It was Christmas Eve in at the meat counter and a woman was anxiously picking over the last few remaining turkeys in the hope of finding a large one.
In desperation she called over a shop assistant and said, ‘Excuse me. Do these turkeys get any bigger?’
‘No, madam, ‘he replied, ‘they’re all dead.’
As I was shovelling snow for the fourth time today…a long forgotten memory bubbled to the surface….
Raised the eldest daughter of a widowed father, my share of daily chores fell heavy upon my frail shoulders, at an early age. There were days when the only thing that saved my sanity was imagination. Born from a unquenchable thirst for books. A passion so consuming that I spent many, many afternoons tucked into the crawl space between the sofa and the wall, ravishing a library book, dimly lit from a nearby window. It was the only place I could find that would save me from the dreaded:
“Haven’t you got something better to do than stick your nose in a book?”
Upon discovery, I would stash away whatever book I had immersed myself into and drag myself through my household tasks with the enthusiasm of a condemned man.
Except, Winter. Raining, cold, windy afternoons.
Our laundry was at the rear of the garden, attached to the garage. We did not possess a tumble dryer. Clothes were pegged on the line at the merest hint of sunshine. Should the bright sky turn to a brooding grey, I would be marched out to remove the offending washing from the line – quick smart – where they would then be draped over every available surface to await the next ray of hope, dry clothes.
And so it was, that I developed my ‘Poor Albanian peasant girl’ personality. All it took were a couple of old bath towels – one to cover my hair, and one for my apron. A few pegs to hold the look together, and I was transformed. Somehow, this personality always made the task easier. A whole story line would drift through my head. I went so far as to believe I could smell the cabbage and potatoes that my poor, old (Albanian) mother had managed to scrap together for our supper. It was nothing short of a tragedy how poor we were…
I would snuggle into my towels and imagine the howling wind and snow blowing in my face. The frostbite on my fingers and toes. I would rub my hands together and blow on them as if we were dealing with a bone-chilling, howling blizzard – rather than the damp, mildly cool, Sydney winter day.
Considering I was probably 10 or 11 years old at the time, and more than likely had no blessed idea where Albania was, I managed, over the years, to construct a long running soap opera around my ‘poor Albanian peasant girl’. There were many small brothers and sisters. There always seemed to be a new born babe that needed swaddling (that was one of my favourite words). A kind, but down-on-his-luck father. Chickens, goats, even a large blackened kettle in the fireplace.
When she sprang to mind today, I rubbed my hands together and pulled my scarf a little more snug, and wondered if the task at hand would be made easier if I grabbed a few old towels and a couple of clothes pegs….