Family Scans

After the glorious weather of the last few days, it’s turned colder and we’re getting some rain here on the North Coast. For my family, it’s welcome relief, as they’ve been complaining about the high humidity, the thunder and lighting, but no actual rain to offset the pain.

Also as a positive, it’s meant we’ve spent most of the afternoon today indoors, going through and scanning family photograph albums. It’s such a fun thing to do, as we giggled at the photographs we found. And there’s the added benefit of being able to preserve and share these photographs around.

With that in mind, here’s a few I found of myself from my younger years.

Same, Same but Different

“OMG, it’s Kerry”, I shouted out inside my heard. Instantly, I realised I shouldn’t be surprised since I knew Kerry was a regular at the Lismore Farmer’s Markets. I’ve known Kerry’s partner, Paul for almost forty years (since the start of high school), and Kerry for about a decade. Or is it longer? Because I’ve lived away for so long, and probably because I’m getting older, memories are beginning to fade.

I obviously lots of very familiar memories of childhood, having grown up in Lismore until I was eighteen. I then had a further five years where I was regularly commuting (most fortnights, if not most weekends) between Brisbane and Lismore. And then as I moved away to Bourke, Renmark, Wagga and Sydney, the visits became less regular. And my contacts with Lismore became more directly focussed on close family and friends. There was never enough time for a week-long visit to see too many people, including more distant family. There has also never really been too much of an opportunity to meet new people. So when I go for a wander around the block, there’s hardly anyone I know. Seeing a familiar face is a rarity.

But that said there’s also a real familiarity about the place. Because my family has been in the area for over 100 years, and because I come from larger families, there’s an awful lot of people I see in the street who look familiar, and it’s because we’re probably related. I had a beer in a local pub this afternoon, for example, and there was a bloke sitting nearby who I spotted. “You’ve got to be an O’Brien”, I thought to myself. Though,in response, I’m sure he was probably thinking “what are you looking at mate”?

From time to time, I’ve toyed with the idea of moving back to Lismore. Unless I had a super interesting job which allowed me to meet lots of new people, or made a concerted effort to become super social, it might be difficult to create a new adult friendship circle back here. There again, you never know. But no, no plans to move back just yet.

Mum’s Birthday

Mum's Birthday 1984
Mum’s Birthday 1984

As it’s my birthday, I went searching through my photographic archives for images from birthdays past. Oddly enough, I don’t have a lot of suitable photographs of my celebrating, but I did find one from a birthday I remember vividly. It’s me and my mum celebrating her birthday in Feburary 1984, just nine months before her death. Her birthday was Feburary 7, and she died on November 7, just two days before my own birthday. At the time there was a lot of concern in my family about having her funeral on the day of my own birthday. In the end, she died on November 7, and was buried on November 8. Given the proximity to my own birthday, it’s an anniversary I’m sure I’ll never forget. Even though it’s a long time (thirty years) since mum and dad’s death, I still think (and dream) about them often.

Now Hear This

NHT
NHT

I didn’t expect to, but ended up telling a story at the “Now Hear This” story-telling night in Sydney tonight.

I told the story of my great-great grandmother who had a relationship with her first cousin (no, I don’t have two heads). After the birth of their fourth child together, he married someone else and had four more children. My great-great grandmother then went on to live a somewhat shambolic life, it seems, until she ended her life in the “destitute women’s asylum” in Sydney, and was buried in a “pauper’s grave” at Liverpool Cemetery. She died of heart disease, though you might say she also died of a broken heart. What would it have been like to have had a long-term relationship with your first cousin, only to see him leave and form a new family in another state? We’ve had some contact with the “other family” and they had no idea we existed. In exchanging photographs, it’s pretty clear we are related as we look like each other very much.

The story-telling night was, as usual, handled beautifully by Melanie Tait and will be heard sometime soon on the ABC ‘s RN.

Home for Christmas

Back in May, when I received a MMS of the newest member of our family Willow, I wasn’t sure if Willow was a boy or a girl. Yeah, I know there’s the character of Willow on “Buffy”, but it seemed to me Willow could be a suitable name for either a boy or girl, and my niece is anything but predictable.

Willow turned out to be a girl, and tonight I got to meet her for the first time. Although we’ve “chatted” on Skype, it was lovely to meet Willow in the flesh. She has a wonderful smile, laughs a lot, and didn’t seem to mind a couple of selfies with her uncle. “You look like me”, I imagine she was thinking as she looked at the bloke with reddish/blondish balding head. While she’ll gain more hair in the future, I don’t imagine that will happen for me anytime soon. Although her mother is reasonably short, her father is quite tall, and so I imagine it won’t be long before she overtakes me in the heights stakes. Oh no, I’m becoming one of the old people in the family :(

So yeah, I’m home for Christmas. Luckily, there are times when I can pretty much do my job from anywhere, so I’ll be working out of the office here for a week or so, which means I can continue to work through while at the same time visiting my family. I sent out one of those wide d/l emails saying I’d be working from Lismore with the opening line, “I know you think it sounds like I’ll be sipping with cocktails at Byron most days, but I will genuinely be in the office”. I’m also filling in for a few other people who’ll be on leave. On a smaller scale, I liken it to the times when Doug Anthony acted as Prime Minister from a caravan on the North Coast.

Although I still have some friends in the area, and we catch up at this time of the year, coming home at this time of the year is very much about family. This is the area I grew up in, and which remains “home”, even if I also mostly call Sydney “home”. I have lots of lots of relatives in the area, and I’ll stay with and visit many of them.

Hopefully, I’ll also have a few tales to tell.