One need not be a chamber to be haunted;
One need not be a house;
The brain has corridors surpassing
~Emily Dickinson, "Time and Eternity"
One of the secret pleasures of my childhood was summer mornings at Trafalgar House ~ my aunt's geriatric & dilapidated old Queenslander.
There is nothing quite like a Queensland morning; early, with the sun sparking off the dew, before the steamy heat & the thunderstorms rolling around the horizon. Listen. The clock is ticking away the minutes of your life, careless that they are the only minutes you have. The old house sighs & creaks, settling her ancient bones more comfortably. The light drifting through the lace curtains of the french windows is thin & watery, friendly with dancing drifts of dust motes & you can smell the dusty echos of musty books, overblown roses, turps & thinners, scented powder & the rich damp smell of the garden.
It is early. The wide boards under my feet are cool, the air is fresh & invigorating. I fizz with expectancy. Summer lasts forever for a child & for this moment I have my favourite cousin to my very own self. She is everything I want to grow to be: tall & leggy, blonder than blond, gregarious & extroverted & one day [because she has promised & she always keeps her promises] I will be bridesmaid at her wedding.
She moves about the derelict kitchen with assurance pouring milk into the battered little pan, her feet padding gently as she moves from stove to bench top, spooning in the coffee & sugar, stirring it into a froth, pouring it into the blue & white mugs. It feels delightfully wicked. I am not normally allowed coffee but I never say so & hold the cup my cousin hands me feeling terribly grown up as I follow her out onto the front verandah.
The front verandah faces the road, the roses, the empty paddocks ~ & far, far in the distance the blue of the bay. The rail is brilliant with the yellow of alamanda & sometimes the soft mauve of late wisteria clinging on stubbornly. We sit in the old cane chairs companionably sipping warm milk coffees, not talking because the rest of the house, foolishly, is still trying to sleep & watch the sun creep across the lawn. The moment lasts forever.
Well, I didn't grow tall & leggy ~ or gregarious & extroverted. My blond was more red than gold & then just turned a dirty brown & my pretty & vivacious cousin is a grandmother with a grandmotherly lap. Time changes us all into selves we don't recognise but here we are in November, November! & it was chilly enough this morning that I donned my favourite moss green jacket, my thongs making little flip~flop noises as I pottered about our big kitchen [because once there were a lot of us], pouring warm milk into my thick green mug, adding sugar & coffee, stirring it into a little froth to sit & sip in the dancing sunlight with the rich smells of the garden & the tang of the salty bay to take me back 40 years.
Eastern tradition says hospitality is a sacred act. My aunt, my cousin's mother, died on my birthday some years back. Just before she died she was found sitting up in bed having a companionable tea party with all her beloved family, all of whom had been dead for many years! Pity my children. Sometimes I am more like my aunt than much of my family finds comfortable & no doubt, one day in the future, they will come upon me sipping milk coffees with a horde of rellies they only know from faded sepia pictures & smiling out into another garden altogether. If it smells half as good as a Queensland summer garden [early, before the steamy heat & the thunderstorms] no doubt I will be perfectly happy.