Grandmother Rose8 December 2020
Her fingers curve around the handle of the cup as she places English breakfast tea on discoloured doilies. Her gold tea set, something I wish to inherit, mocks me on the table. Her right hand rests near the doily, taking a much needed break from the lifting of the tea cup–the strenuousness of it.
The simple act that was once not even a fleeting thought is now a visible discomfort in rough fingers that once kneaded buttery dough, cupped my face and pegged table cloths. I look at the lines on her face while I sip the comforting familiarity of too much sugar and milk in tea. It warms like her famous chicken and rice upon my entrance.
She bends from her waist to sit, reminding me of my ballet class. Working on the barre, slow, steady, tense yet graceful as I plié down shielding my inner strain. She attempts to hide the discomfort in her hip, but fails the way I do in hiding my emotions. She could always read my face like a detailed page, now I can read hers.
My eyes linger on her face and I fear the inevitability of my future. Discomfort stings in my stomach and I adjust my posture. Her face is worn like my leather wallet but the distraction of her eyes, as green as the fields she ran her fingers through as a little village girl, comforts me.
In her eyes I see the trauma of a child who was taken from her mother and sent to Serbia. Though she learned classical piano and can still remember those four learned languages, when she returned to her mother years later, she was dismissed like an unwanted pest.
As we hold each other’s gaze–her eyes green, mine brown–I think of her desperation as clear as the wrinkles on her face. That desperation turned to wanting, turned to seeking a dream, turned to actively taking that first step on to the ship that brought her to Australia.
A small smile creases my face as she slowly sips her English breakfast tea.