Short stories

The child is growing older

The sun is shining through the shutters as she pulls the bed coverings over her head. All she can hear is the sound of the clock, tick-tock, tick-tock, as if to say – time to get up! But it is a cold winter’s morning and she must be persuaded to get out of her warm bed.

There is a solitary silence surrounding her as she gathers her dressing gown tightly around her. She passes the mirror; her hair is tousled and untamed. Her hairbrush has gone missing, but she will find it later. Always known for her agile and graceful poise she would glide to the breakfast table. However, today, even though it is Sunday, her walk is a slow saunter.   

It was a breakfast ritual, every Sunday at ‘The Laurels’ at Helidon, two soft boiled eggs. The day before she collected the eggs from the hen house. Each one carefully placed in Granny’s enamelled colander.

The kitchen table had been set with Granny’s silver cutlery. It was only used on Sunday mornings and other special occasions, such as birthdays. Now that she is older, she cooks the toast. She threads the bread on to the toasting fork. Under Granny’s watchful eyes, into the fire it goes, held just above the hot coals of the wood fire stove.

The toast now crisp and blackened, sits waiting on the table. She stood close to Granny and watched her lower the eggs into the boiling water with a long-handled ladle. She watches the clock, tick-tock, tick-tock. Everything else is quiet before she breaks the silence with – ‘three minutes Granny!’

She cracks the eggshell with the silver knife and butters her toast. The silver spoon turns golden as she dips it into the dark yellowed yolk.

Today, she listens to the same clock, tick-tock, tick-tock. She counts the chimes. It is seven o’clock and time for breakfast. She sits in her favourite chair, waiting for Granny.

Time passes and before she knows it she is dancing to her favourite music on the radio. Her dressing gown floats out around her, it has become a ball gown and she is a princess. Joy fills her face, the image never captured in a mirror.

Tired from dancing she seeks more warmth and walks outside. The sun disappears behind a cloud and once more she gathers her dressing gown tightly around her. Even though a cool breeze fills the air she sits waiting for the sun to shine, to enjoy the warmth. The birds flutter into the bird bath, shaded by a majestic gum tree. It is as if she is not there. Birds come and go, in and out, take their morning bath, splashing around like carefree children.

She laughs to herself as one bird takes a deep dive into the water and disappears. Next it splatters and flops as though it is still learning how to bathe. It fluffs up its feathers and shakes them as though in a frenzy, ready to wing its way into places unknown.  

She walks inside and cries out ‘Granny, where are you? Granny, I am ready for my eggs, I’ll make the toast.’ But Granny does not answer.

The only sound is the clock, with its familiar tick-tock, tick-tock. She sits quietly. She misses, Granny, her family, Sunday’s boiled eggs and the silver cutlery. She goes to the dresser, takes out the cutlery set, strokes her fingers over the silverware and smiles. She puts it away; she is too tired to cook boiled eggs today.

She looks at her reflection in the glass door of the dresser. She sees an old woman; the young girl has disappeared, the youthful face, now only a memory. Yes, the child is growing older and time is passing, tick-tock, tick-tock.

P.S. This story is inspired by memories of my mother (Valma), my maternal great-grandmother (Mary), ageing, holidays at Helidon and the family (Helidon) clock, which I inherited. In 1904, Mary and my great-grandfather (Albert), built ‘The Laurels’ in Bowen Street, Helidon. It was in the family for over 100 years.

One Comment

  • Christine Reghenzani

    Beautifully written, Kathryn. That story was heartfelt and summoned some emotional memories.

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