the road and marched up to the other side of her gate.

Mrs. Higginbottom tilted her head back, looked down her nose, over her glasses and made a moue of distaste. The Jumbly Man deftly avoided her nostrils and looked down into her eyes. He looked for a long time. Mrs. Higginbottom stayed very still. Slowly her head resumed it’s normal position and she looked right back at Jumbly. Jumbly smiled.

For the first time in her life, Mrs. Higginbottom felt seen. She felt that someone had noticed her and she felt Jumbly’s smile go right down into her heart. Mrs. Higginbottom smiled back.

The Jumbly Man jumbled some words at her. Mrs. Higginbottom nodded, oh of course, come right in, I will put the kettle on for tea, and the Jumbly Man was welcomed in through her gate.

and that is the end of the story.

(c) 4th September 2013