by Amy Galea
For a time, I had forgotten that I am the happiest version of myself when I’m noting down what happens in life. When I have a space to record what I’m seeing and feeling about events (that are never simply events, but people, life, things, colours) and the bits and pieces that I am reading, listening to, watching, experiencing. There is something about levelling them in words that makes life feel less like a film on fast forward.
I found myself thinking this last night as I waited for roadside assistance on the corner of my street. What I had intended on being ‘a quick trip to the grocery store’ ended up being an hour sitting on the ground next to my car, alarm buzzing and conscientious neighbours asking whether I was okay. I was okay. But I didn’t have a NRMA membership and when the man finally arrived, I also found out that I needed a new battery. My quick trip to woolies ended up costing me close to half a grand, but that wasn’t the only thing on my mind when I (finally) drove away.
My Toyota Camry isn’t really mine, it belongs to my Nanna, Rita, and it was her husband’s when he was still alive. My Nannu was a small man, with typical Maltese hands, rough from farming. When he left the house he wore a fedora and when in the house, he sat in a squeaky brown recliner next to the dining room table.
His name was Tom and due to his fondness for cheese, he was known as ‘Mice’ (or Mice-y). He was one of the first in his family to leave Malta for Australia, and when he did he paved the way for all of the others, he and my Nanna had a constant stream of people staying in their house, people they knew and didn’t know, people they fed and found work for. When I visited Malta last July so many people I had never heard of, told me how kind my grandparents had been to them, how respected they were in the Maltese community in Rooty Hill and Blacktown, in Mgarr and Mdina. Towards the end, he only spoke in Maltese and I would try and piece together the words I recognised with his occasional English, to identify which story he was telling me. Those days he would wake up thinking he still lived in Malta, he would go outside to fix his vegetables and see that instead of the limestone houses of Mgarr, he lived in the centre of a developing neighbourhood in Sydney’s west. He spoke to remember, he told stories that kept people alive, living on in the words, in the way they travelled from his mouth to our ears.
When the man from the NRMA showed up and tested my car battery, he said it was seven years old. “They’re only supposed to last for four,” he said shaking his head, “I don’t know how your car has been running for this long.” He showed me photos of the inside of a car battery after one year, then after four— fragmented from use.
What hit me, was that the last time the car battery had been changed, I was in my final year of high school and Nannu was still alive. What hit me, was that my attachment to this beat up old car wasn’t because of the car itself, the car I learned to drive in, the car I backed into a tree at the campsite I used to work at. But it was because it is the only possession I am in contact with that belonged to my Nannu. The $500 was a slap in the face, but more so was the fact that so much time had past, time that wasn’t down in words, memories that hadn’t travelled from mouth to ear to page. That I feel completely different to that girl who graduated high school, and I miss him.
Amy worked in copywriting and company branding until she saw the light and began teaching high school students the joys of grammar and essay writing. She currently resides on the South Coast of NSW and enjoys running away from home on a semi regular basis. She believes story telling and caramel popcorn continually make the world a grander place. In days gone by she blogged for literatico and she loves all the pretty things on Instagram.