My very favourite Uncle as a child, was my Uncle Buck. I’m sure there were many in our family that could never quite understand why I spent so much time at his house. Why would an old man in his seventies hold such an attraction for a young girl?
Like a drop-in centre for the homeless, his recliner armchairs became my after school solace. His limited mobility made him the perfect captive audience. I didn’t notice that he was still in his pyjamas at three in the afternoon. I didn’t care how clean the floor was. The necessities were covered. There was always chocolate in the fridge, a cup of tea that could be drank from a saucer, and an ear that would listen to story after story of my wildly exciting who said what in the playground melodramas.
Uncle Buck lived two houses away from my own, but the moment I stepped into his yard I felt like I’d entered another world. I was an Avenger, a superwoman, an explorer. What might appear to an adult as messy and overrun, is a breeding ground for creativity to a child. Any school project could be solved with a visit to Uncle Buck’s wood heap at the back of his house. Preparation for show and tell at school was easily fixed with a quick scavenge through a few old discarded boxes in the sunroom. I would sit and listen as he told me the story of each quirky item that had its special place, the stuffed alligator, the biscuit tin in the shape of a head. Only old people can truly talk about waiting a lifetime for something to happen, for they have waited and watched time pass by. I believed every story, including the magic carpet ride to Japan, and his super power glasses that he’d never let me try.
“She was the most beautiful woman in Renmark.”
He was back in a time of dances, diamontes and pencil skirts. There was no mention of Parkinsons, shakes, senile tantrums or mad escapes that would have my mother searching the town for an elderly woman in her nightdress.
Perhaps it takes a lifetime to choose what you want to remember. The disagreements, the petty arguments, or the raging fight you had that day in the Woolworths supermarket carpark about what you said at Dave’s party on Saturday night, are all forgotten; the real point is that at the end of it all, when it was all said and done, you chose to stay. You were still there together, because you could never be apart.
I grew up surrounded by relatives who lived in houses that were not always perfect, but they were always positive. Work was done, money was banked, holidays were planned, and children were well looked after but encouraged to discover. Stories were told, recycled and remembered, each one helping in the building of the next invisible pedestal.