In my first year in Melbourne, back when I was an itty bitty 17 year old fresh off the
boat plane from Tasmania and starting out at university, I lived with my aunt and uncle and cousins in Pascoe Vale. Sometimes, just for a change of scenery I’d jump on the V-Line and go out to the country, to Euroa where my Mum’s friend Carmel lived with her King Charles Cavalier, Lucy. Later, when I moved on campus I would go out to visit mainly to sober up long enough to study and write essays, although since Carmel is Irish this never entirely worked. (Lucy is basically the only thing I can say with an Irish accent. She was the sassiest dog ever)
I used to have amazing adventures in Euroa. Back then my grandfather was living in Euroa too, and once when he found out I was in town turned up on Carmel’s doorstep begging me to come round. His partner at the time had decided to hold a funeral for her garden scarecrows, overseen by my great aunt Joan, and he wasn’t putting up with this crap on his own. Naturally I went, mostly out of curiosity – it was around this time aunty Joan shaved her head for the hell of it – and I swear to God they played ‘We’re All Gonna Die Someday’ as the scarecrows got cremated. I thought I was going to die from trying not to laugh. The barbecue was tasty, though.
Another time Carmel had helped to organise a Catholic Women’s League function (or some such, she was involved in All The Things in Euroa), at which there were twenty women, Father Joe the priest, and me. While all the ladies gossiped and drank cups of tea I snuck off to watch the football. About ten minutes later Father Joe did the same Watching Richmond play football on the TV with a priest has now been scratched off my things to do list.
Mostly though I remember catching the train back to Spencer Street on a Sunday afternoon, listening to Parachutes on my discman (shut up, it was 12 years ago), staring out of the window at the wattle in bloom and always feeling better about things than when I caught the train up on the Friday night.
Carmel moved back to Ireland for twelve months last year, and decided to stay. She came back to Australia to sell her house (and bury Lucy the dog), and sort out her possessions. She called me for my birthday earlier in the year to tell me that she had something for me that belonged to my Grandma, a coffee grinder.
“What coffee grinder?” I asked my Mum. Grandma didn’t drink coffee. I knew this because the only coffee you would ever find at my grandparents house was International Roast, which is made of sadness and tastes like broken dreams.
Mum started laughing. The coffee grinder wasn’t my Grandma’s, it was my Mums. When Mum married my Dad they got a new one as a wedding present and so Mum gave the old one to Carmel, who she was living with at the time and had been for many years.
Carmel finally got her house sold, but stayed long enough to come to my brother’s wedding in Vietnam. While we were sitting around waiting for course seven of Vietnamese delicacies to appear, she leaned over and reminded me she had my grandmother’s coffee grinder, and I promised to come and collect it from her at her farewell party around the corner from my house a few weeks ago.
Through a combination of being a bit sick and Incredibly Fucking Stupid, I managed to completely miss the party. I called Carmel to apologise profusely and find out when she was flying out so I could come to the airport and wave her off on her trip back to Ireland. “Oh good,” she said. “I still have your Gran’s coffee grinder.” Soon after I got a phone call from Mum, very amused, to remind me that I still had to collect Grandma’s coffee grinder.
Auntie Carmie flew out of Australia tonight bound for Dublin via Abu Dhabi. I caught the Skybus out from Spencer Street, where I used to catch the train to Euroa from all those dozens of times, including one memorable time my brother and I had to hotfoot it from the MCG after Richmond won their semi-final back in 2001, Tonight was much more sedate. I even had time to notice that the cars are back on the Southern Wheel for the first time since the Great Melting Incident of 2007.
I found Carmel in the checkin queue with her Euroa friends Chris and June waiting on the side. “I have something for you in the car,” Chris said. “Carmel said it was important.”
And so, Carmel is winging her way home to Ireland, and I’m sitting in my kitchen looking at a 30 year old coffee grinder and hoping to Jeebus that when I plug it in in the morning that it doesn’t explode or set fire to the apartment.
Auntie Carmie, thank you for the coffee, the home-away-from-home, and the love. Bon Voyage.