Pop and Poppins; a tribute to my grandfather

A short photo story; 5 minute read

Julie with her Pop

The year is 1975 and I am 3 years old. We’ve just made our way to Terrigal on the Central Coast of NSW from our home in Dubbo. I am sitting on the steps of our holiday flat, hanging out with my Pop. Dad watches on in the background whilst Mum takes our picture. Pop is one of my first travelling companions, apart from my mum, dad and brother. There will be many more travel buddies after him, but probably never another one so willing to engage in silly chat chit with me. The trip from the bush has been a long one; some six hours or more. Dad drives whilst Mum nurses my nine-month-old baby brother on her lap the whole way; there are tears, tantrums, wriggling and sleeping at various points in the journey as she struggles to control his enthusiasm for action. My uncle has joined us and I am sat on my booster seat, wedged in between him and my Pop in the back seat of our green and cream Holden dream. A tin of Log Cabin tobacco sits on the seat between me and Pop, patiently waiting until its lid is prised open for the umpteenth time and its contents lit up again. Pop blows smoke freely within the close confines of the car, exacerbating my asthma and bronchitis. This is the 70s though and a bit of second-hand smoke never killed anyone, right? But Pop’s not the only one with a terrible travelling habit. He will soon be very relieved to be out of said car, after his half-pint sized companion says, ‘I feel sick.’ The multi-coloured hand knitted jumper Mum has made me wear today doesn’t require any more colour staining its pastel beauty but I give it a red hot go when I throw up all over myself and Pop from car sickness.

 And at last we are here and the dry dusty conditions of our hometown have been replaced by the cool ocean breeze. The salty air acts as a tonic as it hits our nostrils the moment we step out of the car. Pop is at home by the beach. He may have left his coastal paradise of Clovelly forty years earlier but the beach boy in him remains. And now he has his 3-year-old best friend with him to share the delights of the seaside. Pop has waited 53 years for a grandchild to come along and he lands a shy but inquisitive little girl that will in the future years lead a tribe of eight more grandchildren in rebellion against his discipline. Pop is a full-time grandfather, having left the workforce after a hand injury. He has all the time in the world to devote to teaching his grandkids the rules of life; a right of passage that will be denied to his fourth born son, my father. And so he takes his Pop duties seriously and insists on coming on our family holiday to lend a hand. Now as we take our seat on the concrete step awaiting our photo opportunity, you can’t miss us, with Pop in his bright orange jumper and me in my pink and blue ensemble. Life is full of colour for me at 3; I have a mum, a dad, a brother, four grandparents, a plethora of cousins and aunties and uncles. I am surrounded by a village who take care of me and indulge my toddler driven attention seeking ways. I am fussed over and given numerous nicknames like Poppins. I have a full nine months of sole family attention before my first cousin rocks up on the scene and almost two and a half years of being an only child to my mum and dad. Pop might look a fright with his unruly silver hair but he has been a comforting presence in my life.

 But Pop is now growing impatient to plant his feet in the sand, so I am swapped out of my slippers and into my red buckled sandals for the short walk to the beach. Pop brings his trusty fishing rod and I bring my bright pink pail, keen to see what marine life we will find. For me the sea is a wonderous yet scary proposition, the smashing waves a violent assault to my senses. I will live all my life with a fear of deep dark water yet I am fascinated and follow my Pop to where he is throwing a line in. Before long something catches the line and I am called to assist with the very important, grown up task of reeling in our prize catch. Anticipation abounds as a blue swimmer crab is brought to the surface by the combined handywork of a Pop and his three-year-old fishing mate.’ Good job, Poppins’, says my proud Pop. ‘We’ll make a fisherman out of you yet!’ I guess it’s still not too late…

Pop with Julie and Stephen