“Don't slam the door boy, your grandpa is having a nap.”
I grab the screen door just as it is about to hit the door jamb and smile at Grandma. They don't mind if I run in and out of the house so long as I don't slam the screen door when Grandpa has his nap.
She beckons me over to the kitchen bench and hands me the wooden spoon, dripping with cake batter. That is the best part I reckon, licking the batter. Grandma has been teaching me how to make biscuits. She says we can have one with our afternoon tea or a piece of the cake. The kitchen smells like baking and is warm and cosy. We talk about the day and what happened during the week at school and about the weather. I like talking to Grandma when we cook.
Grandma wipes down the bench and washes the dishes. She is very tidy and cleans things almost before Grandpa and I have a chance to make a mess. Grandpa says Grandma is so clean we could eat off the floor. The floor sure is shiny but I think that’s disgusting, I would never eat off the floor. We used to eat in the lounge room before I came here. We had bean bags and trays and watched movies with our dinner on our knees. It was fun but we didn't talk much.
I hang around the kitchen waiting for the cake to cook and for Grandpa to wake up. I can hear the big clock ticking in the hall. Everything in this house ticks along with that clock. When we get up, when we eat, when we sleep. Everything is regular as clockwork. Grandpa says that's why he eats bran for breakfast, to keep himself regular. I reckon he just needs that clock. Sometimes I hear it chiming in the night when I can't sleep and I am thinking about Mum and Dad.
Grandpa shuffles out in his tartan slippers and slides on his boots at the back door. We go out to work in the garden. Grandpa loves his garden. He cuts the hedge and trims the edges of the lawn and the grass is so short it looks like an alien shrank it. Grandpa lets me help him plant vegetables and gave me my very own patch of dirt. I grow Sweet Williams and tulips in my patch. Grandpa has a whole family of gnomes in the garden. I like the smell of the dirt and how it feels in my hands. I forget everything when I am digging. There is no digging in concrete, except when its wet. I got in trouble once for putting my hand print in wet concrete. Dad just laughed when he found out and said I would be on that path forever.
Grandma calls us for afternoon tea. We wash our hands at the outside tap. There is soap hanging in an old sock on the tap. Grandpa changes back into his tartan slippers and I take off my runners. I have slippers too but I can't find them. Grandpa says I better find them before winter or my toes will freeze.
I think they are under my bed. Grandma can't bend over enough to look, so it is the messiest place in the house. I always had a messy room. Mum used to say creative people are always messy. Grandma cleans up everything else and I am supposed to clean under my bed but it kind of reminds me of Mum. I guess I will look there later for my slippers.
There is tea in the pretty cups with the flowers and the matching plates and some cake and biscuits. I am allowed to have two biscuits or one and a piece of cake. I have one of each and sip my tea. Grandpa turns off his hearing aid. He likes to read the paper in peace he says. Grandma says 'hosh posh' when he does that and flicks her tea towel at him in a fun way. They both smile. It makes me feel warm inside. We didn't have matching plates at Mum and Dad's house and I never had tea, only cocoa, sometimes. Grandma hums a tune to herself and takes the tea towel to the laundry.
Grandma is teaching me how to crochet. She makes toilet roll dolls and oven mitts for the store at the children’s hospital. I can only make Afghan squares and one day I will make a whole rug. Grandma makes them very quickly and sometime watches TV at the same time. She doesn't have to think about it she says unless the pattern is very complicated. The TV usually has some boring movie on and I get bored.
Grandma sends me outside to play. I ride my bike around the block. I climb a tree to see over the neighbours fence and throw plums at the kid next door. Grandpa would tick me off if he caught me because I am not supposed to throw things at people or wreck the plum tree but the kid next door is annoying. She pokes out her tongue and says she will dob on me if I throw any more. I didn't get her anyway. I ride around the block a few more times.
I hear the big clock chime four and I race inside. Grandma shoos me outside to wash my hands and take off my shoes. I kick off my shoes and they fly across the back porch. I don't wash my hands very well but I can watch TV before tea and I don't want to miss my favourite shows.
At seven o'clock, I have a bath in the big old bath. It is almost as big as a swimming pool and it has feet like a lion and I can stretch out full length in the water. I can't have too much water because of restrictions but there is enough to splash and make bubbles and pretend to swim. Grandma always warms the towels up for me in the dryer. She says she used to put them in the warming oven when she had a wood stove. She used to warm them for my Mum when she was little. We had a small bath at home, at the other home, at Mum and Dad's house. It was little anyway. The towels were always scratchy and cold. I guess Mum didn't learn about warming towels in the dryer. Grandma says she didn't get a chance to teach Mum about the towels.
There are lots of photos in our house. Sometimes in the evening we talk about the people in the photos. Grandma tells me stories about when she and grandpa met or about people overseas and sometimes about when Mum and Dad were young. Grandpa just gets sad when we talk about them and kind of folds in on himself like he is far away and not just in the old chair across the room. Grandma looks sad too but I think she must be tough because she just gets on with things. I miss Mum and Dad and I am glad the photos are there in case I forget what they look like. Sometimes I forget.
Grandpa made me a stool to climb into bed. We made it together in his shed. I held the nails until he needed them and I sanded it smooth with a little sanding block. I need the stool because the bed is really old and really high off the floor. I was scared I would fall out when I first came to live here. I like it now. There are two duvets and a wool blanket with stripes and matching sheets and an electric blanket under the sheet but I can only have that on in winter. I wear stripy pyjamas like Grandpas. Grandma made them on her sewing machine. Grandma and Grandpa always kiss me goodnight and tuck me in. Grandma reads me a story or a chapter if it is a long book. Sometimes I fall asleep listening to her voice and sometimes I just drift away thinking about Mum and Dad.
Tonight I listen to the clock chiming.