I have said this before and I am happy to say it again. I am in awe of people who can remember their past, particularly their childhood past, in high-definition clarity. I see and hear my past through flickering scenes of snowy noise, crackling static, fragmented pixels, and faulty signals. Occasionally, I am able to focus on what seems to be a clear, defined, image, yet when I try to hold it, to still it in a frame , this is what happens: a split screen of alternative possibilities.
Frame One: Dinner with Nana
peas boil, custard bakes,
leg of lamb on stove top rests,
roasted juices, pink.
“Bloody meat,” sighs Nana Maud.
we grin, dinner not done yet.
Frame Two: Dinner with Nana
The peas are boiling, the custard bakes,
gravy, silky and peppery, simmers and plops.
Nana, pinny-wrapped, and double-bent, is busy’
with sharp-pronged fork, testing the mid-day roast.
She pierces the bubbles of crisp skin
and pearlescent fat, to the bone inside,
and watches, as the juices spurt,
clear and sweet.
“It’s done, ” she declaims, satisfied.
“It’s well-cooked,” she adds, decisive,
“I don’t like bloody mutton.”
No part of sheep would defy that tone.
We grin, we tease, in mock horror.
“Nana! Bloody? Did you say bloody?”
Intent on serving dinner hot,
blind to childish nonsense, she huffs,
“No, no, of course, I didn’t, but
I don’t like bloody meat.”
We giggle quietly into plates, bountiful
with succulent tenderness.
We eat, pudding next,
knowing, even then, we would remember
the day we pretended Nana swore.
Which of these pictures , I wonder, is closest to the reality of that day? Sadly, I can no longer say for sure. The editorial hand of time has steadily and stealthily, spliced and resectioned memories which once seemed solid; immutable.
But this much I do know:
Both recollections are faithful to the essence of my grandmother, and the good food, love, and security which were produced in copious quantities in her little, sunny, kitchen.
She was a hard-working person; always busy around the home. She was independent, despite being almost blind in one eye. She was capable, she was small, and she was strong. Chopping kindling wood for her fire and coal range were daily tasks she undertook into an advanced age.
Her cooking was excellent. Every kind of food she gave me, be it boiled chicken, bottled apricot, roast dinner, or pikelet , I remember with pleasure.
And, as for those roasts ~ Nana preferred mutton and hogget to lamb but, whatever cut it was, she didn’t like it rare, or to say it plainly, bloody. On that fact, my memory is 100% clear.
(This post is in memory of Nana Maud who died 42 years ago, today, the first day of spring.)