Five generations of Harpers are making plans to descend on Perth to farewell our mother, grandmother, great grandmother and great great grandmother. As I reflect on Nana’s life I’m reminded of research for a travel article published many years ago (see link at bottom).
With the passing of my grandmother at 101 yrs Nana’s generation is gone but will be forever remembered.
Long ago family holidays spent in wild places beneath West Australian skies. Camping out behind sand dunes, erecting tents in the desert, swimming untamed rivers, panning for gold, fishing for whiting (sometimes catching fish bigger than my little brother!), the aroma of fresh baked scones. Rumblings of ice in the esky, grumblings from Grandad tinkering with his tools.
Oddly, powdered tea when tea leaves brewed in a teapot warmed with knitted cosy briefly fell out of favour. Stories around the campfire. Billy tea, coal-crusted damper in the camp oven.
Tea. Always tea. Sometimes a cool shandy, a combination of beer and lemonade, when Nana’s ‘boys’ gathered round. Nana who never held a drivers licence or drove a car, reveled in the open road, travelling Australia’s outback roads with Stan at the wheel. Later, when Grandad became too old to hold a licence, family members would set up their caravan at their favourite sites, leaving them to enjoy the camping life they loved.
Games of cricket and canasta, lessons in fishing. Bush medicine when things went wrong. Fingers pierced with fish hooks, toes stubbed, bones broken, bruises and scrapes aplenty. Skin lost, burnt by the sun, bitten, buzzed and, ultimately, scarred. Indoor rules and outdoor freedom.
Songs around Nana’s treasured organ in a living room dotted with lace doilies, souvenir tea towels and tea spoons, photos of us all. Carefree holidays with the cousins, the aunts, the uncles, often times the whole damn clan. The family mutts along with a stray or two, both human and canine.
Frugal times, making do, recycled and handmade gifts. Later, a five dollar note arriving in the post, tucked into a much-anticipated Christmas or birthday card. The outback. The joy of hunting for artefacts, discovering disused mine shafts, rocks tumbled into gemstones.
And always, Nana and Grandad, married for over 70 years, keeping us all in line, sorting out arguments, valued, respected, revered as our elders. Sharing their wisdom, their knowledge and their joy. So too tales from the road on countless travels across our wide brown land. Guiding hands winning love and respect not just from my generation but from those that have followed.
Nana once said the worst thing about living so long is that all her friends have died. Sadly, now she too is gone, to be reunited with friends, along with her beloved childhood sweetheart Stan. Their cherished legacy the loving family they leave behind.
God bless you Nana.
Thora Harper’s approaching centenary prompted an article published in Australian Traveller magazine