When I was a teenager, my mother was famous for her homemade apple wine. She used her own fruit, grown on a tree in our back garden. I can’t remember what my mother actually did with the apples. I just remember the glass demijohns of apple liquid which glopped away noisily on the pantry floor for many weeks. Eventually the demijohns were emptied, and then row after row of corked wine bottles, neatly labelled, took their place.
Andy also used to made his own wine. One day he invited me into his cellar and proudly showed me his collection. “This is last year’s vintage,” he said. “Would you like to taste it?”
I am an adventurous type person, and I like wine, so I nodded enthusiastically. Moments later, I was clutching my throat and whispering, “Water!" When I could once again speak properly, I asked, “Are you sure that's wine?” It tasted like paint stripper.
Of course, I have no idea what paint stripper really tastes like. We bought some once, but I wasn’t tempted to drink it. We used it to strip the paint off an old wooden framed lounge suite. We had big plans. I had a book about restoring old furniture. There were lots of glossy photos in it of chairs and tables and chests that had been bought for next-to-nothing at second hand stores, and then restored into items of exquisite beauty. We were sure we could do the same. We had big dreams. Actually that was all it turned out to be: a dream. Once the paint was stripped from the wood, we lost interest. We’re hopeless like that.
My mother would have finished what she started. In fact she restored a number of antique armchairs. She asked my grandfather for some tips: He was an upholsterer. Apparently he was a very skilled craftsman. He told my mother she had talent too. All around our house were various chairs she’d stripped and recovered with new fabric, after replacing the padding.
We've been considering having our old St Joseph’s lounge suite reupholstered. We’ve been thinking about it for ten years or more. Each year the lounge suite gets more and more shabby, and each year Andy says, “Let’s take it to the tip, and buy a new one.” And every year, I protest and say, “I like that lounge suite. It’s so comfy. Let’s keep it. One day we’ll get it reupholstered.”
But time has run out. We recently faced up to the fact that ‘one day’ will never arrive. We have ordered a new lounge suite, and my poor St Joseph’s lounge suite will be thrown out. The cats will be sad. The backing fabric of the sofa is loose and they like to climb inside and hide when it’s bath time. Where will they go next time they want to avoid being washed?
Once, a friend asked us why we wash our cats. I seem to remember the lady at the pet shop telling us to wash our long haired kitten, so we did. When the other two cats came to live at our house, they got a shock. Saturday afternoons are bath time. I doubt if these adult cats had ever had a bath before joining our family. They hate the water, and so they hide whenever they hear the laundry taps being turned on. You see, the laundry sink is also the cat bath.
I remember when the laundry sink used to be the baby bath. I never bothered with one of those plastic baths. It was much easier filling the laundry sink and working without bending over. We did have a special baby bath but the girls took charge of it. They carried it outside and then sailed over the seven seas in it. It made a great pirate ship. Don’t you just love how kids make up their own imaginary games?
I’d always regretted we never bought any of our children a proper cubby house. The girls would have loved one, or so I thought. Then the other day one of the girls, with a huge smile on her face, told me about the imaginary house they used to make together under the pine trees. “That was such a great game, Mum! That was the best house ever.” Yes, imaginary houses and games are the best.
Of course imaginary houses are useless if you have a family. Nothing less than a real one will do. Now there are real rental houses and real our-very-own-home houses. We used to live in the former sort of house until about 5 years ago. Then we were able to buy the one we are currently living in. I remember seeing it for the very first time. It felt like our home from the moment we stepped inside the front door. It was as if God was saying, “This is the house I have picked out for you.”
After we’d had a tour of the house, we went up to the village and had a look around. We visited the café and sat looking out the window, sipping our coffees. “Can you imagine walking up here and having coffee together?" I asked Andy. “Our very own café, only a short walk away.” That settled it. We bought the house. We have indeed walked up to the café a number of times since we moved to our village. They serve good coffee and delicious cakes, including huge apple pies.
My mother used to make wonderful apple pies. Apple pies, apple wine and reupholstered chairs are only a few of her talents. My mother is a remarkable woman.
Me? Am I like my mother? No, I am hopeless. I can’t even find a way to end a long and rambling story about apples.