Sabine Harnau

Drinking Like Lady

My sister’s face was still red from crying. She’d been told off for sucking the raisins from her cheesecake and spitting them into the fruit salad.

Now she was thirsty, and coffee was all there was on the table.

The grown-ups were arguing on heavy oak dining chairs, bums on olive scuffed velvet seats. The dachshund gladly followed us, wagging her tail.

Grandma’s kitchen smelled of onions and dirty dishcloths. Some Saturday mornings she’d say, “today you’re allowed to help me,” and I’d take a bit of cotton wool and clear out the air grille under her fridge. The smell never changed.

My face ached with disgust as I tried to reach past dishcloths, to the kitchen taps, to fill my sister’s beaker. Nearly — there — no — fingertips slipped off.

“What’s this!”

I turned.

Grandma, filling the doorway. Sister, lapping water from the dog’s metal bowl.

“Drinking like Lady!”, she crowed.

Creative journey

As I was drawing the map of that once-familiar place in Germany, I realised how much the images in my mind relied on the stories that happened there. No story, no memory.

Grandma will be 95 this year, and I think of her a lot. She’s got dementia and only remembers the good old times. She doesn’t remember how old she is. But I’m sure she remembers this story, as it’s so long ago.

I hope so.

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