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These pages are a collection of stories from the Writer's Group at Box Hill U3A.

Memory Paths

She sits crocheting up the pile of coloured squares she has knitted. This is a favourite way for legacy to raise funds. Elderly war widows fashion rugs from the small squares they have knitted. Edna also helps do the rosemary sprigs for poppy day. She chooses the sunny corner in the morning. If you crane your neck, and its not too misty, you can see across the bay to the city buildings. She doesn't really like the tan coloured wool, well not really wool, wool days are gone. It's polywool, made in China, not Cleckheaton mills near Shepparton. The white fluffy cat lies at her feet.

The TV is on, its Hewie, [an Hewitson, with his cooking show. She half attends. Her mind rambles. She remembers cooking a chicken dish like that. Pineapple and condensed milk, a casserole. When casseroles were so modern. Her sister had given her the recipe. Her sister was a real socialite, she'd "married well". She suffers the usual pang of regret that this well-trod memory trail always delivers. She had been on bad terms with her sister when a terrible car accident had killed her and Jack. Oh, Elsie had wrapped herself in self-righteousness for years, but the shivers of guilt now found their way through her shabby cover of piety. Why had I been so stubborn? Oh yes, she could still, even here sitting in the sun more than forty years later, whip herself into indignation over her sister's interference. But the years have muted her pique.

She had left Brian on the first of January, the day after he had admitted his infidelity. A commercial sales rep. for Arnott-Brockoff, yes remember when we made biscuits, he'd had plenty of opportunities for dalliance. He stayed over in country locations four nights a week. But Gina had not offered sympathy, she had told her to go back at the end of the week. "You've made your bed, now lie on it". Eventually, her youngest son, Bruce, then 16 had prevailed on her to return home. As she thinks back over this time, she regrets that she had returned home. She wishes she stayed in her flat. Unusual for the times, she had always earned more than her husband. She had looked after the money and given Brian his "allowance" each week.

The chicken casserole, now what was it? Chicken Letticia, yes. That had been one of the casseroles she would leave cooked up at the weekend in the fridge ready for Bruce to place in the oven at 6 pm. Edna had run factories, clothing factories, yes we made clothes then. She would come home from Carlton on the bus. The house would, all going well, be warm with the aroma of one of her casseroles or pasties gently reheating.

She gazed again across the bay. Unseeing, she thought what the future might bring, not for her, that took no imagination! No for her granddaughter, Trevor's eldest. Always her favourite, despite them having little in common, Elsie feared for her. Karina had been going out with a Sri lankan boy for three years now since they had met in America at College. He was from a wealthy background and Elsie was sure the parents would not want a western girl, of no particular standing, as their eldest son's wife. Elsie dreaded that he might want to marry Karina to gain permanent residence status.

Nearly all the squares were used up as she found herself on another memory pathway, or rather rut. Why had she married Brian? It was the war, they were young, he was handsome, was that it? Her sister, already engaged to a thoroughly suitable business man, was frank. "He's a no hoper Elsie, ditch him!' Gina had been right. Oh, at first they were insanely happy; he was posted to Western Australia. For him it was an easy war, with regular leave back with his new wife. They had had a happy war. Brian would always cite this as the best time of his life. By the end of the war, Trevor was born, then Luke and lastly in 1948, Bruce. Why had it all gone wrong?

Valerie Bourke