Miss Three and I were at the Heide Museum of Modern Art in Melbourne, spending the day there with my mother-in-law, her sister and two other friends. Madam had already charmed everyone at lunch in the cafe, pretending to take our ‘orders’ at the table, charging us all exorbitant prices:
‘Really? A hundred dollars for coffee and cake? It must be good.’
After lunch she wandered with us through the concrete cool of the mid century modernist house called Heide II, once home to artists John and Sunday Reed, lolling on the couches where they had once sat and looking with a child’s eye at the paintings on the rough textured walls, bright arcs of colour and light.
Then we went to the original timber clad farmhouse, Heide I. The rooms were filled with paintings and photographs documenting that golden time when Heide was a hotbed of art and love and friendship, legendary names reclined in sunny group shots, laughing on the green lawns.
Miss Three became tired of it all, not being able to touch anything. She wanted to go outside and I obliged – after all, she had been so very good all day. So out we went, leaving our group behind as we stepped into the walled garden surrounding the house to find ourselves alone. Miss Three chased after butterflies then became entranced by the heart shaped flowerbed on the lawn, created by Sunday after the end of her love affair with Sidney Nolan. I watched as Miss Three danced around the heart, pink skirts blowing, small arms stretched out.
All at once it was as if time slowed and shifted, and it was as though Sunday stood near me, her presence as strong as the scent of roses tumbling over the high brick wall. I could feel her pleasure at seeing my daughter enjoying her garden, and hardly dared move or breathe, not wanting to break the spell sitting like a golden bell over us all.
Then a woman came through the arched opening in the wall, her expression disapproving as she looked at Miss Three who was stopped on the path, smelling a flower. ‘Excuse me,’ she said, moving abruptly past us before we really had a chance to step out of the way. And just like that, the spell was broken, the magic gone.
All except the memory. That remains.