Casa Fin Family Stories: Claire Pavailler - Fin (nee Emery - Fin)

Claire 01First of all, I would like to say "Happy 80th Birthday, Nonno" and express my disappointment in not being there with everyone, to share this monumental occasion. My sincerest apologies Nonno – I am celebrating with you in spirit.

I have been thinking through the memories that I have of Nonno, spanning the last 28 years. There are many - especially from the first 17 years of my life - and they all bring a smile to my face.Claire 02

My earliest memory of Nonno (actually, one of my earliest memories in general), is of sitting with Nonno on the steps of the old house in Arncliffe, with a very young Nick and an even younger Bec, with a big bowl of fresh strawberries from the garden, and a bowl of white sugar. I remember Nonno dipping the strawberries into the sugar and feeding each of us in turn. I also remember the feeling that we were indulging in something that Nonna might not be so impressed by (probably the generous amount of sugar on each strawberry??), so we were trying to keep our giggles of delight hushed.

Claire 03I remember singing with Nonno, and Nonno talking to the birds around the pool in Beecroft, while he did his hundred laps around the pool, sweeping all the leaves to the surface. I remember getting ready on Sundays, to go to choorch with Nonno and Nonna – always a novel experience, as this didn't really happen on our Sundays in Brisbane. I remember singing the hymns and hearing Nonno's strong voice singing out, often in harmony with everyone else. I remember feeling glad when I knew the words to the prayers and speaking out clearly, hoping that Nonno could hear me and was proud of me.

I remember when Nonno and Nonna came up to Brisbane for Nick and my First Communion. I had scraped my freshly washed hair back into a pony tail and was all ready in my new dress when Nonno said, “Your hair is all wet". I answered that it looked neater when I did it wet, coz I didn't get frizzy bits around my face, to which he just shook his head and took me to the bathroom, where he blow-dried my hair - I think very possibly for the first time in my life - brushing it until it was dry.claire 04

I remember the many holidays spent with Nonno and Nonna; the smell of the leather in the Alfa Romeo when they would pick us up from the airport; the sound of Nonna saying, “Beppi!!” when Nonno was driving us home after a late night somewhere and had started nodding off! I remember the squeaking sound of the chair in Nonno's office at Beecroft, when he would sit down.... and I think we all remember the noise of the leather armchair in the living room! I remember Nonno's scent and the feel of his beard against my cheek, and of his straight teeth, and the infamous story of how he filed them flat with a horse-shoe file when he was younger. Ugh, that still gives me shudders when I think of it!

I remember all the parties for Christmas, Easter, the Hudi Cup, or birthdays at Nonno and Nonna's place in Beecroft. I remember the pool and the wall we all used to jump off for the Midnight Bomb on New Years Eve. I remember Nonno coming home with huge boxes of cherries, or whichever other delicious fruit was in season; and Nonno's breakfast of a big bowl of coffee mixed with weet-bix or bread, or some other weird and wonderful concoction. I remember going fishing with Nonno and spending time at the Kingscliff flat. I remember the note on the wall in Kingscliff with all of Nonno's fantastic phonetic spelling and the feeling of sand under your feet on the tiles in the bathroom.

Claire 06I could keep going - the more I dig into the well of memories, all the more keep surfacing. Suffice to say that I feel very lucky to have had the chance to spend as much time with Nonno and Nonna when we were growing up as we did. Those memories are so sweet to recall and have played a big part in shaping who I am today. If it weren't for that ingrained motto, “You got to take your responsibilities”, I might not have been blessed with my wonderful baby girl, Alséa – the first Great-grandchild of the Giuseppe and Patricia Fin Dynasty.

So, I'd just like to say a big Tanti Auguri to you Nonno, and raise my glass to you, from across the oceans. I hope you have a lovely day.

Lots of love always,
Your oldest grandchild,
Claire xoxoxoxoxoxoxo