My first memory is of puppet shows my brother and I would put together behind Sandra’s couch in Devonport, Tasmania. Our family and hers would watch as we unfolded our story. They were for Baha’i children classes.
The next I have is of perching on a small orange car and racing down the extremely steep slope of the driveway of her home. We weren’t supposed to do this, but we did until the parents caught us. My brothers sometimes thought Sandra was too strict, she wasn’t afraid to be like a second Mum when they were naughty, but I liked her for that.
When I first knew her she was a dance teacher, and single mother. At her home was a studio she taught from. I remember when I was little that she always wore beautiful perfume that you could catch the scent of whenever she was near you. She glided along like a dance teacher and often wore vibrant scarves around her head.
She was one of the first Baha’is my family ever knew. She was my first religious education teacher.
She gave us books every year which were for Baha’i holy days or our birthdays. We shared them and read them all. They were often full of important lessons about how to live life, but we liked them because they were so well illustrated and had hard covers.
Sometimes my nearest in age brother and I went to stay with her to give my parents a break, especially when they had a new baby in the house. Our parents trusted her. At those times she played ABBA for us and cooked us fish. I remember having a blue dory at her house and can still taste it even now. We spent a lot of time with her children on those visits.
Her son liked to play violin. Her daughter danced in shows of her mother’s dance school. Her children taught us to play card games like gin rummy. Her daughter when she was older worked at a riding school. She took me there for a treat and I was able to ride a horse for the first time. I thought it was the best day of my life in the whole world, as I was into reading stories like Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty at the time.
We always asked her children, who were a little older than us, to give us dizzy wizzys, where they wizzed us around and around until we felt like throwing up. They were our show rides.
I remember her moving into the mountains to a house in Erriba with a killer tourist brochure view. She had a restaurant there, and my Mum and I went and waitressed there one Christmas to help her out. It was so busy! We slept in the house overnight rather than travelling back to our home. It was a beautiful home made of wood that had a strong and pleasant smell.
I wrote a few poems at Sandra’s Erriba home. The mountain, where that house existed, was often covered in rainbows.
Many years later I saw her again in North Queensland. She was on holidays visiting one of her daughters, who had married an African man and had three children now. We had a long chat about where life had taken us all. My children and her grandchildren were playing and chatting.
At that time she was working at a Baha’i School in Africa, and training teachers in virtues. She was smiling. She had given up most of what she owned and to live a frugal life, but I could tell she was very happy and dedicated to her work.
Just recently I heard her daughter has cancer via facebook. I realise that I need to ask my Mum, who she was always a good friend too if she has heard about this. Perhaps just now Sandra might need a good friend.
What Sandra wrote to me after reading this via email.
I am deeply touched by the story of your memories of me! It is surprising what we remember and forget… the things you remember about me… colourful scarves…perfume… I have no recollection of this.
I remember going to your place in East Devonport to take children’s classes and I remember being so thrilled when you read your first book, “Blessed is the Spot” when you were about 4 or 5. I remember wondering if the first words that a child learns to read are Holy Words, does that have an effect on the child’s developing intelligence?
And then when you were demonstrating a love of language and beauty, I wondered was this a result of early connection with the Word of God. I remember loving you children very much and always being happy when you came for a visit. I remember having picnics at the Devonport Bluff with your family and calling your youngest brother Baby Paul and watching how accurate he was at kicking a football even at the age of two.
I remember going to visit you in that house on West Tamar Road, several times. And I remember when you and your mum came to help in the restaurant in Erriba. Your mum lent me a soda syphon.
That house in Erriba has had several owners since then, The present owners are Ron and Maggie Burns (former entertainers). They have set up a “Appin Hall Children’s Foundation” (check out their web-site) and converted the place into a respite centre for sick children and their carers.
I live next door (about 800 metres away.)
I commend you on this project to record your memories. Perhaps more things will come to you as you write.
Do keep in touch!
Lots of love
Inspired by the Who Shaped Me project for ABC Open this month’s Pearlz Dreaming blog theme will be about the people who inspire me and there are lots of them!