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

 

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

TEA WITH MRS. JOHNSON

 

I was reminiscing with a friend recently, and discussing embroidery pieces I’d done, in particular, a supper cloth, as they were once known. You can see a section of it here..

I planned my supper cloth when I was very small. Each year we would have to move out of our little house for a few weeks at a time, as the landlady would come down from Inverell for her annual holiday. OneIMG_4343 year, we went to stay with Mrs. Johnson… who lived in a big old house that had a lovely verandah and rooms to spare. Each afternoon, she kindly made us afternoon tea, on a highly polished wooden tea trolley.

 

 

(c)Claudine    

who kindly allowed me to use her image*    

This is very similar to Mrs. Johnson’s trolley.

 

She trusted me to wheel it out to the verandah, which overlooked the garden, filled with roses, hydrangeas and daisies.. I’m sure there were more, but they are the ones I remember. I do recall the lilacs in the front of the house, but this was on the back.

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Courtesy Pixabay

 

She had the loveliest china, always a beautifully starched tea cloth and a sponge or butter cake.. and biscuits, often jam drops, sometimes tiny shortbreads. This was such luxury for us… Mum would sometimes make scones… then there would be cream asilver-tea-set-989820_960_720nd home made jams in tiny china dishes. One of her many cloths had crinoline ladies on the edges… I was totally enthralled. We even had cloth napkins… The three weeks we stayed there were such an eye opener for me. I loved it and planned what I would have when I was grown up. Mrs. Johnson was kindness itself..she gave me an iron on transfer to ‘make my own cloth one day’.

Courtesy Pixabay

 

 

It was just before Christmas… the only negative there, and I didn’t really think that at the time, was it was there I broke my leg.

I was having an afternoon nap and I heard my cousin, Chris, in the kitchen with Mum… she’s nine years older than me and I wanted to see her.. so jumped out of bed and went sprawling… Mum was cleaning the house as part of the rent payment and had polished the floors, then forgot and put a mat near the bed. I ended up in hospital getting X-rays and plaster… which hurt as it was hot then… and I wasn’t a good patient, kicking out at the nurse and doctor, as in those days, nothing was explained to a 4 1/2 year old and I was terrified. There’s more to that, but another day.

Mrs. Johnson sent me a lovely birthday card the next year… a fold out crinoline lady card… as did my Aunt Nita for the next few years… they came in many different versions. So, when we were told we had to make something practical at the end of our sewing lessons in primary, my choice had been made many years before… I only got half of it finished for school and not much of the satin stitch for the border, but I finished it all in a few months. It was truly Scan 8.jpega labour of love. I can’t recall a time when I didn’t have some kind of embroidery on the go, still do… but nothing big just now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

(c) Crissouli 2016

Lovely memories of times gone by…

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Courtesy of Pixabay

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, CHRISANTHE!

One hundred and thirty four years ago, on the 12th May, 1882, Konstadine and Stavroula Coroneo welcomed their tenth child and fourth daughter, Chrisanthe.

Their first child was also a daughter, Eleni, born in Potamos, in 1854. Theodora followed in 1856, then their first son, Spero, in 1858. There was a break of a few years till the birth of their second son, Menas (Mick) in 1865. Stamatico was added to their family in 1868… he lived to the quite remarkable age for the time, 91 years and 9 months, passing in 1960.

Marigo followed closely in 1869, Yannis (John) in 1874, Kosma (known as Con, not Charles) was born in 1877, Panagioti (Peter) in 1879… then Chrisanthe.

These details come directly from one of the many notebooks belonging to Papouli – books passed to my father, Vince, youngest son of Chrisanthe and Theo (Papouli).

I know little of the siblings, other than Peter, who came to Australia and raised a family in Perth. I believe others came as well, possibly Stamatico, but I don’t recall meeting any of them. I wonder about the sometimes long gaps between the births of the children. Were there miscarriages or stillborns in between perhaps? That certainly wasn’t unusual in those times.

My grandmother didn’t talk a lot about her childhood, other than to say that she had good parents who did their best for their family. All worked from a very young age – my grandmother never went to school and never learned to read or write. She made sure all her nine children did.

 

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Chrisanthe in the middle with cloth cap and cord belt…her family plus friends…

 

She worked spinning cotton from kapok and weaving cloth, which became sheets, rugs, bedcovers, etc. I have been entrusted with one of the very colourful rugs she made, handed down via her daughter, Mary, her granddaughter, Stella and then on to me.

Chrisanthe married the love of her life in April, 1904, in the Holy Virgin Church,  Potamos, on the Greek island of Kythera, also known as Cerigo, when she was 21. They weren’t to be together for very long, as times were really hard on Kythera and Theo decided to leave, along with a group of other young Kytherian men, for the promise of a better future in Australia. He arrived in November, 1904. It would be around six years before his young bride could join him. It must have been very hard for her, coming to a strange land, without speaking any of the language. She would have had to rely on her husband for all communication. Of course, I didn’t realise this as a child, when I was curious as to why my grandmother ‘spoke funny’, not knowing that her broken English was a great achievement.

Among my first memories of Nona, is learning how to make pancakes on the top of her wood stove. Nona was very short, so Papouli had made her a wooden step to make cooking easier.

Here I am, apron and all..

Papouli

 

Aunt Mary showed me how to measure ingredients in cups and didn’t mind a bit when I spilled some flour, though we made sure we cleaned it up very quickly. She and Nona insisted I had a very smooth batter and while Nona dropped spoonfuls on to a highly polished section of the stove surface, I was allowed to stand on the step and turn the pancakes ‘when the bubbles burst’. I was so proud when Papouli was served some of ‘Crissouli’s own cooking’ with his morning tea.

I graduated fairly quickly to making cakes, biscuits, sauces, etc. all with either Nona or Aunt Mary putting things in, on or out of the stove. I remember that the only thing I was disappointed about when I started school, was not being able to spend so much time cooking. I can’t say that I was missing the washing up though.

I learnt far more than cooking in those times – I learnt that my grandmother, and my Aunt, were part of a rather large group of people around me, to whom family was all important. Nona was very generous as far as sharing her skills, and the results of them, with family and friends.

There was always room for more at the large kitchen table and no one ever left without fresh produce or a jar of pickles, chutney, jam or whatever was in the large dresser. Nona couldn’t read a pattern, but that didn’t stop her from crocheting the most intricate patterns and creating everything from doilies to baby wear, tablecloths, bedspreads, collars and clothing… She had quite a number of godchildren, so many layettes to make…

Chrisanthe loved nothing better than either visiting family and friends or having them visit her. This trait stayed with her till her passing on 2nd January, 1965, aged 82 years and 6 months, from complications of diabetes. She’d been widowed for twelve long years and missed Theo terribly…. reunited at last.

 

(c) Crissouli 12th May 2016