An elderly perspective

by Julia Harrison

Aside from easing doubts about my own sometimes-questionable mental state, a visit to my mother’s parents, my Oma and Opa, always provides an amusing anecdote. Actually, to be completely fair, half the time it’s an amusing anecdote and the other half it’s the sort of racist and/or sexist and/or mind boggling un-PC declarations the family prefers to pretend they never experienced. Today was a little of both.

Upon arrival, my brother and I received our usual serves from Oma. “Aye, Julia, you’re too skinny! Aye, Tom, you’re so tall!” Once the elderly Dutch woman had satisfied herself with critiquing our apparel (the holes in my jeans, the cold he was sure to catch from wearing shorts in this weather) Oma, Opa, my brother, my mother and I sat down in the living room and last night’s kicking of Geelong became a topic of discussion. I was surprised, unaware Oma followed any sports. Ecstatic to be asked a question which required a journey into history to be fully answered, Oma launched into the tale of how she had come to discover the game of Australian Rules Football.

Subsequent to docking in Australia in 1954, my grandparents ran a hotel in St. Kilda for a decade, an explanation for her Saints support. It wasn’t until 1964, when my mother was but ten weeks old, that Oma viewed her first game of Aussie Rules. After my mother Margaret’s birth the family of nine moved to Essendon. There was, of course, no money for removal trucks, and everyone, including baby Margaret, walked to the new home carrying their belongings on their backs. Ok, Oma. Their next door neighbor was not in possession of a ‘televisi’ so would come over and watch matches on their screen. Oma was taken by the skillfulness of these young boys and grew to love the game like any True Blue.

However, Oma has managed to live out her long and fruitful life without learning the names of any footballers. Or any sportsperson, for that matter. An athletic cousin of ours raced on the same track as Usain Bolt earlier this week and Oma had cut out an editorial on the Athletic All-Stars Event. I referred to it now, “Pretty cool about Charlotte and Usain Bolt, eh Oma?”

“Us-ain Bolt? Who is she?”

“It’s a boy, Oma. He’s known as the fastest sprinter in the world. His name is printed about 14 times on the article currently stuck to your coffee table”

“Oh. Did Charlotte beat him?”

On football, Oma’s opinions were succinct. Despite Margaret’s and my urging that the general consensus was Brendon Fevola was to blame for his flashing antics, Oma maintained the mass line, “Who’s fault is that? What was this mother doing?” On Collingwood’s win over those “high in the sky” Cats, Oma smiled. The array of body art present on the victor’s arms in particular is “neither here nor there” just a “waste of good money.”

The flippant words of my mother’s mother over the football put my own worries into perspective. I mean, I don’t know if you realize, but, like, Collingwood seem to be a real contender for the premiership this year. It’s very concerning.


  1. Great piece, Julia. My Dad came to Australia in 1951 and didn’t see his first (and to date, only) AFL game until 1989.

    My 85-year-old, Sydney-born Mum arrived in Melbourne at around the same time and we still haven’t convinced her to go to a game.

    But their hearts are in the right place – both Doggies fans!

  2. “waste of good money.” Never truer words have been spoken. Thanks for great your contri Julia

  3. Good read Julia. Some tattoos are just ghastly and a sad indictment of what can happen when bogans and money collide, although some tattoos are FAR worse than others.

    If nothing else, despite her lack of sporting knowledge, your Oma (Dutch for grandma?) seems to have a healthy dose of common sense.

  4. great read! i could not agree more with your collingwood comment, i am an avid St Kilda supporter and do not think I would be able to bare the public world again if we were to be beaten this Saturay by those tatooed thugs, lol jokes

    but seriously…

    Your Oma sounds like such a gem, and she is a St Kilda supporter *wink *wink


  5. Another wonderful piece, Julia!

    Your Oma sounds brilliant, LOL!!!

    Look forward to reading more of your work in the future ;)

  6. thanks for the comments guys! tony and adam, while i agree with oma’s stance on tattoos she does tend to think everything aside from necessities is a ‘waste of money.’
    siobhan – i don’t know who you are. lol jokes..
    but seriously, you better rip down that sign on your gate before leaving tomorrow or you’ll arrive home to a pile of ashes where your house used to be
    thanks so much susie, i do love my oma :)

  7. Onya Julz, you’re Oma and Opa sound like real characters.

    My Nana is a Carlton fanatic and ‘claims’ to have tipped Chris Judd for the Brownlow last Monday night. A good relationship with your grandparents is a foundation of life.

    I look forward to reading more reports of yours in the future.

  8. Grandparents are curious creatures. My friend’s grandpa was a strange one – he used to call all boys “Bill” and all girls “Mary-Jane”. Back then I thought he was totally senile, but it was just his quirky sense of humour.

    Julz, if you want to get to know some of the Almanac community better, you could talk to us on MSN – if you have MSN, of course.
    My MSN addy is [email protected]

  9. Julia

    That’s a really nice piece.

    Most of my family were agnostic when it came to football. I never really established who Grandad supported (if any). I’m sure my Grandma didn’t have any interest.


    I’m sure Grandparents find their grandchildren pretty curious as well. :)

  10. josh – my entire extended family are real characters, all 30+ of them. christmas is always a messy occasion
    adam i don’t have msn, more of a facebook gal, feel free to look me up!
    JB – my father’s father committed the other footy crime of an aussie aside from indifference to the game; he switched teams, twice. thanks for your compliment

  11. Julz,

    Look me up, Josh Barnstable, on Facebook. I tried looking for you but I think there’s a bit too much Julia Harrison’s in the world for me to try and add one at random.

Leave a Comment