NEVER REALLY GOODBYE…

Three years have passed since we said Goodbye..
Did you hear us, Dad?
Did you know that it would be for the very last time..
You did react when I held your hand and told you that it was ok,
Mum was waiting for you.
You also reacted when I thanked you, yet again,
for all you did for us, for the love you showed and the guidance you gave us.
We were with you on your last journey..at least for as long as we could be..
just as we had been with you as your mind played tricks on you
and you forgot us at times. That was ok, we understood ..
and we never forgot you.

You have been our rock, our comfort,
and yes, at times, our disciplinarian..
We are who we are because of the love and caring
both you and Mum showed us always, in good times and bad.
We try not to shed tears as we delve into memories..
and can’t help laughing as we ‘see’ you beneath the mango tree
firing an air rifle at flying foxes feasting above.
We smile when we remember you stopping near a road sign,
staying for what seemed like ages
as two excited children waited for our watch..
after all, that’s what the sign said ‘Watch for Children’.
I still have the shivers when I recall diving deep into my bed,
screaming with fright, as you chased me with a live mud crab.. then calling me out some time later, saying it was all gone.. and presenting me with the crab, now bright orange, fully cooked.

I remember telling Mum, in as serious a tone as a five year old could muster,
that when she was finished with you, I was going to marry you when I grew up!
High praise indeed from a little girl who adored her tall handsome Dad,
especially when he played the guitar as Mum and I sang..Peg Theo Chris Vince Catsoulis c 1959well, ok, mostly Mum, she had a far better voice than I did.
I loved to sing with her though…and she taught me the words of so many songs.
Memories tumble by, one after the other and I find myself smiling often..
at the hospitality and generosity that came from you both..
at the willingness to drop everything at a moment’s notice to help someone in need, whether near or far.
Nothing was ever too much trouble..you expected nothing in return.
That wasn’t your way..

©  Crissouli 1959

You welcomed our friends and their friends and treated all like family..
then when our family grew, you were so happy and so proud…
You delighted in grandchildren and then the great grandchildren,
that Mum longed for, but never got to see…how you would love seeing them all grow.
Ninety one years .. and yet that wasn’t enough. We had more love to share..
more memories to create, more stories to tell..
We do our best to honour your memory, to be the people you wanted us to be..
So, never really goodbye, but rather, just for now..
You will live on in all that is good in those for whom you paved the way.

© Crissouli 18th October, 2017

 

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© Crissouli 2013

Last photo taken… Dad’s 91st birthday, at the nursing home. How he loved the birds..

 

 

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Love, Laughter and Apple Pies..

Twenty one years ago today, I received the dreaded news… my beloved Aunt Heather had passed away of cancer. I grieved so much, not just for her passing, but because I wasn’t able to be with her and her children at that time. Her children were grown up, her daughter with a family of her own, but my cousins and I have always been very close, as were my mother and my Aunt.. It was, and is, as if we were an extension of the one family.

Heather Crombie was born in Tamworth, NSW, on the 7th July, 1930, to Thomas Crombie and Juliet McQueen. She was their third child of four .. and the only daughter. She was very proud of her Scottish roots, her father having been born in Aberdeen, Scotland… her mother was born in St. Pancras, London. Heather and my mother, Peg (Margaret) met as girls in Dorrigo and went on to marry brothers, George and Vince Catsoulis.

Heather with her father

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This was a relationship and friendship that was to last all their lives… no matter where they were living.

It wasn’t till the 1960’s that they were all living in the one city again. Heather and George had three children, sadly the first daughter died at birth.

They went on to have a daughter, Kris and a son, John. Kris was my youngest bridesmaid, John is my godson, so the ties are still there in so many ways. 

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John’s christening, Aunt Heather with baby John. Peg and Vince Catsoulis behind her and Uncle George to the left.

Heather became a widow in 1971, Uncle George passed the night before we brought our son home. He had been so excited that we were to have our first child. It broke my heart that he never got to meet him. I will always remember Aunt’s bravery and determination to do whatever she could to raise her still young children to have the best life she could possibly give them. She took on any and every job she could and devoted her life to their welfare, always smiling and always so welcoming. She was so proud that they both went to University and that they were making their own way in life. Her joy as they graduated, then when her daughter married and presented her with her first grandson was overwhelming…

When my own mother died in 1982, Heather grieved as if she were her sister, rather than sister in law.. I remember her coming up to me at the wake at my parent’s house and giving me the biggest hug and telling me that though she couldn’t replace my mother, she would always be there for me… and she was. We became even closer, if that was possible… I did have to laugh at times when she would talk about when we were girls in the depression years and I’d have to remind her that it was Mum, not me.

1981Fiona was 8.jpgMy memories bubble over with visions of picnics and long drives, of numerous family occasions, of the wonderful roast dinners, and apple pies, oh, those famous apple pies…never forgotten.

Memories of Aunt Heather and my husband spending hours here watching old movies. They didn’t care if they already knew the scripts off by heart, that only added to their fun. She loved the music of the 1940’s, she loved to garden, and to cook, she loved sewing and bingo.. and any outings that included family and/or friends.  Her love of children was known to all and she would often stop a mother with a pram to admire the baby. Earlier memories of us all as we joined in cake decorating classes, spending as much time laughing as we did icing, are never far from the surface.

There is so much more to Aunt Heather, but today the tears flow, making it hard to focus, so I will leave that for another day. Rest in peace, Aunt, knowing that 21 years on, you are still so fondly remembered.

©Crissouli 29th July, 2017

© all photos belong to the Catsoulis family

 

I SHALL BRING YOU FLOWERS!

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(Image courtesy of Pixabay)

Eighty seven years ago today, the fourth child and the third daughter, Margaret, later to be known as Peg, was born to a young Dorrigo couple, Roy and Biddy (Bridget) Swadling. Roy was working in the saw mill and Biddy was caring for their young family.

Pat  was five, Mary, also known as Molly, was three and a half and Betty (Elizabeth), was two. I’m not sure whether Pat had started at the convent at that time, but the rest were at home. In that year, the Great Depression began. I have often wondered just how the family managed, though it was difficult for most in those years. From what my mother told me, they were a happy family, despite Biddy’s indifferent health. Her sister, Molly (also Mary) was a frequent visitor and the two sisters were known for their lovely singing voices and their sense of humour… after all, they were Irish. I was fortunate enough to know Aunt Molly, how I loved her Irish brogue… she was always so kind to us as children and though we didn’t see her often, she filled a little of the role of our Irish grandmother whom we never got to meet.

Mum lost her mother when she just eleven, to TB.

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Biddy left her young family just a few weeks short of her 41st birthday. Mum always thought that she, too, would die young – though she lived longer than her mother, passing away at just 51.

Biddy, daughter Mary, holding a friend’s baby, Betty and Peg, taken not long before Biddy died.    © Crissouli and family

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One of my favourite photos with Mum. I was about three, carefully examining the appliquéd leaves which were tan, on Mum’s white dress. This was taken in Aunt Mary’s yard. I always thought Mum looked beautiful in that dress.

©Crissouli and family

 

 

So many birthdays we missed out on, but we never forget. We smile at the memories of all those we shared.. you shall never age.

Thinking of you as always, Mum, with love and gratitude for the unconditional love and caring you gave us all.

©Crissouli 10th July 2017

IF I SAY IT QUICKLY…

If I say it quickly, it doesn’t feel like 35 years…but, as hard as it is to believe, it is…35 years sinPeg Catsoulis.jpgce I kissed and held you for the very last time.  The last words you spoke to me were “Thank you, Petal..”

Chris's christening, with Mum, Peg Catsoulis 1948.jpg

 

Of course, I cried, as I am now… at the memory of losing you. I’d been praying that some miracle would happen and you would be able to stay, just a little longer, but as I sat by your bed, holding your hand, I could feel you leaving me, bit by bit. I was selfish enough to want you to see your grandchildren grow up.. there were three then, now there are five. I wanted you to fulfill your dream of having great grandchildren…

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How they would have loved you, your kindness and gentleness, your selflessness, your generosity, your wonderful imagination… your insistence that we always had a fairy tree… as I do also. You have three great grandchildren, one step great grandchild and another great grandchild to be in a few months time. Of course, you just never know, there may be more to come… though I’m sure you know more about that than I do. As for great nieces and nephews, I haven’t even tried to count, let’s just say there are a lot of us..

You’d be so proud of your evergrowing family, they are good people.. and now Dad is with you, I’m sure you are both smiling down at us. Just as you said so many years ago, siblings and cousins are now the generations of the present and the future, sadly some are also of the past, but that is the way it has always been. We do our best to uphold your values and are always grateful for all you sacrificed for us. It’s only now that we have really come to know, or think we do, just how much that was.

It is so strange to realise that I have now had longer without you than with you.. but only your physical presence, as there isn’t a day that goes by, that I don’t think of you or remember something you did or said.

You had been sleeping for so long and my tears flowed freely as your breath became more laboured. You struggled so hard to stay, I knew I had to let you go. “Please Lord, if there is no way she can stay, please let her be at peace with you Lord..” You opened your eyes, just for a moment and smiled.. somehow you knew my silent prayer.

“Thank you, Petal..” and you quietly left us.

Jeff Goopy & Chris Catsoulis, Peg & Vince Catsoulis 6th Sept 1969  wedding.jpg

©Crissouli June 27, 2017 Story and photos

FOLLOWING THE TRAIL AT EASTER..

The early mornings were often a little frosty, but that couldn’t stop two excited children from rushing outside to follow the trail. We never questioned why it always started out near the back garden, then went through the gate, past the chook pen and up the hill through the bushes, then looped back again.

nasturtium-444387_960_720.jpgOver it went, near the tank stand, then around to the front yard, under the nasturtiums and then back around and into the back door. How come we never noticed that when we ran out the back door?

Seems we had one messy Easter Bunny, shredded paper everywhere and just a few chocolate freckles or mini eggs if we were reaadorable-15949_960_720.jpgly lucky.. and one or two chocolate eggs were left.

Most times, we also got a fluffy little yellow chicken.

We loved the eggs that rattled and were never disappointed whether they contained a few small lollies or, on rare occasions, a tiny toy. Some years, we would get a sugar egg from our Aunt Mary. They were so pretty and fancy and always contained something, usually a few conversation lollies. Dad would eat the ‘egg’, after I ate all the decorations off first. I didn’t really like sugar eggs to eat. My brother loved chocolate eggs and I was always careful to keep count of mine, just in case.

A few days beaster-267164_960_720.jpgefore Easter, we would wait patiently while Mum hard boiled some eggs, and while they were still warm, we would draw patterns on them with a wax candle.

Then Mum would dye them  with food colourings,
especially cochineal. Once they dried, we would wipe off the wax and pretty patterns would appear. This is how we hoped they would look…

eggs-733393_960_720.jpgbut more often, they looked more like these,
only with more colours…

The excitement of Easter continued as we would all go out to my grandmother’s for a big family gathering. Lunch was always roast chickens and roast vegetables, sometimes a lamb roast as well. I liked the smell of the garlic and rosemary on the lamb, but I’ve never been too fond of eating it. The centrepiece of the table was Tsourekia (Greek Easter bread), plaited with hard boiled red coloured eggs baked in. Dessert was often fruit pie and baked custard.

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Image courtesy of Taste

Surprisingly, after the cleanup and perhaps a short rest for some of the adults, out would come baklava and koulourakia, fragrant preserved figs in their rich cinnamon and honey syrup and rich aromatic Greek coffee, in Nona’s special occasion tiny coffee cups.

It was only then that our Aunts and Uncles might produce some Easter eggs for us children, ‘if we’d been good’. They were very forgiving or we’d always been very good it seemed.

There was much laughter throughout the day and plenty of chatter.

Familes and Easter – they will always sit happily side by side in my memories.

(c)Crissouli  Easter Saturday April 15, 2017

Unlabelled images courtesy of Pixabay.

HAPPY 105TH BIRTHDAY, AUNT MARY!

How we miss you, Aunt Mary.. and your selfless caring for all the family, especially your mother.

I miss our long chats, our laughter, and the walking out to Nona’s, sometimes picking wildflowers along the way. I loved calling in to your place after school, even for piano practice.

The hardest part of leaving my home town was leaving you, something I know my parents felt as well. You were my confidante, my go between when I was a teenager railing against my Dad’s strict rules. It was you who taught me to cook all manner of things, and to crochet… wish I’d had more lessons for that.

It was you who stayed with my Dad and younger brother, dropping everything to come interstate to look after your youngest sibling when my mother died. You made sure they ate and rested, the little they could, when all around them was turned upside down.

I know I thanked you for all over time, but it would never be enough. Much love to you, Aunt, I am so grateful that you were with us for as long as you were.

Image ©crissouli 1985