Maria's Journey

She grabbed the goose by the beak, straddled it between her thighs, plucked the feathers from its neck, slit it, bled it into quietude, and continued to pluck the rest of the feathers. That night we had czernina and drumsticks. 

There was a sweet side to Gran; she poured it into her cakes that drowned in vodka and homemade jam. Her cellar contained riches of golden Rainier cherries, gooseberries, and currants. I would fly down the whitewashed concrete steps into the cellar and glide across the dusty floor toward the small window where dust specks danced to their secret melody, entertaining rows of jam. I could have stayed there for hours if it wasn’t for the goose ghost stalking my steps.     

Although she filled my childhood with fresh bakes, crochet doilies, handmade dresses, and later, cherry liquor, my gran’s journey has been far from a fairytale.

She never complained about the lack of recognition for assisting wounded WWII soldiers—it’s what was expected. She didn’t blink an eye when she had to sacrifice her education to work as a housemaid—it’s what was expected. She didn’t grumble when she had to manage a distillery in between birthing a couple of children and single-handedly tending to a farm and backyard garden—it’s what was expected. She watched silently as her son moved almost nine thousand miles away, across oceans and lands with her only grandchildren. 

When she finally retired, the underworld claimed her husband and left her alone. Time slowed down. She filled her house with plants—ferns, spider plants, violets, chrysanthemums, and golden pothos. Every corner was taken up by palms of various shapes and sizes. Perhaps they were the perfect company—calm and giving, within her reach and control. 

My gran's sacrifices haven’t been in vain. I may struggle to keep a fern alive and have two left hands when holding a crochet hook, but her will and determination push me to try harder. Her selflessness makes me want to be the best version of myself, to make her efforts worthwhile. 

I look back on a photo from her youth. She’s about the same age as me, sitting atop a motorbike with her black hair resting on her shoulders and wearing a confident smile. She’s about to embark on a journey of motherhood. She will hear about a man landing on the moon. She will learn about the internet, wireless devices, coffee machines, and ThermoMixers. She will be amused when her prized rooster chases down her granddaughter, solidifying a fear of chickens forevermore. I am proud of who she is and who she’s yet to become. I hope I can tackle my changing world with an open mind and forgiving heart, as she has.

-Ola Kwintowski

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Ola enjoys writing short stories and taking her readers to the depths of her imagination. Her background in psychology and photography has inspired her writing, as she can delve into landscapes and characters’ minds with words and imagery to bring them to life and into the world. She is currently completing a writing degree at the Sunshine Coast in Australia, enjoying the surf in between novels and writing.