Mavis

Old wood stove with pots and pans on top

When the last drop of grey sludgy water
gurgled down the kitchen sink,
and the hoover stopped whining
she stripped the beds, boiled the copper,
and immersed herself in the steam.

When the last snowy white sheet was hung,
flapping in surrender to the wind,
she washed the floors
rubbed Acorn Polish into the linoleum,
and on hands and knees buffed to a mirror shine. 

She ironed for hours, taming rope petticoats
whitened with Bluo and stiffened with Star Starch,
expertly pressed 
then hung on covered coat-hangers
like half-embodied dancing ballerinas.

Her home was open for those in need,
relative’s children came to live
and were treated the same as her own.
The three bedroom house bursting at the seams
her work load more than doubled.

Unruly children were given fair warning
several severe threats were made,
before the wooden spoon was taken
ceremoniously from the kitchen drawer,
it didn’t pay to run, she was faster than all of us.

At times, when she chopped wood she would almost swear,
the slow combustion stove had a ferocious appetite,
the large aluminium kettle always sang on the hob, 
she joined in,
singing songs passed down through generations.

She made pasties, and rubbed dripping into the pastry
then cooked them to perfection in the wood oven,
she wore an apron, tied at the back in a large bow.
A roast was always cooked on Sundays
her chores were repetitive and never ending,
but she would escape when they were done.

Her steed was a second-hand black and white
pushbike, which she travelled on at speed,
skinny legs pumping like pistons,
curly brown hair flying in the breeze
this was her freedom from dreary things. 

She made large pots of soup and stew
for poor families struggling to make ends meet,
and rode off in haste to deliver it.
Port Pirie’s first home delivery service,
hot food bouncing around in the parcel carrier.

She visited the sick in hospital
even those she didn’t know,
a self-imposed lavender lady
without the uniform.
This she continued into old age
using a walking frame to get around.

When she considered herself no longer useful
when all she could do was sit in a chair
and watch the world through her window,
she declared that she was bored
and it was time to be going to the bone-yard.

She presided over her death
the people she loved gathered
we shared memories, sang songs,
and watched her fade away
knowing we had been blessed.

© Jan Weldon-Veitch 2020