Week 24 – 03 March 2011
At week 24 after separation my younger two children and I spent the weekend in Sydney for a family reunion of about 100 people representing the five living generations of the seven generations of descendants of my great-grandparents and grandmother who came out to Australia from England 100 years before. The weekend was an all day Saturday gathering then a bus trip to all the old family haunts on the Sunday. It was a fantastic experience for my children who were still feeling the pain of our broken nuclear family of Mum, Dad and the kids. They were uplifted by connecting with their own immediate cousins, aunts and uncles whom they knew well; and then they began feeling part of the wider circle of second and third cousins, and great uncles and aunts. There was an intoxicating sense of belonging, having a place in the world, connecting with our roots.
My uncle, my mother’s brother, gave a speech regarding choices and how the choice at a time of crisis and adversity for what may seem an overwhelming situation; can lead to a different way in life that – if you can become strong and face it – actually becomes the right way of living and ultimately a better way. He was referring to my great-grandparents decision to move to Australia from England a century before at a time of financial crisis for them as a family. He spoke of the struggles they had in their early years in a totally different landscape and way of living for them in Australia away from family, friends and all the connections to their previous life. Despite that they persevered and carved a new way of life for themselves, their children and ultimately for all their descendants. He also spoke of other triumphs and tragedies the family had been through over the years and the strength he felt we had all inherited from his mother, my grandmother. I thought of this character trait that I remembered in her. My daughter told us later that she felt I had this same strong determination and she now understood where it came from.
I thought of my cousin nearest to me in age missing that day as we had lost him through a car accident 37 years ago. He had always been daring and adventurous and I had always been cautious and shy. As a teenager he had always dared me to do things that I would not have otherwise done. Even today there is a voice inside of me that says ‘come on, you can do it’ that I feel is him urging me onwards.
I looked at my own mother who organised the event, who was widowed suddenly at aged 47, her two eldest children married within the next year, and faced with the sudden financial pressure of having to return to work for the first time in 26 years to support my two younger siblings. What a huge sudden changed blueprint for her that I failed to appreciate at the time. Yet now at aged 85 she is still going strong, writing history books, and the matriarch of this our large extended family and her siblings’ families of over 100 people. She is an inspiration to us all and especially now to me, as I hope to one day be for my children in this my new blueprint I am yet to create for myself and my family.
So as the weekend ended I thought to myself – how can I ever feel alone? With my own fantastic children, with the extended family of mine who are always accepting of every family member whatever and wherever their life situation may lead them, and with their strength inside of me – I belong, I am never alone.