Then there was "Pet" or Ethel on my father's side, the mother of six. She was known as 'Mammy' by all the cousins and there were a large number of these, especially compared to the other side where there were none. Mammy was soft, buxom and a great one for a cuddle. She was known by one and all as a strong community worker. I suspect she was also a shrewd business woman as she ran small shops and owned several houses. Mammy was a widow when I knew her. I admired her as well as loved her and always wanted to grow up to be like her. Then, when I was in grade three, the greatest of tragedies struck. This leader in our family got sick. Adults stood around at different meeting places talking in low and serious voices. Then one day Dad said he was taking me to see Mammy. To this day I don't remember my brothers being there, although there was the usual tribe of cousins. I was hurt and bewildered; this was not my beloved Mammy. No one told me this was goodbye. She was pale, thin and weak, lying in bed with her usual plaited hair spread out on the pillow. Everyone was sad. I desperately wanted to go to the funeral, even though I wasn't sure what it was, but children in those days were not allowed to funerals. I sent a red rose from the garden and told my teacher, who was indifferent to my pain and sense of great loss. I remember being cross that the day went as usual with the dreaded spelling and Arithmetic.
As children do, I got my revenge although I didn't know it at the time. One day in the train back from her home in Upwey to my home in Melbourne with Grandma Ida I asked her why the best went first and mentioned Mammy. Grandma knew what I was getting at, for from that day I was on a par with my brothers.