I have to start with my mother. My mother was a well liked person within her family. She had a large extended family sometimes scattered but mostly confined within the North East area of Victoria. She was not one to travel except to visit relatives. She was not inclined to leave home. She was not one to make friends outside her family. Her older sister was her best friend. She was the second youngest of a large Irish Family and as things go her older siblings made most of the decisions within the family. Her father had died before she was a teenager. She completed Primary school. She did not attend High School. She never had a job. She lived with her family on the family farm with her mother and siblings. She married when she was 20 and her husband was immediately transferred overseas. He was away for the next 5 years. She continued to live with her family and receive an allowance from her husband. She did make some extra money by doing dressmaking at home. She had her own sewing machine. Although she got on well with her siblings and mother she was not entirely happy. She was allocate housekeeping duties within the family. She had to clean the house and make the beds. She had to wash the floors. She had to prepare the meals for cooking but wasn’t allowed to do any purchasing. She had to wash the dishes. She had to wash the clothes. All this was before electricity. She resented this. She wanted to be out working in the paddocks. She wanted to drive tractors and cars. She wanted to sow the wheat. She always had a sense of unfairness.
When her husband returned from overseas they bought a dairy farm. She liked this but it took her away from easy reach of her mother. She felt the farm was in an isolated area too far away from what she was familiar with. If her husband deviated off the main road she always feared they may get lost. She had never learned to drive a car. She had no telephone. Nevertheless she enjoyed milking cows but still felt she was forced into housework.
Her husband was not a well man. He did not have any specific war injury but suffered from what would now be called PTSD. He did have some periods where he had to receive treatment. Once he had to be confined for a longer than normal period in Melbourne. This provoked a response from the relatives. The family rallied round. An aged unmarried Aunt volunteered to come and live with us and keep house. An unemployed casual labourer was employed to help milk the cows. My mother enjoyed this time. She could work all day down the paddock. She could supervise the casual labourer. Her Aunt took good care of the house and the children. She was in her element running things on the farm.
Her husband - my father - recovered to full health. He aways said he wanted to increase the family. My mother did not want this. They had no more children. Life continued on until they came into contact with a nurse who was visiting the next door neighbour. This nurse worked at a Salvation Army children’s home. She mentioned that all the children in the home were to be allocated out to families who were thinking of fostering children. All children had been placed except for one little girl. My father immediately volunteered to take the little girl and so we came into contact with a person who had a lasting impact on us all.
She was nearly 3 and quite grown up. This little girl transformed my mother. She transformed everyone. She was a bright happy smart delightful child. She settled in immediately. She was wonderful company. My mother took her to a dress shop and bought clothes. She took her to a hairdressing salon. The little girl would welcome everyone good morning by coming into their bedroom and jumping onto them if they were still in bed. Her happiness was infectious. She hugged everyone. She had a saying - sorry love.
She was only with us for 6 weeks. It went quickly but we all had a great time. Including her. But she had to return to the Home. The nurse came to pick her up. The little girl was taken to the car and as she got in most of us could not resist crying. The look of concern on the little girls face as she drove away has stayed with me. Why wouldn’t it. She had not been told she was leaving. It was thought better this way. She would only be getting into the car with the familiar nurse. When she saw us crying a look of great alarm came over face. Were we unhappy. What was happening? She waved furiously.
The Nurse arranged for us to have her over the next Easter. But she was not the same. The little girl seemed older and was much more guarded. She did not spontaneously hug you. She did not say - sorry love. She was not talkative. She was quiet. She knew she would be taken away again. When she left there was no crying this time.
Later on that year my parents visited the little girl's mother and suggested adoption. They saw the little girl and her 2 siblings and their mother. The little girls mother would not have it. She was returning the three to the Children’s Home but was not allowing fostering or adoption. She did not give reasons. My parents decided to not try and proceed any further. They both felt deeply about it and did not want any further distress.
I made several attempts to contact her over the years. I had no luck until the event of social media. 50 years later I tracked her down. When we met I did not recognise her. I thought she would look the same. I thought she would sound the same. I thought she would be the same little girl. She was not even the same person. She did not remotely look the same. So much had happened to her. But it was undoubtably her. She had been affected by lots of tragedy. It had scarred her. I had trouble dealing with her. I thought we would resume as we had left off. This wasn’t so. I was a disappointment to her. I did not share a number of her beliefs. I was detached from the things that concerned her.
Still there was lots to talk about. Surprisingly our paths had nearly crossed several times. I regretted that I didnt find her sooner. I might have made a difference in her life.
We were both shaped by childhood. She shaped me. Other things shaped her.