Eventually, my father returned to take us from the house at Glen Forrest in the Darling Ranges to a tiny railway siding hundreds of kilometres to the east. He had bought a block of land for about five pounds. It had a small house that contained two rooms attached to a back verandah. A returned soldier from World War I, he now worked for the railway. He had no time for any brand of religion-- he was just trying to get by.
We left at 6 am and arrived at 8 pm that night. But there didn't seem to be much food to greet our arrival: an open packet of WeetBix, a bit of flour, a few potatoes, some wilted lettuce leaves, limp carrots, a bone for the dog and the water bag.
My father got a primus stove going and found a frying pan. He put both on the table he had brought into the unlined room, which was still sweltering. This room had plain black floorboards, with a tap from a tank poking through the wall. A hurricane lamp lit the scene, and all outside walls of the house and roof were corrugated iron.
A few boxes and bundles containing our belongings were brought in and stacked up. I searched through the pile for my only toy--a plush blue rabbit. Mother found cutlery in a shoebox. We had frypan stew for tea--clothing the vegetables with damper.
My parents slept on the back verandah; the dog and I slept on the carseat bed in the second room. We heard mopokes calling, and an owl or two hooted eerily.
The next day, Father went to work and Mother walked the track to the post office and store. When she returned, she gave me a letter from Grandma Hames. Grandma wrote cheerily. Jesus loved me as His own child, she said, and she loved me, too. Even though we were a long way from church friends, the dear Lord Jesus would look after us. Grandma Hames said she would keep writing to me and would really like to have letters from me, too. Her letter snuggled warmly into my heart. I would write to her.
Incredibly, there was even a 10-shilling note in Mother's letter from Grandma Hames. She was able to buy some bread, eggs, powdered milk, cheese and homemade butter. There was enough to buy vegetables when the train came in that day, too.
Grandma Hames had only a meagre aged pension to live on. I will never know until Jesus returns how she sent 10 shillings every three weeks from her limited income. I treasured her letters. Sometimes there was a little gift--sometimes socks or a handkerchief. There were Uncle Arthur's Bedtime Stories, too. All the church papers came to us via Grandma Hames--Signs of the Times, Sabbath school pamphlets, Our Little Friend and Record.
And Grandma chose to write to me on such pretty notepaper. In that lonely place, Mother and I felt the warm love of someone whose life shone with heavenly light.
When I was 12 years old, a letter came that broke my heart. It said, "Little Linda, soon Jesus is going to let me sleep before He comes, but Auntie Nielson will keep writing to you. She loves you all." My mother treasured the memory of Grandma Hames the rest of her life.
For two years, the letters came faithfully from Auntie Nielsen. Then she, too, passed away. I honour these two dear women, who sacrificed their own welfare to bless us with their love. Grandma loved Jesus so much that her love overflowed for five years on a courageous woman and lonely little girl, lightening the harsh reality of our life with my alcoholic father. I can never forget such love. It will be such a joy to meet her and Auntie in heaven.
Three things will last forever--faith, hope and love--and the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13.
Linda Baskin lives in the Avondale Retirement Village, Cooranbong, New South Wales.