Gardenias

Kez carefully arranged the gardenias she had just picked from her backyard. The smell was intoxicating and permeated the house. The smell reminded her of her childhood living on a property in southern NSW with her parents and two brothers. Her Mum would place freshly picked gardenias in each of their rooms every year to signal the beginning of the summer school holidays. Now gardenias and summer were forever intertwined. Even once they had long finished school her Mum continued with the same tradition at the end of the second week of December. 

Kez felt a lump forming in her throat and her eyes welled with tears. Her Mum had passed away 4 months ago, and the grief of her loss was still raw. She had been dreading this time of year as the fondest memories of her Mum was from the Christmas and holiday period. Afternoons sitting on the verandah with a cold jug of lemonade for her and her brothers, Dad with a cold beer and Mum with her glass of white wine. They would have to talk loudly to get over the top of the cicada’s songs that filled the air. As the sun started to set the mosquitos would start biting. Kez smiled at the memory. They always seemed to prefer her to her brothers. Dad would light the citronella candles, the glow from their flames dancing on the roof of the verandah. If it was a warm night Dad would put the sprinkler on the lawn, one of the ones with a single stream that would work its way around and then pop back to the beginning of its cycle and start all over again. She loved its clickety-click sound and the smell of wet grass.  She and her brothers would wash away the sweat from the day, chasing each other and seeing who could leap the highest over the stream of water. Mum and Dad would watch from the verandah, drinks in hand, chatting about their day.  They would then fall into bed, exhausted but refreshed. The ceiling fan keeping them comfortable on hot, still nights. 

Kez had moved to the city years ago but travelled down to stay with her parents any chance she got. Christmas and New Year were always spent with the family on the farm. The summer holidays looked different these days and the table bigger, the family had grown. Partners and nieces and nephews added more life and laughter to their get-togethers.  These days she sat on the verandah with her brothers, their partners and her parents with a beer in her hand instead of lemonade, watching her nieces and nephews enjoy the same fun she had, running through the sprinkler. She sat down at the table, head in her hands. She was supposed to be heading home to the farm tomorrow for Christmas but knowing her Mum, the heart and soul of their family, would be missing, was almost too much to contemplate. 

She got up, poured herself a cold glass of chardonnay from the fridge, her favourite summertime drink and took herself outside to her small but secluded backyard. The sun was starting to set leaving a pink glow in the sky. She sat down, closed her eyes, the smell of her gardenias washing over her. At that moment on a balmy, summer, Sydney evening she could almost sense her Mum there right next to her. Encouraging her that the memories she created for them were not to cause pain but to ensure she would always be there, with them, in the scent of a gardenia, the caress of a warm breeze, the sound of a sprinkler, the smell of wet grass and the laughter of children enjoying a balmy summer evening.

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