14. The Tiger-Lady At Five
As I write this letter I spread my mind before you like a multicoloured picnic blanket and I invite you as a young woman to rest awhile on it. "What was I like at the age of five years, Gramps?" I knew you would ask! You are a confident, enquiring little soul who inspires joy wherever you go; a wondrous combination of innocence, surprises and vitality. Your energy levels are so high you could recharge a dead Duracel battery simply by holding it. At times being with you is like taking a ride on the Luck Dragon in the 'Neverending Story'.
Now and again we are jolted by huge explosions that erupt from your small mouth - Power Ranger stuff - and in the next moment you are a piroueting pixie dancing sylphlike in ever-decreasing circles in a place on the lawn where we feed the doves. Toy dinosaurs occupy a special place in your life and you're the world record holder for the amount of time spent in the bath without washing yourself. I can describe you in three words: 'joeie de vivre' and I always introduce you as the 'Blue in my Sky' (taken from Chris Rea's 'Julia'). When we go into a shop where there are 'goodies' I can no more refuse you than the dry earth can refuse water. Your favourite book is 'Desperate Dan' and you love the poetry of Shel Silverstein as much as I do. Together we've watched 'Watership Down' four times without tiring of it and we fervently sing made-up-on-the-spot songs together - I have noticed however that you cover your ears when I do my Great Pavarotti Imitation in the car.
Recently when I couldn't get your CD-Rom going I was asked to: "Please read the constructions Gramps." The last time we saw smoke in the mountain you requested that I 'phone the 'Fire Compartment'. Last Christmas you asked: "Does Father Christmas really persist?"
I shall never forget the day you bought one of my paintings. "Don't worry Gramps, I can pay for it", you said, tweaking a 20cent piece out of your grubby little pink purse (all you had in there was the one coin). The gentleness of that moment will live with me forever. Later you wrote your name at the bottom of the painting - so that no-one could dispute your right of ownership. No flies on this kid! At this young age you already have quite a collection of my work - sculpture, ceramics, paintings and fabric art. Each one tells a story and I know they will be with you when I have graduated to God's Studio.
Gran, Kim and I were outside the delivery room when you stridently greeted the world for the first time - it was a sound that brought tears to our eyes. Over the years I watched you unfold like a lovely rare flower and I introduced you to the love of reading, poetry, art, animals, birds, fishing and funny noises. I had a new name for you every month or two, ranging from 'The Tiger-Lady of Mountain Drive' to 'Honky Tonk' to 'Miss Hooba-Dooba'. I was next to your side when you caught your first fish, a Black Bass, in a farm dam at Klein Paradijs, Pearly Beach, and you were disgusted with me for returning your catch to the water. On our last fishing trip you caught three fish after three casts by means of a jiggle-technique that defies description. Gran and I took you to a movie for the first time - it was to see the animated version of 'Hercules' and you found it to be quite overwhelming for at least ten minutes. I still have the tickets.
Over the past months you have developed a strange habit of cutting my arm hairs with a small scissor. As a result I now have one hairy arm and one that looks plucked and anaemic.
I sit here in my studio and watch the sea - soon the whales will be back - and I wonder why I am writing this. Perhaps I am trying to compensate for the fact that I never knew either of my grandfathers. Or possibly when I see you painting feverishly, tongue working frantically, I see so much of myself in you. They say the three most important things in life are:
1. Don't be greedy. 2. Do one or two things really well. 3. Leave something behind for people to remember you by.
I guess No. 3 says it all.
With Love Gramps March 1999
P.S. Here are some of the poems that you wrote at the age of 5 years.
THE BEETLE BORE BETELLINGER BOOK
The bugs just wanna play
Instead of feeding all day
On gemsquash, carrots and broccoli
What about chicken, beans and gravy?
No thanks say the bugs.
My good day
Don't go away
The Triceratops leads tonight
The leader of the Triceratops
Day or night
He lives everywhere
A nonsense poem by Sade for Paul on his
Birthday - 6 December 1998
Take me down I bumped my foot
And Daddy stole his own undernoot
And then along came Demi
And sat on her own underhemmy
While mommy's cooking on the stove
Rice and nitwits cook and nove
And sister's putting on her New Year's dress
Now make up a line that rhymes with mess.