To Not Forget

On the morning of my mother’s funeral, I had an altercation over Eucalyptus macrocarpa. It was a baking hot Christmas eve in Perth – you could’ve roasted the yuletide chook in the glovebox of our car – and I was wearing a watermelon coloured, crocheted cotton top, property of the deceased.

We’d been trawling the streets along the train line for a suitable flower to place on her coffin. I can’t remember exactly why I was so determined to snaffle some Eucalyptus macrocarpa that morning, since the casket flowers (ordered from the florist by me) were to be peonies – the most expensive flower I could think of (I wasn’t paying), and quite a contrast to the Eucalyptus.

I do remember, though, that macrocarpa was first pointed out to me by mum on one of many dusky neighbourhood walks during my childhood in Perth, and it struck me as the archetype of West Australian flora: structurally unusual and bloody outstandingly beautiful. And my mother, if not structurally unusual, was certainly unusual, as well as being outstandingly beautiful. Perhaps my subconscious found them to be a good match.

We drove up onto the verge (people do that in Perth) near Cottesloe station, where I’d located a big macrocarpa specimen. If you knew the plant, you’d know that the base of each fat flower is attached directly to the branch (or is it a trunk?) making them tricky to pick. After considering my options carefully, I set about plucking my chosen bloom, which was perfect, pink and frothy.

While I was studiously trying to dislocate the flower from its tough stem, a middle-aged couple with a sandy dog emerged from behind a large clump of Geraldton wax ten or so metres away. I suppose they’d been walking their dog back from the beach, although they could’ve been doing anything behind that giant waxflower. As they passed us on their way along the line, the man made a slight detour in our direction and offered me a reprimand. ‘They look pretty nice on the tree’, he said, throwing his voice through the baking hot air.

This, of course, was true, but I couldn’t have the whole tree, could I? So I shot back with the acid tongue of the bereaved and said ‘Yeah, and this one’ll look pretty bloody nice on my mother’s coffin.’

Duly chastened, he mumbled an apology, tripped over his feet and hurried off to rejoin his wife and labrador. As for the flower, I took it along to the funeral and plonked it into onto the casket at the designated time, where it was promptly swallowed by a clutch of hungry peonies. Most unceremonious.

It’ll be 10 years this December, and I’ve asked my friend Laura Jones to paint me a picture of macrocarpas, so that I won’t forget.

Post script 20/06/14
Laura Jones has kindly sent us a pic of the finished work. Check it out below. Such a beauty!

Macrocarpa (To Not Forget), 2014, oil on linen, 115 x 135 cm, by Laura Jones