h2>Dating : A Taste of my Auntie Heath
A Taste of my Auntie Heath
Words by Michaela J Lucas for the 2019 “Pen to Paper Challenge” (theme for the Challenge Bubble & or Bubbles)
Heath Harvey, (I never knew her middle name) was my maternal great aunt. She lived until 1990 & was born in the early 1900s. When she died she was 84’ (I think).
Auntie Heath, was a woman who seemed to be on the outer… She had no husband, no ex, no children & nor did she have a female or male life partner. In fact for the 25 years I knew her she appeared to be perpetually single. However, she had her cats (about three, I think), her regular bridge game, two — three times per week & her garden to keep her occupied. Also I was lead to believe that she lived a busy social.
My great aunt, was & still is a woman I deeply admire. She had great poise, grace & inner peace & was even keeled. In stature she was tall & lean. She kept hair on the short side & well coiffured. Plus it was normally dyed with “Magic Silver White or Blue.” She dressed elegantly in attractive short sleaved button up & belted dresses with a floral patterns. Or a twin set (top & cardigan) with a neat fitted knee length plaid skirts in the winter. Moreover, when she wore jewellery (besides her ladies watch which she always wore), she would adorn her décolletage with a simple double strained set of natural pearls.
I cherished & still love Heath. This is because she was always kind, caring & honest. For instance she would never ask tacky questions like what are you doing for work. Instead she would ask genuinely “what is happening in your life?” or “how are you?” She seemed very Zen in her ways. And she was forward thinking for her era.
Auntie Heath, (I never called her great aunt) was always known as “Auntie Heath.” She kept the most beautiful & stylish one-levelled home in Boomerang Avenue Turramurra (a posh upper North Shore suburb). Everything inside her home was aesthetically & functionally pleasing & or useful. Nothing jarred the eye & each & every item was put in its place to serve a purpose & nothing was in a spot just by chance. Now when I recollect her décor in her home. I can realistically describe her taste as being nothing short of being chic. And there is no doubt about it she definitely had “the golden touch.”
My Auntie Heath’s Home
I remember she had a three bedroom house on that street & that there was two bathrooms, a laundry, a massive sunroom, & a large kitchen. And all of these spaces were decked out as if it was still the 1940s, which is probably the period she moved in. One of the bedrooms was used as a study, another was a spare room which was adjoined to the main house & it could be entered from either an external or an internal door. And this was where the second bathroom was. The last bedroom was her private domain & I only entered it once whilst she was alive.
Her back & front garden were nothing short of breathtaking. This is because the lusciousness of the foliage & flowers growing in these two outdoor areas were magnificent. The front garden contained a well-manicured & neat lawn, as did the back yard. Then there were leafy flowering bushes, some topiary forming a henge along where there would usually be a front fence. And a few shade filling trees as well. In the backyard, which was three or four times the size of the front garden was an incredible rich selection of bright coloured vegetation. She had herbs, some vegetables (I think), a citrus tree or two, some blossom trees, as well as an abundant array of pretty coloured flowers such as Gerbera’s, Gardenia’s, Azaleas, Daffodils, Roses & the like. The smell alone in that backyard whisked me off my toes & allowed me to feel as if I had been transported into a magical kingdom, which was carefully & tenderly ruled by my Auntie Heath.
I also remember my Auntie Heath made the most divine cheese biscuits, which she always brought with her to the three to four regular yearly family do’s at my grandmother & grandfathers place. These said biscuits would literally melt in your mouth. They were sweet from the butter, salty from the cheese & texturally they were the smoothest, lightest & crumbly nibbles one could ever have the pleasure of eating. I got the recipe for Auntie Heath’s cheese biscuits, but I could never bring myself to replicate them true to form because they were completely rich & basically 65 per cent diary or AKA all fat.
Sweet & Kind Auntie Heath
Tragically Auntie Heath died in 1990 in a public nursing home.
The nursing home she was placed in, was in Roseville. And this is where she spent the last five years of her life at. Why she was ever placed in such a basic home was & still is beyond me. However, I do know her three nephews (my uncles) were her Enduring Guardians & Powers of Attorneys. And it was their choice to have her there. The only thing the place had going for it was the gardens. Otherwise it was a basic 1950s style residence for the elderly (& not in a pleasant way either). It had lots of ugly bleak & dirty vinyl furniture, large archaic televisions & poor hygiene. In fact when it came to the level of cleanliness the half dozen or so times I visited Auntie Heath. She was invariably dressed in a soiled tracksuits with splatters of moosh on them, which looked at least three to four days old. Heath had nothing to do there. The staff kept her heavily sedated & in a virtual vegetative state. Her hands were so crippled by arthritis & the poor woman could not even hold a fork or a spoon, let alone blow bubbles. She was malnourished, because she could not feed herself. Due to her semi-coma like condition & her shrivelled fingers. Sadly even though Heath had always been on the lean side. Whilst living there she literally was all skin & bones. And she resembled a woman from a concentration camp.
The First Time I Visited My Auntie Heath at Her Nursing Home
We (my cousin Rohan, my sister Christine & I) had taken Auntie Heath on an outing to a local café. We had all had a wonderful lively lunch with warm & congenial conversation. And afterwards we all got back into my car & Auntie Heath straight away said:
“Don’t take me back to that god awful place.” “I don’t have a single friend there & it’s not my home.”
It was the only time I ever saw real anguish on her face & it broke my heart. Plus having to ply her out of my car as she held on for grim life was one of the most confronting moments of my life. Nothing I said appeased her & she continued to claw onto my car as if she was holding on to the edge of the last life boat. It still makes my throat tighten & knot. Plus my stomach becomes constricted & my eyes water with wet & salty tears when I think about this today.
My Last Visit to Auntie Heath
On my last visit I took Auntie Heath three patisseries from my favourite French bakery. I remember one was a light & fluffy chocolate eclair, another was a moist & crisp vanilla slice & the third was a layered torte type cake with ground nuts & crème patisserie in it. I chose these three sweets as I knew my Auntie Heath, had always had a penchant for desserts & all things sweet. Plus I knew that they would not require a lot of mastication. You see my Auntie Heath, had very few teeth left in her later life. And nor did she have the energy for much chewing.
I fed her spoon-by-spoon. I stopped only once to offer her a sip of water in case she was thirsty from the sugar. She said in a gruff voice “don’t stop.” I replied “I thought you might be thirsty.” She responded with “give me more cake.” She could not get enough & barely took a pause to breathe throughout 15–20 minutes of my feeding her. And she devoured them all without wasting more the odd little bit that dribbled & bubbled out of the sides of her mouth. And she had literally woofed them all down. After shed scoffed all the treats I offered her water again. And her words were:
“Some mint chocolate would be nice.”
I will never forget this as it is the last thing I remember my Auntie Heath told me. During the cake feeding session my oldest sister Anne, told Heath stories about the royal family & specifically Lady Di. Anne said “Heath loved the royals. My mother, Heath’s niece, was distracted & distant for the whole visit. I recollect thinking it was probably too close to home for mum as she was about 60’ then.
Auntie Heath & Love
I do not know whether Auntie Heath was ever in love. I believe she was single all her life. But if she ever had a lover she kept them totally hidden. However, once she had died & whilst going through her stuff, I came across a small box of her personal belongings. In this small cardboard box was some photos of her as a young woman, as well as other photographs of people I did not know. There were some hand written letters done in fancy cursive writing. Post cards & other odds & ends. Mum & I took this box of treasures home & over time I read all the letters & post cards. In amongst the words written to her was a couple of letters which contained intimate, romantic & detailed tidings. There was one gentleman, lets name him Ian (because I can’t remember his name now). Ian had written to Auntie Heath several times & in his pages I recollect him discussing how he had been patient & persevering for too. And that it had become evident that she didn’t feel the same way as him. He stated that he was incredible dismayed & disappointed about this. And that he had decided he would not continue to pursue her anymore. Seemly this was the only evidence I ever found that she had come even close to having any kind of intimacy with someone & or a romantic life. However, after I had read these ever so special letters, it left me feeling like l had been an intruder into my Auntie Heath’s life. I thought to myself & still wonder often that perhaps what had occurred was this. Auntie Heath, when she was a young woman (way before my time) had met the love of her life & was deeply attached to this person (most likely a young man). But tragically they had been killed in the Second World War. And that she had never bothered to attempt to replace them. This notion of mine has never been confirmed, but I still see it as a probable situation.
Lovely Auntie Heath & her Love Life
I think it was on my last visit to her elegant & light filled home that Auntie Heath pulled out Henry. Henry was a small male porcelain doll. Literally he was all of about 15cm long. Heath had kept Henry since she was a little girl. And had captured him in an old brown hatbox. Henry had his skull cracked when she was only about seven-years old. He had to go off to the Dolls Hospital to be mended. Heath told me she had been devastated at the time. And that she was so distraught whilst he was away (for more than a week) that she had barely slept & that she could only ingest small amounts of food. Anyway when I met Henry he wore only a pair of handmade cotton slightly yellowed boxer shorts & a greyish hand knitted singlet. His eyes rolled around in their sockets & they were as dark as ebony. The majority of his skull was covered in some type of bandage that had been firmly glued on. And with him in that brown hat box was a tiny Koran about 2cm x 1.5cm big & a wee little bible of a similar size. And there was also a hand stitched formal suit of the finest quality made from dark wool fabric & a casual outfit too. It was magic to watch my Auntie Heath’s face light up like a young girl, who no doubt once would have loved blowing soap bubbles as she told me the story of Henry. Moreover, she presented each item in that special box with such pride & enthusiasm. It filled my heart with joy to be in that moment with her. And to this day I can tell you that this was the most intimate moment I ever shared with her. These days I have no idea where Henry ended up & nor what happened to all of his belongings when Auntie Heath died. But I do hope that he is being cherished, like Auntie Heath had adored him.
Objects & Pictures I own of Auntie Heath’s
The first item in my list of treasures from my Auntie Heath’s diseased estate, which I have kept as memento of her. And also as a way of trying to trap the memories of her in some type of bubble is a small bottle blue & white ginger jar. The white area on this ginger jar has been created by placing small bits of rice in the porcelain & this perfect little ornament is all of 3cm high. I have kept numerous objects inside it over the years I have owned it. But right now it only contains the key to my back screen door.
Next & foremost is “The Blue Glass Box.” I have already written a short creative writing text on this unusual & yet beautiful piece. This thick aqua blue box with ducks painted on it has been joined by the same method as stained glass. The lead key to open it broke in its lock whilst I lived in Greece. And trapped inside are the two boxes of Romeo & Juliette Cigarillos that one of my brothers gave my ex-husband.
I am also lucky enough to be in possession of another treasure that once belonged to my Auntie Heath. And this object is a divine petite Dalecarlian horse or Dala horse which is a traditional carved horse that has been painted burnt orange with little decorative flowers on it. These horses originated in Sweden (I know we have some Swedish heritage). Therefore, perhaps Auntie Heath had been given this toy as a child. And it might have come from a distant Swedish relative.
I also now own about half dozen postcards that Auntie Heath probably would have been bought in Egypt. These postcards are exquisite watercolour paintings each one is of a different scene from an oasis & they are individually painted on watercolour paper with a petite brush. And I imagine Auntie Heath only paid a few shillings for the lot whilst on a vocation in her early 20s. I think these pictures are circa 1930s. I have my three favourite ones framed in a long frame, which mounts each postcard individually on my wall.
I also have a brass bowl that is embossed & I think came from the Middle East & two coasters that are made from nickel ( I believe) & brass with Arabic script written on them.
There was also a wee wooden dog that was spotted & which I could push the base of its belly & the legs, head, & tail would move. But regrettably I recklessly threw it away once the elastic had broken & all its limbs stayed sad & limp.
I also possess (I hope) & wrapped up in bubble wrap. And stored away under my bed is a carved wood music box. It is damaged on one side but not so broken that it looks ugly. No it is actually a delightful music box which plays a Brahms tune, when it is wound up. And the carving on it is a type of motive which I think is Art Deco. Inside this music box is a soiled business card, which I am guessing comes from the shop it was purchased from.
Finally I have a many more lovely objects that once belonged to my Auntie Heath, but I will spare you the details right now.
The Three Photographs I own of Auntie Heath
The first of these images of my Auntie Heath who always reminded me of Mrs Drysdale from the “Beverly Hillbillies” television show in her appearance whilst I knew her. Is actually of Heath Harvey as a little girl (she is probably three-years old). In this black & white print she wearing a bonnet with flowers printed on it & a plain white dress with puffy short sleeves. She looks ever so pretty in this picture. She has one arm across her chest bone & that hand is tucked under the other arm which goes straight up along the side of her body. And the hand is resting on the side of her face under her bonnet. I call this “The Thinking Child.” Then I have a smaller framed picture of Heath where she is about 70’ (this image shows her how I mostly remember seeing her). Because she is wearing one of her classic short sleaved, collared, button up floral frocks. The dress fabric is white with a variety of shades of blue flowers on it. And the last of images I have of Heath is a small tiny framed close-up black white portrait of her when she was probably about 50’ & therefore before my time. And this again another example of a serene image of my Auntie Heath.
The Last Things I own of Auntie Heath’s
Finally, in regards to the stuff I have of my beloved Auntie Heath’s. I am lucky enough to possess four modest books of hers. The first of which is an original Kate Greenaway “Children’s Birthday Book.” This gorgeous book has sublime coloured & black white images of children, trees, flowers & kids toys throughout its pages. Plus the front cover has two young girls holding hands & looking at each other. These said girls are adorned in multiple layers of clothing & they both wear bonnets. Sadly the binding has fallen apart on this book. And therefore there are some loose pages & in fact I seem to have lost the first page to this gem of a book. Inside the pages there are about 30 peoples birthday entered. I will tell you some of their names & birthdays.
“Vena Davis December 19th
Barrie M Shut December 29th
Stella McCarthy June 25th
Morrie Box December 23rd
Edith Hill September 2nd 1896.”
My most favourite books in my book collection are two children’s books that were once owned by Auntie Heath. And these books come from a series written by an Author/Illustrator named Joan Walsh Anglund. The books are titled “A Friend is Someone Who Loves You” & the other is “Love is a Special Way of Feeling.” These wonderful representations of earlier children’s literature are gorgeous. For instance inside the fly jacket of “A Friend is Someone Who Likes You” is as follows:
“It can be a boy…
It can be a girl…
Or a cat…
Or a dog…
Or even a white mouse.”
I imagine the children depicted in these stories received immense joy from blowing bubbles. However the stories make no mention of this. The last book I own & once belonged to Auntie Heath is called “At the Feet of the Master” by Alcyone & published in Adyar Madras India in 1978, but this is a 4th edition. And the first edition was printed back in 1910. It is a theosophical spoken teachings & Anne Besant wrote the introduction to this diamond of wisdom.
“To those who know.”
Is on the opening page & on the following page in Sanskrit & translated into English is as follows
“From the unreal lead me to the real.
From darkness lead me to light.
From death lead me to immortality. “
Now that we have reached the end of my short depiction & interpretation of my Auntie Heath. I will tell you that I cannot guarantee that everything I have revealed about this jewel of a woman is the truth. However, not to burst your bubble. I will now tell you that the above information are my personal recollections, beliefs & perceptions of my forever beloved Auntie Heath.