Friday, 16 September 2016

A drive out to visit St Peter's in Watson's Bay

This morning I went out to St Peter's Church in Watson's Bay to drop off mum's ashes for interment. As I have mentioned beforfe here, St Peter's has a columbarium - a reserved place for dead people's ashes with gardens built into it - where my grandmother was also interred in 1995. 21 years later I went back with mum's ashes. My brother and I had chosen a niche close to granny's as mum's final resting place.

For the past two months mum's ashes have sat in my hallway near the bedroom, in fact not far from a portrait of granny I had made in 1981 in acrylics. Granny had kept a weather eye out in the hallway in case of any nocturnal visions. Many a time I had gone to the loo at midnight in the dark with the fear of the other world in my veins. Granny kept me safe, I suppose, though I never actually felt anything malevolent emanating from mum's ashes sitting there - as they were - in a white paper bag on the floor.

To get to St Peter's I went out down Cleveland Street and up to the Bondi Junction Bypass - near to which a highway patrol car sat threateningly by the curb - and then down Old South Head road all the way out to the peninsula where the church is situated. It's a different road now, with more traffic than there was in my day. There are lots of SUVs turning and parking by the curb along the main road. People honk at each other in the crowded conditions (which I thought is a bit unnecessary) and zoom around when they have right of way. Or even when they don't. People out in the Eastern Suburbs feel entitled to drive like this, and I was glad to get to the turn-off to the church on the old road. I turned into the driveway and parked the car.

The first thing I noticed was the new building (see pic) which has been built in the place where the old kindergarten hall used to be located. I remember going to kindergarten at St Peter's, associated - as it was - with Cranbrook. We had naps in the hall during the day on little cots that were set up for the purpose. I remember playing on the grass out front, and getting picked up in mum's Morris Minor when she came at the end of the day to collect me. The hall was the location also of school plays at the end of the year. I might have been an angel in one of them, I can't recall.

This time, however, I walked through the swing doors and into the Parish Office set in the top corner of the new building and said hello to the staffer whom I had communicated with earlier by email. She took the bag containing the ashes and remarked on how heavy the ashes were. I agreed with her. She showed me the bronze plaque that was made - in Melbourne - for installation on the niche where the ashes will be interred in the brick wall. All the details on the plaque she showed me were correct. It had mum's name, my father's name, my brother's name and my name. It had the date of birth and of death. It had everything that was necessary. I drove home down along New South Head Road and through the Cross City Tunnel to the Fish Market.

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