Who Do You Think You Are Post 1 1 Comment

“Just Who Do You Think You Are”

During 2011, six diverse schools began working together on a very exciting year 10 student writing project

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Collaborating online, the teacher-librarians, English teachers and students shared their personal writing and gained a broad understanding of the diversity of culture and experience across Victoria

Over the coming weeks, we will be publishing some of the stories from the project here on the Virgule blog

GRANDPA’S SHOES

By Alice Widdowson

From: Melbourne Girls’ College

I reached down and opened the latch on the small, rusted iron gate

I followed the uneven brick path toward the front door, looking around at the state of the miserable garden

The grass had turned a golden colour, completely dried out after months of battling alone against the scorching summer sun

A feeling of nostalgia crept through my veins as I walked, much like the way the long, thick weeds had wound themselves around the garden, encompassing it

I composed myself and rapped loudly three times on the wooden threshold, hoping Nan had remembered to put in her hearing aid this morning

I could see her shadowy figure through the glass as she dragged her feet to the front door

The key turned in the lock and soon we were facing each other

“Nan!” I greeted her with a warm hug and breathed in her familiar scent

She grasped my hand, her skin cold against mine, and we both took a step back

She smiled

“Here, Nan

Let me fix that for you”, I said, motioning to the brown lace that had come undone

She was wearing Grandpa’s shoes again

They were far too big, but I didn’t say a word

She thanked me and I stood up, closing the door behind me

She made her way to the kitchen; shoulders slouched, as if there was a hefty load pushing down on her

I glanced around

Things had changed; the walls were bare and the couch faced the window, not the television

Grandpa’s military photos had been taken down, the only evidence of their existence were the many small hooks lining the cream walls like rows of tiny soldiers ready for battle

Over dinner, we watched a film and drank red wine

Nan had half a glass

I had three

I thought the alcohol would keep me distracted, but each time I glanced at her, the look in her grey-blue eyes sobered me up

So we drank the wine and we watched the film, then we both agreed it was time for some rest

* * *

I woke up to the late-morning sunshine making its way through the thin gaps in the blinds

I rubbed my eyes, adjusting to the brightness

Nan’s side of the bed was already made – her duvet folded once and pillow propped up neatly against the wooden bed head

I walked into the kitchen to find her sitting by the window, drinking a cup of warm tea

I wondered how long she had been up for

Despite her early night, she looked tired; the kind of tiredness for which sleep is not the answer

I couldn’t stand it for much longer

“Nan”, I said, trying to speak calmly

She glanced up, a questioning look on her face

I then said something about finding her a new home amid caring workers, bingo nights and new slippers, but my well-rehearsed speech became a jumble of words as I went on

She paused and studied me for a moment

We had talked about a nursing home before, but today she was looking at me as if the thought had never even crossed her mind

Then she smiled

I’m not certain as to why, but she did

“Not today, dear

I sighed, and that was the end of that

I supposed I could congratulate myself on trying, but for me, it was just as easy to punish myself for not succeeding

“Tea? Coffee?” Nan asked, bringing me back to reality

I nodded, and then shook my head, an awkward movement

“No, no

I’ll do it Nan

You take a seat

The afternoon came quickly

Nan slipped on Grandpa’s shoes and, despite my resistance, walked with me along the busy street to the tram stop

It was something she hadn’t done since I was a child

I slowed my pace to match her now accustomed shuffle, and we talked about the weather

We reached the tram stop, and stood together for a minute watching the oncoming traffic pass through the lights

“Well

This is goodbye, dear,” she said

“I can’t spend forever waiting around for a tram!” she laughed

Her lips, chapped and faded, pressed against my cheek like an old paintbrush, its worn bristles looking to leave their final mark

I furrowed my brow in a state of confusion

I didn’t like the way Nan said the two words ‘goodbye’ and ‘forever’

They sounded too final, like she knew that this could well be the end

“Bye Nan, I’ll see you soon,” I replied casually, as if my attitude could will her to believe something different

She nodded and smiled what seemed to me like a knowing smile, then turned and hobbled away

I watched her back

I watched her disappear into the crowds, people darting around this frail, old woman,busy getting on with their own lives

I squinted my eyes until I couldn’t see her at all; the stream of sunlight ahead had enclosed her figure

I put my sunglasses to my face and wiped my cheek

And then the figure was gone

  • Alexandra Grimwade

    This is a very touching short story. The portrait of grandma is excellent, and the narration poignant.The subtle references to the late grandfather’s authority, help the narrator to navigate her way. Well done.

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