wings and things

Chapter 6: The hug [1978]

on August 19, 2021

After my dad died I went back to working for Anthony’s mother in a caring capacity. During the months I had been away at Bible college, Gar (the name her grandchildren and I called her) had become frailer but she still managed to wield her walking stick in a rather formidable manner. In her mid-eighties, she still had the upper hand when it came to the business of the dairy farm that she owned and ran with her two youngest sons, Anthony (the bachelor who she lived with), and John, who lived across the road with his wife and four children.

It was such a strange sensation to be enfolded back into this extended family and when Gar began calling me “darling” I knew that I was accepted into a clan that was so alien to any experience I had ever had in my sheltered childhood and adolescence that every day felt like an adventure. Brandy or beer on the verandah at 5pm after milking, learning how to make salmon mornay, sleeping on the floor beside Gar’s bed when Anthony occasionally went out, babysitting the youngest of John’s children, a 4-year old blonde, adorable brat who would lock me out of the house every time I hung the washing out, picking figs …

I experienced so much joy going to work and, even though I now realise that my mother was probably relieved to be able to grieve the loss of her husband in private, the guilt I felt as I happily cycled the twelve kilometres to the farm was awful. I was so sad and shocked about the sudden death of my dad; simultaneously, I was elated to be back in Anthony’s proximity again. After all my dad said it was okay, didn’t he? Did he?

One lunch time, after Gar put her knife and fork down and proclaimed that my fish cakes were “diabolical” (my cooking abilities were still in-progress), I apologised and took her to her bedroom for her afternoon rest, then I went to the bathroom and had a little cry because I was so confused and then I came back to the kitchen to do the dishes.

Anthony was clearing the table and just said, “Sorry about Mum” and went to his own room to have his after-lunch siesta which usually only lasted ten minutes.

I only had a short window of time but I was too miserable to know what to do with it. So I finished washing the dishes and then, before I could think it through, I knocked on his door and entered just as he was sitting up on his single bed.

“Would it be okay if you gave me a hug, Anthony?” I asked, my sad, confused heart beating into the drums of my temples.

“Oh, Jules,” he said, patting the space next to him.

And he hugged me, and hugged me. He smelt like cow-shit and hay and a lack of deodorant and I was in heaven!

7 responses to “Chapter 6: The hug [1978]

  1. Anonymous says:

    You are a master of the punch line, Juli. You’ve done it again. Can’t wait for the next chapter!

  2. Judy says:

    I’m laughing that he smelt like “cow-shit!” Your use of language definitely evokes the smell!

  3. susanpoozan says:

    What a drama you have lived through.

  4. Who I am says:

    Since when does cow shit smell good!!! I am laughing so hard but when we are in love, we tolerate about anything!!! Good chapter my friend

  5. OnMyFeet says:

    Love these. Each and every one of your episodes strikes a special note in me. Thank you for sharing yourself with the world in this way.

  6. tootlepedal says:

    A splendid final sentence.

  7. A hug can feel so good and when you are in love it can be so lovely

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