About Sally Feldman

Writer, talker, eater, walker. My career has had the trajectory of a pinball, ricocheting from painting shop window mannequins and recording talking books, to editing books and food and travel magazines. But hey - a girl's gotta eat, right?

Apres le deluge

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Storm clouds with rainbow, NSW South Coast

Dear MonetiseThis friends and subscribers
Sorry for the storm of incomprehensible emails you might have received today. The site is undergoing a renovation (more like a knock-down and rebuild) and someone hit a pipe with a sprocket – or whatever the digital equivalent is. Please bear with me, and I’ll be back with something new and shiny and, I sincerely hope, more engaging than the gobbledegook you’ve just had to delete from your inboxes. Until then, mea culpa, Sally.

Gardens were us

Recently, a friend wrote on Facebook about her beloved partner, whom she’d lost to leukemia: “It’s fun remembering Caroline now. Not torture.”

Next Saturday will be the first anniversary of Rosalind’s death. Yet, while it is becoming fun to remember, I’m still tortured by images of her on that last quiet afternoon, curled into me, forehead to forehead, in her room at St Vincent’s. On her wall was an A4 print of a photo of the poppies I’d brought her when she was first admitted. To jolly-up the room once the poppies finished, I’d attached the orange ribbon the flowers had been wrapped with to the photo with sticky tape, creating a weird 3D trompe l’oeil. Occasionally we’d laugh at the madness of it, but she refused to let me take it down, even when it became a little too weird combined with the hallucinogenic effect of her medications.

poppies

Flowers are a trigger: the luminous wall of star jasmine that fills our house with scent conjures her posing against it in the first of her mad (but highly feted) Melbourne Cup hats; tough green tendrils of it winding through the railings outside her hospital window; the scent of gardenias in a plastic cup by her bed. From their first flush, I’d take her in a couple of blooms each day. Now I’m picking them for myself and burying my face in their velvety sweetness. It seems slightly less crazy than kissing goodnight the smooth knotted wood of her walking stick still hanging in my wardrobe.

mums-melbourne-cup-titfer-001

Gardens bonded us: “Mass-plant in odd numbers – threes, fives, sevens,” she’d intone, bee-lining for the flowering annuals and irritating the crap out of me on our garden-centre sorties. Now, she’s part of ours, her ashes scattered in a new bed where a giant she-oak once stood (another loss grieved), and in a vintage jardinière in my courtyard. The plant in the jardinière is one of hers, as spiky as she was, which I rescued from her flat. It’s fringed by silvery succulents, of which she was extremely fond. The olive-green of the pot wouldn’t have been much to her liking. Still, she’d have liked that it stands in pride of place, and that I can see it from my kitchen window.

jardiniere

So, one year on, in a characteristically inaccurate rendition of two Jewish traditions – a hybrid stone setting and unveiling – a few of us will gather in the courtyard. Each of us will place a shell – some of which I collected for her on my travels – in the jardinière. We’ll toast Rosalind with French champagne and feast on barbecued lamb, two of her favourite things. Then, in a couple of weeks’ time, the electric-blue spears of salvia will usurp the gardenias, and I’ll get back to weeding and feeding, and maybe even writing about something other than her. Thanks for bearing with me until then.

 

Get a life or something

Flowers for mumToday would have been Rosalind’s 83rd birthday, one that we might have celebrated with coffee and a shared slice of cake at the third-rate cafe by the tennis courts in Rushcutters Bay park. She’d have sat in a spot where the sun eased the bite of the harbour breeze, her father’s walking stick – sawn off to a more manageable length by my husband a few years back, then sanded smooth and oiled regularly by her – hooked over the back of a spare chair, her handbag on her lap, because you could never be too careful. We’d have watched the tennis players – some “lovely”, some “oh for god’s sake” – and her wispy grey curls would have shimmered like tinsel in the sunlight. Lucy the lab would have been at her side, chin resting on her leg, doleful green eyes pinned on that handbag, knowing Mum would have brought along a treat for while we were having ours. It would have been a “good day” – as modest as a day could possibly be – and ending with a jaunty salute of that walking stick as she walked down her driveway, back stiff, long, thin legs lost in her too-baggy trousers, not looking back.

“Don’t you dare toot the horn as you go,” she might have snapped before getting out of the car, for fear of her fellow inmates at the “village of the damned” complaining. “Not that they can hear anything – deaf as posts.”

She would have disappeared from my rear view mirror, and I’d have driven back up the drive, teary and guilty at leaving her alone, again.

There would have been an email by the time I got home – “Thanks for today. You looked well/tired/very smart/slimmer/much better than last time. Remember to make that hair appointment. Enjoy your evening. What’s for din-nah?” She’d have already eaten hers – a half cup of chicken noodle soup, perhaps, or a few spoonfuls of plain yoghurt.

So, while the world mourns the loss of David and Alan and Victoria and Prince – of so many brilliant strangers – forgive me if I really don’t give much of a shit. Because I still can’t shake off this far, far greater loss.

Which is why I’ve not been able to write anything on this blog since she died, because mostly I wrote for her, and often about her, and now she’s not here to be the first (and frequently only) person to comment, it’s kind of hard to get motivated.

“Oh, get a life,” she would have snorted.

And I will, eventually, but it may take a while. See you soon-ish.

A eulogy of sorts

Two and a half years ago, I wrote a piece on this blog, ‘We Need to Talk About Rosalind‘, to celebrate the 80th birthday of my mother (aka Mrs F, Rozinoz and, latterly, Rozinozinhoz). It was something of a badge of honour for her that she’d reached that milestone; few in her family had made it to their 70s, and her older sisters, Pat and Valerie, had both died too young.

Well, now I need to talk about Rosalind one last time (though who am I kidding – I’ll  never stop talking about her), because, while she insisted on describing herself as “vain, proud and deeply shallow”, she was anything but. Well, maybe she was those, too – but she was also an artist, a cellist, a tennis champion, a company director, a prolific writer, a relentless communicator, and originator of FOMO – “I wouldn’t want to miss anything” forever her mantra. And she never missed a trick, as all who knew her will attest.

Assorted photographs

The box of her mementos is a distillation of her: photographs meticulously dated on the back (with the occasional barbed comment); fragments of letters and annotations “Never forget you’re unique – just like everyone else”, a quote attributed to a beloved fellow cynic in the UK; a hand-painted Christmas card she’d made for her parents, Barney and Esme; music exam certificates and sketches. Sifting through them, I can smell her – not any particular perfume; just the scent of the Rosalind I remember as a child and will forever miss as an adult.

So, I said much of what I wanted to say about her back then (and you can click on the link above or here if you want to delve deeper) – but I’m also deeply shallow enough to plagiarise myself a little here, happy in the knowledge that I had the chance to say it to her while she was still alive and that, in her own, uniquely Rosalind way, she was happy, too.

Rosalind Ann Feldman, nee Parker, died – held oh-so-tightly in my arms – on Thursday 3rd December, 2015, at St Vincent’s Sacred Heart Hospice in Darlinghurst, after a “bloody, bloody, bloody” five-year illness. She will be missed by many – her two daughters, her nieces, faraway relatives and friends, neighbours and carers.

She was a rapier wit and wily wordsmith, a consummate piss-taker, a jaded TV and film reviewer, a wicked mimic, a cryptic crossworder and stalwart friend. She was her daughters’ most fearsome critic and fiercest defender. She was my hair-monitor, my travel companion, my coffee mate, my eye-catcher in awkward social situations, my blog censor, my eagle-eyed proofreader and my clothes-shopping monitor.

I wrote back then that I wished we could grow old and cranky together. I still wish, wish, wish we could have, because nothing will be the same without her.

Rest in peace, Rosalind, knowing that we’ll be the ones missing out from now on.

27 April 1933 – 3 December 2015