I bent down to take a coffee mug out of the cupboard this morning and the first one my hand found was one given to us by our Lollipop Lady more than ten years ago. Suddenly lots of memories came flooding back. We’d never heard of someone being called a “Lollipop Lady” until we moved to Perth in 2005.
A Lollipop Lady is a lady who is employed to help children cross the roads close to schools. Gentlemen also do this job but the name originated in the UK where a lady would stand in the middle of the road holding a big circular (lollipop looking) sign to stop traffic so children can safely cross the road.
The house we rented at the time was about half a kilometre from school and so I walked the kids to school in the mornings and walked to fetch them in the afternoons. Since Child No 3 was only in Kindy (Kindergarten) at the time she only went to school twice per week and therefor did a great deal of walking with me. Subsequently she also got to know the Lollipop Lady quite well.
Our Lollipop Lady was a caring, friendly and warm person. She always had a smile on her face, come rain, hail or shine. And there were some bad weather days – some 40 degree ones and some wet, cold and miserable ones. It didn’t matter what the conditions were, she was always upbeat and interested in what was happening in everyone’s lives. She knew everybody in the area so when this new family walked up on the first day of school and greeted her with a strange accent she was naturally curious about where we came from. She was the first person who taught me what a “sook” is and so my introduction to Aussie sayings commenced. (A sook is someone who is not very brave). She was in awe of the fact that we’d packed up our house on a different continent, got on a plane with a suitcase each and started a new life somewhere else. She said: “I could never do that Love, I’m way too much of a sook.” I replied that it was all the friendly people in the community that helped us to settle in. She was so lovely and welcoming and always had time for a chat. In the afternoons she’d ask the kids each in turn how their day had been. It was almost like having a caring surrogate aunt when we had no close family around. For our first Christmas in Australia she gave us a set of four coffee mugs. It was such a lovely gesture – there was no way she’d be able to give each family who crossed the road under her watch every day a Christmas present.
I still remember how, one morning when my husband walked the kids to school, four year old Child No 3 rushed up to her, bursting with excitement. “Mrs Jones! Mrs Jones!” she called. “Yes, Love?” Mrs Jones replied. “My dad got me a trampoline at the dump!” Child No 3 exclaimed. I’m not sure what Mrs Jones’ reply was but my husband said that she was genuinely very interested in the trampoline but he could still hear her giggling as they walked off. In Perth, the local councils do bulk verge refuge collections about once a year. There are limits to what one can throw out but a great deal of unwanted items end up on verges, some in better condition than others. We can also throw out garden waste (which helps when you do a lot of pruning). The day before my husband had spotted a little mini one person trampoline that someone had put out on their verge as part of their collection. It was still in good condition so he picked it up and brought it home for Child No 3, who was over the moon about it and couldn’t wait to tell everyone about this treasure.
After about a year and a half we bought our house in the neighbouring suburb. The kids still went to the same school but I now drove them to school and so we didn’t get to chat to our Lollipop Lady daily any more. Sometimes I parked the car at the park where she worked and walked up to school and we’d have a quick chat. A few years later she retired and some parents organised a little farewell for her in the park. We went to say goodbye and thank her for all the times she helped the kids but also for the way she welcomed us into the community. I haven’t seen her for some time now and I wonder if she’ll remember us but I’ll always remember her and how positive an influence she was when we first moved to Perth. I doubt she has any idea how her caring and kindness just made us feel like we belonged but we still have the coffee mugs that bring back some very fond memories.