Uit: Dream Stuff
“His father was missing – that was the official definition. Or, more hopefully, he was a prisoner of war. More hopefully because wars have a foreseeable end, their prisoners come home: to be missing is to have stepped into a cloud. Jack’s mother, who was aware of this, never let a mealtime pass without in some way evoking him.
‘I suppose,’ she would say, ‘your daddy will be having a bite to eat about now.’
They knew quite well he wouldn’t be sitting down, as they were, to chops and boiled pudding, but it kept him, even if all he was doing was pushing a few spoonfuls of sticky rice into his mouth, alive and in the same moment with them.
When St Patrick’s Day came round she would say: ‘Sweet peas. They’re your father’s favourites. You should remember that, Jack. Maybe by the time they’re ready he will be home.’
One year, struck by one of the models in a Paton and Baldwin pattern book, she knitted a cable-stitch sweater for him. Jack held the wool when it was wound, watching the yards and yards it would take pass over his hands. Twenty skeins! When all the parts were finished and had been assembled into the shape of a sweater, his mother held it up to her shoulders. ‘Look, Jack.’
He was astonished by the bulkiness of it. He hadn’t remembered his father’s being so big. In a moment when his mother was out of the room he held its roughness to his cheek, but all he could smell was new wool.
Collapsed now between layers of tissue, it lay in a drawer of his father’s lowboy acquiring an odour of naphthalene.”
David Malouf (Brisbane, 20 maart 1934)