Australia · nostalgia

A Bouquet Of Keys

For days on end, the stainless steel laundry tubs reminded me of long forgotten summer days, spent with my uncle on his dairy farm, in the middle of New South Wales.

As wonderful as the memories were, they puzzled me. Reminders of an uncle, whom I hadn’t seen since I was a teenager, every time I did the laundry? Why???

Bottles had been sterilised in a bleach mixture in my laundry tub, in preparation for my son’s latest batch of home brew, leaving a bleachy-metallic odour lingering for days after…Uncle Jim’s bleachy-metallic odour!

What?!  Why did my beloved Uncle remind me of bleach and stainless steel? This question had my mind working overtime…he had a dairy farm…the milking machines were stainless steel…the vats containing the fresh-from-the-cow milk were stainless steel…they must have been sterilised with something…a bleach mixture maybe?

Regardless, Uncle Jim was back, in my mind’s eye, for a few precious days of re-lived moments…

Way too early in the day, long before any self-respecting man or beast should be stirring (I never was a morning person) rumour has it that Uncle Jim could be found, (should anyone care to find him at that ungodly hour!) herding the cows into the milking sheds.

Memories abound of waking each morning to the crisp summer’s air, after the searing heat of the previous day, snuggled into a light feather quilt, the scent of Uncle Jim’s breakfast of eggs, bacon and fried tomatoes wafting into the room, cooking on the huge fire-wood stove in the adjoining country kitchen.

Remembering that this was a holiday, no school, no one knowing where to find me, steeling a few extra minutes under the feather quilts would be allowed.

The grassy, hay, chicken feather smell, whilst collecting eggs from the chicken coup with my granny, and, as the day grew older, the smell of the dry heat mixing with the dust of the barren country roads, combined with the leaves of the eucalyptus trees.

The high-light of each day began around about the middle of the day, when the dry-heat reached its peak, to a point where I would wonder if I would ever take another breath of cool air again. Uncle Jim would bring the old ute around to the front of the farmhouse, after loading the icy-cold vats of fresh milk into the  back tray, and off we would drive, car windows opened wide, wind hitting our faces, driving along the open dusty roads to the cool rooms, where the milk would await its collection.

With the milk safely delivered to its destination point, it was time for my treat…a huge carton of freezing cold, chocolate or strawberry flavoured milk!

The heat of the day disappeared, along with every mouthful of flavoured milk I took, not daring to return before the next day, when it was nearly time to take the next trip along the dusty roads, to the cool-room and my cool-milk.

As each day drew to a close, (a far more respectable time for both man and beast), Uncle Jim would again herd the cattle along the lines of stalls into the milking sheds, this time with my “help”. Not to be left out, the bull would wander into his favoured stall also, right at the end, where he kept a close watch over his harem!

Now, just when I imagine most of my childhood memories are tucked up safe and sound in their own little colourful boxes and stashed away somewhere in the vicinity of the deep-dark-recesses and long-forgotten, out pops the key to open the box, releasing each magical memory back into the present, cunningly disguised as a whiff of bleach or a carton of strawberry milk.

But I’m not complaining, only surprised. I’m happy to bask in the feather quilt again, just for a moment longer. 🙂

The nose knows far more than we give it credit for, having its own personal source of intelligence.

What joy-filled memories of bygone days have your bouquet of keys unlocked for you?