Since my grandparents lived on the other side of Australia, in Melbourne Victoria, I didn’t get to see them as often as I would have liked. On the odd occasion that they came to Western Australia, or that we went to them, I was spoilt rotten.
Not every catch up was a happy event, however. One particular visit to Nanna and Poppy’s was when my mum’s Aunty Betty was very ill in the hospital and mum and I had gone to Melbourne so that mum could say goodbye. Every day we were there, mum went to the hospital to be with Aunty Betty and every evening she would come back to Nanna and Poppy’s house tired and sad. Mum and Aunty Betty had been extremely close. I had met her a few times and I really liked her, but since we lived so far away I had never developed the same relationship with her as my mum had.
During the day while my mum was at the hospital, I was at the house with Nanna and Poppy. We did all kinds of fun things and when mum got back to the house I wanted to tell her absolutely everything that had happened throughout the day.
Poppy was a kind hearted, gentle man who always did his best to make everyone happy. He knew that my mum was tired and emotionally drained, so he did his best to keep me occupied. We went shopping and he bought me loads of things to keep me occupied, including a little radio, microphone and blank tapes, so that I could record myself. That kept me out of everyone’s way for quite a while and I still have some of the tapes.
He also bought me large reams of paper and crayons. He would sit me outside in the sun and let me draw for hours. I wasn’t allowed to draw inside because Poppy said that Nanna would get mad if I got crayon on her lovely carpet.
As we were looking around the shops for more fun-filled activities, I spotted a small box with four little containers inside, each with a different coloured lid.
“Ooh, Poppy, look. Play-doh”. I grabbed the package and took it over to Poppy. “Can I buy this with my pocket money?”
“Of course you can, it’s your money, and you can buy whatever you want with it.”
I raced to the counter and bought my play-doh, then skipped alongside poppy all the way home. Once we got back to the house, I started opening all my goodies that we had gotten from the shops. Most of the stuff I wasn’t allowed to play with inside, so I out it all in a bag for the next day, since it was beginning to get late in the afternoon.
I pulled the package I had bought with my pocket money, out of the grocery bag and eyed it excitedly. Play-doh should be okay inside if I kept it at the table. I ripped open the cardboard box and worked on removing the red lid from one of the containers. It was a plain white container with a bright red lid. There was no writing on the side of the plastic container. All the writing had been on the cardboard packaging.
I worked on the lid for some time, before I went to Poppy for help. He looked at the container closely, before asking me what it was.
“It’s play-doh, remember, I bought it with my pocket money, I will be careful with it and keep it at the table, I promise.” Poppy nodded and started working on removing the lid. It was so tight that even Poppy had trouble with it. He stood up from the lounge and gave the lid an almighty tug.
Red liquid spilled from the container, right onto Nanna’s favourite rug. Poppy and I looked at each other in horror.
“It’s paint!” Poppy suddenly regained movement in his legs and raced to the kitchen to grab a cloth.
“That’s not fair! What a waste of my pocket money.” I was devastated.
Poppy handed me one of the reams of paper and told me to go outside with the paint. “When your mum and nanna get back, stall them, to give me time to clean this up, otherwise we will both be in trouble.”
I hurriedly set up the paint near the front door and painted as much as I could with my fingers, so that I had something to show mum and nanna when they got back.
Not long after, I heard mum and nanna working their way up the drive. I quickly informed poppy that they were home, then set up my paintings across the front stoop, making it difficult for them to reach the door. I showed them every picture I had done and asked them to help me do another painting, to which they both declined.
“Come on Kylie, its getting dark, pack it away now and come inside.” Mum moved past me and opened the front door. I stood up and looked at poppy. He’d managed to clean up the mess just in time. He still had a red stained cloth in his hand, which he hid behind his back as mum and nanna entered.
Luckily both nanna and my mother were so tired, that neither of them noticed that the rug was slightly damp and that poppy and I kept giving each other sideway glances, smirking.
As far as I know, poppy never told nanna what had happened. It was our secret. Though I do remember mum telling poppy that in future he was to make sure I wore an apron when I was painting, since I had ruined my clothes and made a mess of the front steps, but I never painted there again. We threw the containers out the next day and went shopping to by something a little less painful on both of us. If I remember correctly, I bought a moneybox and put the rest of my pocket money in it, only to realise it was sealed and I couldn’t get my money back.
Shopping with poppy somehow always managed to wind up a disaster, but gee it was fun.
Even at such a young age, I knew that men weren’t as keen on shopping as women were and were therefore less likely to check items that I was purchasing. I really did think I was buying play-doh and I was more upset to discover it was paint, as I was never very artistic in that way. Poppy and I often went shopping together and I would race around to buy all the things I hadn’t been allowed to purchase in the past. This incident taught me (and Poppy, I dare say) a valuable lesson though – no matter how excited you are about your purchase – ALWAYS read the label.