Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Family Matters

With the luxury of the whole house to myself and nowhere else I need to be today, I am enjoying some quality time in my jammies! So I thought I would tell you about our day yesterday.My father’s sister, Dorothy, will be 80 on Friday and her party was held yesterday in a function room at the Melbourne Aquarium (great venue BTW). Our branch of the family had 100% attendance – myself with Rod and the three kids, plus my sister with her three kids.This is the aunt who had twelve children, and all but one were there. Brian has a wife who doesn’t like family events (esp his family) so he wasn’t there  A bit of background: Dorothy was Dad’s big sister by about 13 months and there were just the two of them. Dorothy had her first child in 1947 and her last in 1969 and her first grandchild arrived in 1970. Dad had only Louise and I – me in 1963 and she in 1966. So these cousins fell into three groups for us – the Big Kids, Our Age Kids and the Little Kids! When our grandad died in 1977, there was a huge falling out over the will and contact between the two families was severed. This was a horrible time for both families. At 13, an entire chunk of my social network disappeared overnight. This family lived in nearby Springvale and all of my mother’s family in NSW.There was no contact at all for 13 years. It took the death of Dorothy’s husband for bridges to be mended. By the time I saw the family again, I was married with Melissa 5 and Kaitlyn 18 months. At Dad’s cousin’s 70th party, only the Little Kids were present, but it was great to touch base.Although my aunty visited, I was not to see my cousins again until Dad died in 2003. I spent a lot of time with three or four of them who live locally, but others live interstate and couldn’t come for the funeral. This included most of the Big Kids.Yesterday, I saw my big cousins Allen, Bruce and Melvin for the first time since our grandad died! Allen turned 60 on Saturday. He is a doctor in Sydney. His ex wife was also present, she is a Sydney obstetrician! Bruce used to spend a lot of time at our house when he was at uni – and taught me all sorts of cool stuff, like dissecting sheep’s hearts! He is startlingly like both my father and grandfather, which is really weird! Melvin is also from Sydney and he was sort of invisible when I was a kid: a teenage boy doesn’t have anything in common with a little girl! But he is lovely and we got on wonderfully!Wesley was another of the invisible boys (so was Brian) but as he still lives at home with his mum, he has been around. Ruth and Rosalie were the Big Girls (Ruth was a Single Mother in 1970!!!! Even I knew that was bad!!!!!) I didn’t really have anything to do with them and they still don’t appeal much! Rosalie lives around the corner from her Mum and Wesley and has dinner there every night!!!Now, Our Age Kids were very interesting. I hadn’t seen Muriel since we lost grandad and she had been this shining icon to aspire for. It was weird seeing her again, as she is so short, but in my mind was tall – because she was taller than I was then! Felicity is a little older than me and Penelope a little younger than me, so we all got on really well as kids and Penny especially supported me when Dad died. Penny is a solicitor and Felicity a barrister, but they both gave that up to be SAHMs!Meredith was born ten days before my sister, who was going to be called Meredith until then! She arrived as the party ended, with her five kids. She discovered they all had nits when getting ready to leave and had to treat them all before driving up from Warragul! I didn’t actually get to speak to her before she had to leave again! She remarried on Saturday, but nobody seems to expect it to last!Finally, Valerie the baby. I have zero memory of her as a child – she was obviously far beneath our radar! She became an aunt at 12 months of age and a great aunt 18 years later! Clarissa (the fatherless child!!!!) was tacked on to the end, but I don’t remember her either!So – there we all were, with assorted spouses, ex spouses, children, step children, adopted children, grand children, great grandchildren and a few cousins. There were some confused faces who spent the entire time trying to work out who they were related to, but for the most they worked it out. The family dynamics are very interesting – it was not only to my child-like mind that they split into three families. It was like that for them as well. The Big Kids admit defeat when sorting out the children of the Little Kids! Not one cousin I asked could tell me how many grand and great grandchildren Dorothy has, but each assured me their mum would know! Of course she did – she has 12 children, 33 grandchildren, 11 great grandchildren and twins due soon! And she can tell you each and every name, middle name, birth date etc without thinking twice!Their cousin Bill was there with his wife, so I grilled him about my family history mysteries, as well as Dorothy. Sadly, nobody knows exactly when grandad jumped ship in Adelaide, so he gets to keep that secret! All we know is his moved from the British Navy to the British Merchant Navy and some time later arrived in Australia and decided to stay! Headed up bush and worked as a jackaroo, shearing cook and goodness knows what else! Met Banjo Paterson in his travels. Then joined the AIF, went to France and Gallipoli then came back to Melbourne in 1926 with his sister-in-law/wife-to-be!Dorothy didn’t open her presents at the party (I hate that!) but she and a few daughters knew there was an album from me and were itching to have a look. As it includes copies of all the family photos my mother kept when grandad died, I hope there will be some nice surprises for them!Finally the party ended. Kaitlyn and I negotiated our way by tram to have a coffee with Buddies in Carlton, while Melissa and her cousin Lynden (and unexpectedly Rod and Kieran) had a futile attempt to meet a group of fire poi …. Artists? …… near the Art Centre. So instead of the boys driving home and the girls all catching the train, we had to send Melissa and Lynden home by train because we couldn’t fit Lynden in the car! Oh, and they stopped to watch some street entertainers in Southbank and Kieran got called out of the audience to help Superman – there is a video on Melissa’s camera which I will upload to share!So…. That was our Sunday!!!!