When I began seriously studying English in high school, I fell in love with the word onamatapoeia. It was a word that you could roll around your mouth … and its meaning … well I am sure you know.
My interest in more hardcore learning had been stimulated by a friend of our family … a woman who appeared to my young eyes, to be a cosmopolitan person of the world. Her house was filled to the brim with books on art and Chinese culture — sections of rooms were petitioned off with silk scrolls and her furniture was black lacquered wood. There were statues of buddha, Turkish rugs on the floor and the pervasive smell of cigar smoke. And when she stepped out onto the streets of my beachside suburb, she did so in patent leather high heels and jackets trimmed with faux fur.
She looked out of place in these bright, sun-drenched streets … and yet she was also part of them. You see, she and her family had been living in the neighbourhood for years — everyone knew her and loved her. She was fun and wielded her wicked sense of humour as if it was a sharp cane to beat the mediocre and mundane. In Australian parlance, she was known as "a character".
Each Friday I would arrive home from school to find her and my Nanna sharing a bottle of champagne or wine. They would be laughing and telling stories, trying on new clothes and prancing around our living room like queens. Sometimes, for a treat, we would order Chinese takeaway food and laugh into the night.
It is the sound of her laughing that I remember most … and her smiling eyes, but it is another sound that I am hearing now, as I write. You see, the world is a quieter place with her recent passing. I found out last night that she had died and been quickly buried. I was saddened to realise that I had missed a chance to say goodbye or "thanks" or to celebrate her life with others who loved her.
But most of all, I am sad to know that one story has drawn to an end, and that part of my own — a small part of my own life story — has also been lost. I guess that is the way of the world. But in writing this small remembrance of a wonderful woman, perhaps she will live, not just for me, but in the imaginations of whoever chances to read this.
Her name was Ona.