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