Skeletons in the closet

Mum was a tormented soul.For as far back as I can remember, Mum was always running down people and gossipping about them.

As a kid, I could not understand why she would do this it just did not make sense to me. The people in question seemed lovely.

Mum never seemed to be happy with her life. She was constantly shouting at us kids and giving poor Dad a hard time.

She was so unhappy. Her unhappiness caused many problems for her .

It was not until I was in my fourties that I found out why she was like this.

After Dad passed away, Mum and I were talking about a cousin, this cousin was adopted and I mentioned to Mum that it must be very sad, not knowing who ones real parents were. Mum then told me her story.

It went like this.

When Mum was 32, her and Dad decided to go to the UK and Europe for a holiday. The Queens Coronation was about to happen and they wanted to be in the UK at that time. Get caught up in the activities and celebrations so to speak.

Mum applied for her passport. Dad already had one from before they were married.

There was a bit of a hiccup though. It seemed that Mum did not exist. No records were held of her birth. None in her known name anyway.

Grandma was summoned and had to come clean with a few secrets she had been holding close.

The man Mum knew as her Father, was in fact, not her Father.

It seems Gran had been a bit naughty and had given birth to Mum out of wedlock. Back in the 1920’s this was quite a scandalous thing to happen to a poor girl. Even worse was when the unwed Mother decided to keep her child. Poor Gran was indeed an outcast of society.

In due course the paperwork was sorted and Mum got her passport.

Dad was not amused to know his wife was illegitimate but he loved her and accepted it. He did ask Mum not to tell anyone though.

A few years after Dad passed away, Mum decided to delve into her real Fathers identity.

There were more than a few shocks to be had.

Gran had been seeing a much older man, a travelling salesman , married with a family.

Oh dear, naughty Gran.

When Gran found out she was pregnant, she ceased the affair, not telling her suitor that she was pregnant. She did not want to disrupt his family any further.

To her credit, Gran kept my Mum and raised her on her own. It was not an easy task back in those days.

Mums real Father was not a very nice man. He was a Lieutenant in the Light Horse Brigade but was dishonorably discharged for failing to obey orders.

More bad news came to light. The old philanderer had yet another mistress. This young girl also had a child to him. She told him about his daughter and it led to a massive court case to see who would get custody of the child.

Things were going against the young girl so in a brief ajournment, outside the Redfern Courthouse, she shot him dead.

I have the newspaper clippings of the incident. I know not what happened to the young woman or the child. A child who would have been my mothers halfsister.

No wonder Mum was such an unhappy soul.

All of this was just too much a burden to carry.

That little girl would be 86 if she is still alive. Sadly Mum passed away, never knowing her real Father or her half sister.

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great grandma was cast out by her family

My Great Grandmother was named Ellen. she was born in the UK  in 1868..

When Ellen was a young child the Family decided to immigrate to Australia  After a lengthy boat ride, in mostly squalid conditions, the family arrived in NSW.

Great Great Grandfather, Ellens father, took up farming in the Armidale, New England area of NSW.

He was a very successful farmer and became an extremely wealthy man. Family life was good, the children all had food and clothing and led a happy life. Much better than they had back in the Mother Country.

When Ellen was just 18 years of age, she met a handsome young man and fell in love right away.

This strapping young man was good looking and worked hard as a labourer. However, he had a dark secret.

His own Father had been sent out from Ireland as a Convict. He had not committed a serious crime, just stolen a loaf of bread to feed his starving family. This news was to be kept a secret from Ellens family as they were  “Upper Crust” so to speak. They would never tolerate a son of a criminal becoming one of their family members.

The courtship progressed and Ellens family quite liked this young bloke. Until, someone let the cat out of the bag about this fellows heritage.

All hell broke loose and Ellen was forbidden to see the young man again. She had other ideas though and continued to meet him in secret.  This went on for a year or two until once again someone let her Father know. Talk about gossipers, how terrible it was.

By this time, Ellen was 21 and able to make her own mind up. Her Father gave her the word, stay with him and you are banished from our family. Never to be spoken of and never to visit us again. What a tough old bugger he was. He kept his word though and Ellen made her choice.

She and her true love moved away and became married in 1887. The couple were very happy , apart from the fact that Ellen had been banished and all rights to any inheritance from her wealthy father all forsaken.

They had children, first a son and then a daughter. The son died from unknown circumstances when he was just 19. The daughter grew up to be a lovely young woman who would become  my Grandmother.When Great Grandad passed away, Ellen came and lived with  my Grandmother, her daughter. I remember Ellen. She always wore black. Always in mourning, perhaps for the loss of her husband, or maybe the loss of her family back in the countryside. I know that her parents never knew of anything that happened in her life after Armidale. I find that very sad.

grandma was a rebel…

My maternal grandmother was a wonderful woman.

She was kind , caring and nothing was ever too much for her to do.

A talented cook, dressmaker and gardener, all self taught.

Grandma was a bit of a rebel though. She fell in love with a travelling saleman back in 1918.

He obviously had a charismatic nature and before too long Grandma found out she was pregnant.

Back in those days it was almost enough to be sent to the gallows if one became pregnant out of wedlock.

Grandma stuck it out though. She was sent packing by her mother and father and ended up being a housekeeper for a wealthy Vaucluse, Sydney family.

Gran worked up until the day my Mother was born. Despite the pressure from so called social workers, and the stigma of being an unmarried mother, she decided to keep her baby.

This was an extremely brave thing to do. There was no welfare for anyone back then in 1920. No help from parents or anyone else.

Being an unmarried mother made her an outcast in society.

The wealthy family stood by her though. They let her keep her job and stay with them, baby and all.

What a wonderful family they were.

Grandma never told the travelling salesman about being pregnant. He had a wife and children so she did not want to complicate things even more than they were.

For four years Gran worked in Sydney. Whilst on an outing to the Botanical Gardens, Gran met Arthur. He was a merchant seaman and instantly took a liking to Gran.

They married a short while after meeting and Arthur joined the public service so he would always be there for Gran and my Mum.

A few years later Gran had a second daughter. This girl was a delight and very musically talented.

The family was now complete.

Arthur and Gran led an interesting life, moving from one project to the other. They eventually retired to Victoria in 1962. Sadly Arthur passed away just six months after retirement.

Gran stayed in the little house they bought until her death at age 94.

Incidently my Mother never knew Arthur was not her real father until she was in her mid thirties.

But that is another story.

I almost did not make it to Beautiful.

Sunday, I awoke feeling excited because it was the day my daughter and I were going to Beautiful, the Carole King Musical.

As I am house sitting at Noosa right now, it meant a trip down to Brisbane to go to the show.

Old mate and I set off at 9.30am.

Plenty of time for the 1.5 hour trip to my daughters place at Sandgate.

Or so I thought.

All was going well, a short stop along the way to deliver a beanie to a woman with a very large head. ( another story)

Back on the Bruce highway and suddenly the traffic stops.

Kilometres of stopped traffic in front of and behind us.

I remembered it was the last day of school holidays, probably accounted for the huge amount of traffic, but not why the stoppage.

We inched along, 9 minutes to go 1 kilometre. At that rate it would be 6pm before we arrived in Brisbane.

The show would be well and truly over.

Another 2 hours passed and not even half way.

It was 12.30 by this time and old mate and I desperately needed a toilet stop.

Nothing to do but pull up at the next offramp. We did this, then went back to the by now slowish moving traffic.

At least it was moving, that was a good sign.

Just before Bribie Island , the cause of the stoppage became apparent. An accident, or rather, a crash.

A young bloke, going too fast clipped the bridge, flew through the air ,cut a tree in half and came to rest on the side of the road.

Miraculously he was unharmed.

After we went past the flashing lights of the emergency vehicles, the pace quickened somewhat.

At 1.30pm we arrived at my daughters place.

My daughter is a wonderful person, but not the most organised one.

She had a shower and we aimed to leave at 2pm.

It was 2.15 when we pulled out of her driveway. Only 29 minutes to QPac she said.

Plenty of time.

It seemed like forever, but at 2.50 we parked up under the Cultural Centre.

It is just up the stairs and across the bridge she said. Not far.

She lied!

She had parked in the wrong spot. We had to walk/ run past the museum, several other bildings, up and down stairs across the road.

Wait, could not across the road.

Quick, she said, the lift is there we will go up in it.

Wrong!

The lift was out of order. Up more stairs, hundreds of them this time.

I was almost passing out from the exertion of it all. Through the QPac doors. Quick, door 3.

30 seconds to lockout.

We made it.

Do you realise dear daughter that your Mother is 70 years of age and not used to such a workout?

But you did it Mum, she said. Now relax and enjoy the show.

And we did.

It was a terrific show. At interval I went and met Christine and her Mum. Another highlight of the day.

Thank you Calista for providing the tickets .

Fantastic.

The girl with the five foot head

The other day, I was casually feeding the kookaburras and enjoying the lovely warm sunshine up here at Noosa.

The magpies came for their share as well.

It really is a peaceful way to spend an hour or two.

Pretty soon that peace was shattered by my phone beeping loudly. A message came through.

It was from a woman asking me if I could make her a beanie.

No worries I told her. I asked her to measure her head circumference so I could make one to fit her.

She duly messaged me back telling me that her head was 60 inches around.

My mind boggled when I read that. A 60 inch head.

Are you sure I asked her. That seems a little large.

Oh yes she replied. It is 60 inches around.

I could not come to grips with this information so asked her again to measure it very carefully.

At this stage she seemed to be a little peeved but came back with the 60 inches.

That is correct she told me .

I have a large head because I am really brainy. I am highly intellegent she said.

Well, who am I to argue with that logic.

Ok I told her. I will have it done in a couple of days.

I am pretty certain she would have had a 60 centimetre head.

Even that measurement is quite large for a woman.

I could not come to grips with the thought of a head with a circumference of 5 feet. Really, in all honesty, I don’t think anyone could even imagine such a sight.

Being one with a warped sense of humour, I got thinking of the ramifications of some one with a 5 foot head circumference.

To make a beanie of those proportions I would need to arrange a bank loan just to buy enough wool to complete the task.

I would also need to do some serious mathematical calculations to get the fit right.

Maybe an elephant as a model. An elephants head would be a similar size I reckon.

Maybe that would even be a bit small.

How on earth would a head that size fit through a normal doorway.

It would not. What kind of house would such a person live in.

No amount of squeezing would make that gigantic noggin fit through any standard doorway.

What about the sleeping arrangements.

A double bed is 4′ 6″. That would leave an overflow of 3 inches either side.

Certainly no room for two in that bed. I think one would be destined to a lonely life.

No going on buses trains or planes either. That head would not fit.

Enough of that now.

I shall get my wool and crochet hook out and start on the beanie. 60 cms it will be.

I am sure even that will be too large.

For all you mathematical geniuses out there, I realise that 5 feet circumference is not 5 feet diameter but just took the liberty of allowing my thoughts to wander.

Trip to the barber

I will never forget my first trip to the barber.

I was eight years old and had long blonde hair. From memory, I had never had a haircut and used to beg Mum to let me get my long hair cut.

Mornings were a nightmare with Mum pulling and tqisting my hair into plaits. Sometimes two plaits and sometimes a braid wrapped around my head. It was a very unpleasant experience as Mum had bo patience and did bot care if I cried or said ouch because she was hurting me. All she said was “be quiet Jennifer!” It will take longer if you moan.

Well it was not her head was it. I should have had her charged with brutality.

I pestered Dad to let me get my hair cut. It was no use arguing with Mum. If I had short hair I would be able to come and help you with the sheep a lot quicker I told him.

At long last Mum agreed and it was time to go to the hairdresser. In my naive little mind, the hairdresser was the one who cut small girls hair.

I never in a million years thought what happened would happen.

The day arrived, I was excited as I pictured myself with a lovely stylish cut, just like my mates at school had.

I wanted a fringe, and a nice cut that did not look like a bowl cut.

Perhaps my hair would even go curly, I foolishly thought.

We headed for the small town, about a half hour drive from the farm.

Mum turned off at a smaller town. I knew the smaller town did not have a hairdresser and wondered why she was going there. I said nothing though, as a child was to be seen and not heard according to Mum.

Next minute we were stopped in front of the Barber shop. Neither of my brothers were with us so I was a bit confused as to why we were there. Maybe Mum was making an appointment for one of the boys.

Wrong.

Out you get, she told me. I hung my head down and followed her into theBarber shop.

It stunk like tobacco andsweaty old men. Barbers back then also sold tobacco, pipes and other kinds of paraphenalia.

Up in the chair the Barber yelled. I was so small that he had to bend over douvle to reach my head.

Out of the chair he yelled. He put a large box on the chair and kind of threw me up onto it.

He then prooduced a pair of hand operated clippers and started to hack away at my hair.

Tears streamed down my face as the clippers pulled and tugged at my already sore head. Sore from years of Mum pulling at it.

I could not imagine what I was going to look like. I just wanted to die.

After what seemed like forever, he asked Mum what she thought. She said it looked nice and neat. There was no mirror so I could not see what I looked like. All I know is that my poor head was sore and now also very cold.

The Barber yanked me out of the chair and stood me on the floor.

I was kind of stuck to the spot. I feared what I must look like. Too afraid to move and go outside in case someone saw me.

Mum asked how much and was told 6 pence would do. She was happy with that.

It would have cost at least a shilling at the hairdresser she told him. What a bargain.

We duly went home and faced my siblings. They called me all kinds of names. None of them very kind at all.

I dreaded going to school the next day. My hair was short back and sides, just like my brothers hair.

Sure enough, the next day at school I was the laughing stock. One kind teacher took me aside and told meI looked very nice and not to worry about what others said.

Another girl, who had had nits, and had her hair shaved, befriended me. It did not seem so bad then.

Gradually I got used to the haircut, kids seemed to stop teasing me and best of all, Mum no longer had a reason to pull my hair.

The Middle Child

The middle child.

How many of you are a middle child?

Much has been written and discussed about middle children.
Some good, some not so good but all with a grain of truth non the less.
Middle Child Syndrome is the feeling of exclusion.
The older child/children in a family get privileges and responsibilities
The younger receive more indulgences than the older siblings.

Enter the Middle Child and all is but forgotten.
I am a middle child.
Oh, I did not know you even existed said some people when I would tell them who my parents were.
I was sure your parents had 1 and 2 and 4 and 5, naming my siblings.
Never heard your name come up anywhere said others.

Well, that is probably because I am invisible I would reply.
Invisible? Oh yes.
Middle children are invisible.

I always thought I was adopted as Mum had newspaper notices announcing the birth of all my siblings.

Mine was missing

I know I was not a middle child when I was born, but the rot had already started to sink in

I once asked Mum why I had not been announced,so to speak. Her answer was that she was overwhelmed to have another child, one who she did not really want. She always told me she should never have had me.

She must have recovered though as the next two siblings had birth notices.

I guess back in those days there was no birth control so kids were born evn if not really planned .

I was a loner as a youngster. Always did my own thing. Made my own fun and just kept out of Mums way

At my Fathers funeral, I had people coming up enquiring as to who I was.
Noooo, was the general reaction. I did not know old Tom had another daughter.
See , invisible.

This invisibilty was not such a bad thing really. I took advantage of it and did what I wanted to do.
No one noticed, they never do with a middle child.

I was very good at sport, I taught myself to do many things as no one else would teach me.
I was either to young or too old

One year at school sports, the high jumper from my grade took ill. I begged my Father to let me take her place.
Can you even jump he asked
Yes a little bit I replied.
That year I broke the age record for girls high jump.
To this day, 60 years later, that record has never been broken.
If Dad was impressed, he did not say so, but I knew in my heart I had done well.

It mattered not that no one noticed my talents, or even my lack of talents.
I knew myself that I could do anything I put my mind to .
Being as I was, I breezed through life. Many mistakes and bad judgements were made along the way but my tenacity always got me through.

Growing up as such was quite a journey, let me tell you.
I look back and reflect and think I could easily have crumbled, like many do, but no, I came through it ok.
Not completely unscathed, but ok.
I am happy with my life.
It has been a challenge, I have had a lot of ups and more downs, but I am still here, alive and
Well not kicking much nowadays due to a dicky hip joint.

All in all, I have achieved all and even more of what I wanted in life.

That is something to be happy about.

snippets of my life as it is and how it was