Born March 16, 1906
THE DOOR IS ALWAYS OPEN
Grandma rarely locked the back door; not when home or if she ran short errands. The only times she did lock the back door was when she went away on holiday. Ah! Those were the days! The 1960’s—Adelaide, the front door greeted strangers and sales people, the back door welcomed friends and family who didn’t knock, but walked straight in.
Grandma lived a ten-minute walk from my home in Somerton Park. Throughout my childhood and teenage years, I walked or rode the route down Baker Street, across “busy” Diagonal Road, and into Panton Crescent. Then I trod down her gravel drive of her Trust home to her back door; a door always unlocked and without any ceremony of knocking, I pulled open the fly-screen door, pushed open the wooden door, and walked into Grandma’s small kitchen. I still dream of Grandma’s place, “Grandma’s Lace” as I used to call it as a child, her huge backyard with fruit trees and hen house.
The same as her home, Grandma had an open heart with time available to be there for me. From the time I was born, she was there. She bought and moved into her Somerton Park home nearby, about the same time my mum and dad with my brother and me, bought and moved into our home.
Every Sunday all the family which included mum’s brothers and sisters and their spouses, gathered in her tiny kitchen dining area for Sunday roast. The home filled with laughter as we enjoyed Grandma’s roast beef and crunchy roast potatoes—the best ever! Dessert of jelly and ice-cream followed, topped with a devotion, then the Sunday Mail quiz. Holidays held extra treats of cousins from Cleve, all five of them and Auntie and Uncle. Grandma fitted us all in, albeit us younger ones sat at the “kinder tisch” in the passageway. Often friends from church or elsewhere joined us for Sunday lunch. The door was open for them too, and somehow Grandma made the food stretch and the table expand for unexpected guests.
One of the first times I took advantage of Grandma’s “open door policy” was at two years old. I’d dreamt my cousins were visiting and no one told me. My beloved cousins were at “Grandma’s Lace” and I was missing out.
So early that hot summer’s morning, I climbed out of my cot, dumped my nappy, and naked, I navigated my way to Grandma’s. I streaked over Diagonal Road, not so busy at dawn, and then toddled down Grandma’s driveway. I pushed open the back door and tiptoed through the kitchen and passage way. Then I peered into the bedrooms one by one. Each room was empty. Where were they? Where’s my cousins? I was sure they were here.
I entered Grandma’s room. The mound of bedding rose and fell with each puff of breath Grandma made.
I tapped Grandma and asked, ‘Where’s my cousins?’
Grandma startled and her eyes sprang open. ‘Oh! Oh! What are you doing here?’
‘I come to play with my cousins,’ I said. ‘Where are they?’
‘Oh, my goodness—no dear—they’re not here.’ Grandma climbed out of bed and waddled to the bathroom. ‘Now, let’s get you decent.’
After wrapping a towel around me, she picked up the telephone. I stuck by her solid legs while she spoke to my mum. ‘Marie, just wondering, are you missing a daughter?…You might like to bring some clothes…’
As I grew older, Grandma’s open door policy included her home-made honey biscuits. My friends and I visited Grandma on a regular basis. We’d enter through the back door and make a bee-line for the biscuit tin. Then we’d meander into the lounge room. With my mouth full of biscuit, I’d ask, ‘Grandma, may I have a biscuit?’
Grandma would always smile and reply, ‘Yes, dear.’
Grandma’s open door policy helped as a refuge when love-sick boys stalked me. Mum and I arranged that when I rode home from school, if my blind was up, I was safe from unwanted attention. But if the blind was pulled down, I would turn around and ride to Grandma’s place.
Grandma was there also when I had trouble at school. I remember at fifteen, having boy-trouble of the unrequited love kind. Grandma listened. She was good at that. She sat in her chair as I talked and talked, pouring out my heart, while emptying her biscuit tin.
When I paused one time, after exhausting all my words, she said, ‘Lee-Anne, one thing that may help—you need to have Jesus as your Lord and Saviour.’
Grandma passed on from this life to meet her Lord and Saviour on March 1981, less than two weeks’ shy of her seventy-fifth birthday. Her old Trust home on the big block with the fruit trees and chook-yard were razed and redeveloped into four units—front doors locked and no easy way to their back doors.
The Sunday after the funeral, it seemed to me strange not to gather at Grandma’s. Then Christmas, the brothers and sisters celebrated separately with their own family or partners. I missed the whole Christmas connection with my cousins, aunts and uncles. Time had moved on and our family had evolved to the next stage of our lives.
Forty years on, in 2016, leaving one’s back door open, even during the day, seems an odd and risky thing to do. Times have changed—more dangerous, or perhaps we’re more fearful of imagined dangers outside our castles. Grandma’s life and her “open door” policy in a more trusting time, has made me ponder: How open and available am I to others? How willing am I to listen and value others and their world?
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2016
Photo of my Grandma courtesy of Lee-Anne Marie Kling