this dress, from her, via you, to me

It was strange to see my usually cool, calm and collected older cousin so flustered, faffing about with cutlery and salad and setting down plates for dinner. I remembered her being so poised and graceful when I was a kid, but I could see her becoming more and more like her mum, and mine. A family trait, I guess.

We’d just started to eat when an alarm went off on her phone. “I set alarms for everything”, she exclaimed, opening her phone, to the groans of her husband and sons. “What’s this one for? O, it’s telling me not to forget to show you something. I’ll get it after dinner.”

I was intrigued.

The boys ate loudly, bickering amongst themselves, subconsciously offending their mum about the too-spicy chicken and the rubber-like prawns. I had another sip of red wine.

After dinner, the boys cleared the table and Celia and I sat down to talk. How long has it been?, we wondered aloud. Four years? Six? The last time I was here was for Tasman’s birthday and we made a cake shaped like a blue-tongue lizard.

“I have to show you the thing!” Celia cried, jumping up from the couch and disappearing into the front of the house. She returned with a black dress and jacket, draped over her arm on a wire coat-hanger.

“This. My mum made it for your mum, isn’t it beautiful?”

Anything that connects me to my mum is beautiful. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a handmade dress or an old diary or the hand-written note under the lid of the piano at Dad’s house. Knowing that it’s something she’s touched or written or been enclosed in, it always takes my breathe away. It’s why I’ve never been able to get rid of the old writer’s festival t-shirt she died in, 18 years ago. Rich once pulled it out of the drawer, with a ‘WHAT’S THIS??’ and I’ve never felt so protective of anything in my life. I snatched it off him and placed it – folded it – back into the drawer. “It’s nothing, it’s Mum’s, it doesn’t matter.”

I touched the sleeve of the jacket, not sure if Celia was showing it to me simply to show me, or if she was giving it to me. It should have been mine, but you can’t be presumptuous when it comes to family, and history, and handmade dresses, from one sister to another.

“Mum gave it to me years ago, and I’ve worn it a few times, but it’s never quite fit. I feel like the length is all wrong on me. I find the wool really itchy and it’s a bit tight across the front and cuts in a bit, here,” she pinched the tanned wedge of skin at her armpit. “Try it on.”

There’s something not quite right about trying on a woollen cocktail dress and jacket in the middle of a Perth summer, but I would have tried on a diving suit and helmet, if I knew mum had been in it.

The zip was sticky, the lining frayed and the fabric slightly moth-eaten. “It’ll need a bit of mending…” Celia said, as I wriggled myself in, pulling the lining and the dress over my hips. I zipped up the back. Manoeuvring myself into the jacket, I was careful not to push my arm through the tear in the lining. But once it was on, it was as if my dear Aunt Heather had made the dress for me. Mum and I have the same body.

Celia stepped back. I looked down and smoothed down the fabric over my front.

“It fits. It’s not too tight. It doesn’t cut. It’s not itchy. It’s beautiful.”

My aunt had made it for my mum in the 1960s, from a Christian Dior pattern. It’s a sleeveless dress, with a woven trim around the neck and a pleated detail at the waist. It sits just below my knees – where it would have sat on mum. The jacket is cropped, with three-quarter-length sleeves, three woven buttons and a wide collar. I could almost see mum wearing it, with court shoes and nude stockings and a patent leather handbag. Her short curly hair would have been tamed with a few bobby pins.

“You should have it,” Celia said, “You’ll get way more wear out of it than I will.”

We spent the rest of the evening drinking tea, eating shortbread, and talking about our kids and our parents and life. Books and TV shows and movies and pets. How hard it can be to motivate teenaged kids and how tough it can be when you see them wearing too much fake tan and having to keep it to yourself.

Before I went to bed that night, in the stuffy spare room at the back of the house, I carefully packed the dress and jacket into my suitcase. Folding it between skirts and t-shirts so it wouldn’t get creased. Wondering when, and where, I would wear it. Would I tell people its story, who made it and who it belonged to and where it had been for all these years? Or would I wait for someone to comment on ‘that beautiful dress’.

When I got back to Melbourne, I had breakfast with my dad at a busy café on Rathdowne Street. When I mentioned the dress, his eyes filled with tears, and he clasped his hand over his mouth. “Yes, yes, of course I remember that dress. Mum wore it the very first time we went out together.”

photo 2

* First little footnote: Try as I might, I can’t get a good photo of this outfit. Being black, like my black dog Gus, it’s SO hard to get a snap that does it justice. Gus is super cute, the dress is super beautiful, but it just doesn’t come across… But! I’m working on it. Watch this space.

** Second little footnote: I wrote this piece today at a writing class with Catherine Deveny. It’s something I’ve been wanting to get down since receiving the dress, but I’m excellent at putting things off. At the end of the class, when Catherine asked if anyone wanted to read what they’d worked on throughout the day, I put my hand up and said “I think I want to read this”. Good one, Wembolina. Why the hell did I think reading this OUT LOUD in front of a room full of writers would be a good idea?? As soon as I started, my voice started to waver, my cheek started twitching, and my heart actually repositioned itself in my throat. Yes. But… with a red-hot face and shaking hands, I got through it. 

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some like it, robert

But not me! Not after 3 days above 40 degrees!!

But I DO really like this song you wrote, when you were in The Power Station. It’s so JAUNTY and bangy and fun! And the film clip is a bit racy too, in typical Robert Palmer style!!

NOTE: I feel like this post is a bit obvious, given the heat in Melbourne and the cries of  ‘feeeeeeeeel the heat’ in this song, but by joves it’s a good one. Don’t bop too much, in case you collapse with exhaustion.

a cuppa tea with me

So I think I told you about my recent toe-dip into the world of online courses? Where I signed up for the wonderful Blog with Pip eCourse with the supernice Pip Lincolne? And I actually kinda sorta did it? You might have noticed a few little changes around here – a bit of a spring clean, if you will – like my fancy new banner (thanks so much Katie!!), and a whizz-bang updated About Me page, and a few other little bits and bobs.

Anyhoo. The other bloggers and I are partaking in a big ol’ cuppa-tea-and-a-biscuit sesh. In the VIRTUAL WORLD! And I’d like to invite you too! You can get to know a little bit more about me, and if you like, you can do the same on your blog, or post a comment about what’s happening in your part of town. Hang on a tic, Imma gonna pop the kettle on and get us some donuts.

Let's have a salted caramel donut instead

Aforementioned donut (it’s salted caramel)

So! I’m Wembolina (obvy), I live in Melbourne (in Victoria, not Florida), and I’m a researcher & writer by day, a social-media-type person for a few different companies after hours, and a cook/dog-walker/cat-patter/reader/crafter/writer/downloader-of-great-TV-shows by night! I live with my luvverly fella and his two (teenage) daughters as well (but I haaaaaaate the term ‘stepmum’, because I don’t have warts on my nose and I don’t lock them in the cellar and we actually all like each other quite a bit). I’m trying to be better at going to the gym and I secretly love the big crossword that comes out in the summer newspapers… I’m also weirdly protective of our wheely bins.

My favourite things to do are eat (!) and drink (!!) with people I love, and people I am getting to know. Having giant Jenga parties with new friends, where we chow down on excellent food while drinking white wine spritzers is in my top 10 things favourite things to do, along with strolling aimlessly with le pooch, watching Degrassi with the girls, and having excellent adventures with my fella.

Some nerds playing giant Jenga.

Some nerds playing giant Jenga.

My favourite place to be? Eeep, am I getting old? It’s in my backyard… Watering plants and eating tomatoes and chatting to whoever might be around.

Favourite food and drink is a toughie for me, because I love just about ALL food and drink! But because we’re in the midst of a heatwave (so it’s sadly not ideal tea-drinking weather) today my faves would be an icy cold beer and a big slice of watermelon. Maybe not together though.

Remember this guy?

This guy was so evil I had to eat him…

I find in-spa-ray-shon in many, many things; weird things I see, conversations I have, and things I read. But the best inspiration comes from people around me – I’m pretty lucky, because I have some wonderfully ace people in my neck of the woods, who make me think differently and outside da box ALL the time!

This year I made a resolution to educate myself more. I want to know more about how brains work and how people operate, so I’ve been reading books on thought processes and the like. I loooooove learning new things, so I’m keen to do more course-type things too (especially around WRITING!).

Some favourite blogs… Well, there are blogs I’ve been reading for aaaaaages (and always love) like Meet Me At Mikes, My Darling Lemon Thyme, banana meet-cute, Gourmet Girlfriendand nothing matters when we’re dancing and ‘Voir Tales (among others!!) to blogs that I’ve discovered through doing Pip’s course, like Grow.Cook.Sew, Little Wolff, miss and misters and Think Big, Live Simply. There are SO many MORE incredible bloggers who have done this course, and I’m super excited about getting stuck into what everyone’s been doing!

So that’s me! What about you? What are some of your favourite things to do, food to eat, places to be, inspirations and blogs, and what do you want to know more about in 2014? And what would your reaction be if you discovered your wheelie bin had been INADVERTENTLY TAKEN BY A NEIGHBOUR/THIEF ON BIN DAY???