Penguin Australia’s Dear Monica Competition

Thank you all so much for the hundreds of entries in the Dear Monica competition. It was a pleasure and privilege to read so many of your special family memories. There were stories of happy gatherings, sad farewells, love and friendship, laughter and loss. Some made me smile, some moved me to tears. It was difficult to choose between the entries, but congratulations to Elizabeth Davey who received the winning prize. Our ten runners up were Sandy Pemberton, Marlene Antoon, Antonietta Spiniello, Matthew Bowyer, Auden Hillman, Jess Bushby, Timothy Zala, Kirrily Noble, Joanne Bellingham and Maggie Whitney. Congratulations to you all.

I’ve included Elizabeth’s winning entry below as I thought it was so lovely and wanted to share it.

“I wish to tell you of my Grandparents 55th wedding anniversary. My Papa was living in a nursing home (he had dementia), and Nana was not really sure of where she fit in his life anymore. She went from being his wife, to his carer, and then to what? So Mum and I decided that she needed to realise that even though he was no longer living at home with her she was still his wife – a very important role. So together Mum and I planned a surprise wedding renewal party at Papa’s nursing home. We invited all of the staff, the other men in his ward, and any of their family members who wished to join us, as well as our family and Nana and Papa’s friends. The day overall was memorable, but the most memorable moment was when we arrived at the home, the staff had dressed Papa in his finest suit and tie, given him a huge bunch of flowers to present to Nana and he was waiting by the door for her to arrive. Nana almost collapsed at the sight of how handsome he was. She started crying, which started Papa crying and then of course everyone else started crying. Nana went to Papa to hug him and he said three little words that made her realise more than anything that day that she was the most important person in his life –“I LOVE YOU”.”

I’d also like to share just a couple of the entries from the runners-up. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I did.

“The family memory we have is a French silk card containing a letter written in pencil by my grandfather to my grandmother, from the trenches in Ypres in 1917. He looks forward to seeing my Mother Mary for the first time, when he returns from the war. The letter was in his pocket when he died, and returned to my grandmother back in Rutherglen Victoria by the ‘buddy’ who was by his side. This is a treasured memory in our family. We have all visited The Menin Gate in Belgium where his name is listed, as he has no known grave.”
– Sandy Pemberton

“My story is based around a Christmas very dear to my heart. As a child I was obsessed with dinosaurs, so much so that I would spend most of my days out in our yard setting traps in the belief I would catch one. But of course, I had no luck. I would have been about five years old and Christmas was upon us. My parents asked what I wanted? I responded with “a real dinosaur.” Nights passed by and the thought of me finally getting my dinosaur was too much to bear. I searched the house top to bottom, thinking a dinosaur would be pretty hard to hide. Once again, no such luck.
Christmas morning came. I awoke at some ungodly hour, convulsing with excitement. Rushed down to the tree and waited. One by one our presents were handed out, not many as money was a bit tight when we were young. After the last gift was handed to my sister, I felt a wave of disappointment. Mum asked what was wrong? I said “nothing”. She then said “what’s that?” What happened next is a memory I will keep forever. A real dinosaur walked into the room. Now in all truth I can now say it was my dad shabbily clad in a home-made cardboard dinosaur outfit, but to me it was real. He stayed in it for most of the day, also kept up the charade of, “oh , I just saw him run past”, when returning out of costume. It was my most memorable Christmas ever and taught me amazing life lessons. You don’t need money for happiness, making a child’s imagination a reality will be more valuable than anything you could ever buy them.”
– Matthew Bowyer

Thanks again to you all for sharing your memories.