Posts Tagged With: memories

Memories

Memories are enigmatic. Fact and memory are not necessarily identical. Are the memories real or constructed? Are they made from genuine moments or reconstructed by photos and family tales? Where, exactly, does the truth sit? Or when it comes to the past is truth only relative anyway?

My earliest memory centres on a wooden leg standing in corner of a darkened bedroom. Only many years later when I asked my mother about it did she tell me that it belonged to a great grandfather and I had seen it when we visited him. I must have been about two and a half at the time and the disembodied leg has been etched in my memory ever since. Other memories from that time include hiding under a desk which had drawers on either side and feeling secure while the adults talked. Taking a lolly from behind the counter at the barber’s is another. A warm recollection involves being held and cuddled by an Aunty and my bare foot exploring her coat pocket as she always had a treat for her one and only nephew. There are vague recollections too of the trip to Australia on the Johan van Oldenbarnevelt.

On the Johan van Oldenbarnevelt

By the time I emigrated to Australia I was three and a half. This life changing event only holds vague and, on the whole, unreliable memories. There was a model of a ship floating in a barrel. My parents couldn’t substantiate that one. There was also an overall sense of sadness. Not, I think, from leaving Holland but rather from the separation on the boat from my parents for long periods of time. I am told that I was sent to a crèche and that I didn’t like being with crying younger children. One clear image is standing on a lower deck and seeing my parents on the deck above – that memory is always associated with a severe heartache.

My memories take on a firmness (whether true or not!) after our arrival in Australia. All the recollections of the Anderson family at “The Hill” in Mepunga West: Ola, Beth, Old Mrs Anderson and the rest of the multi personalitied clan, represent a tangled ball of wool in which times and events are, after 65 years, impossible to disentangle. The overwhelming emotions, however, are one of joy and security. Even if I wasn’t fully aware of having left a family behind I was now truly embraced by a new one. The main characters in this experience have all passed on but they are still solidly secure in my head and heart.

“Helping” with the milking, feeding hay to the herd and taking the full milk cans to the depot near Smith’s Post Office and telephone exchange (a room at the back of another farm house) and the glorious spread of the afternoon tea before the second milking are all memory-videos that I can replay in my mind without hesitation.

After a few months at the Anderson’s we moved to a house in Allansford opposite the Post Office.

The warning my father gave me about not entering the shed was crystal clear. Many years later I found out that there was a water storage under the shed but floor of the shed floor had become rotten over time and one could fall through the floor and drown.

I had two Uncles who had arrived two years earlier and had been welcomed by the Anderson family. One of these, Adrian, built me a cart.

A clear evocation is walking to the depot (a truck-tray height platform where farmers brought their milk cans every morning and evening) and hanging a billy can on one of a series of nails alongside the platform and then picking up a billycan of fresh milk later in the day. The depot was a little way along the highway out of town. I am sure that my mother would have come with me but all I can recall is walking with the billy can along the side of the road.

Christopher Ingles’ parents owned the local general store just a few metres from our house. Fortunately for me they were kindly people who communicated with my parents. I learned an important life lesson in this store which was that you needed to pay for things in a shop. You couldn’t just walk in and get stuff!

I hadn’t started school yet and my mother had visions of me riding a horse to school. Mum got these visions from some of the films the authorities had shown prospective migrants about Australia. The only problem was that the school was 150 metres away – or should I say “yards” as this was predecimal Australia. In any case it didn’t matter as we moved to Ocean Grove before I started school.

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The Sands of Time

The other day my wife and I took our grandson (15 months) for a walk along the beach near the town where I grew up. Now I need to add that my family gets weary of me telling them about all the events that happened to me in or near this town. Then the roads weren’t paved, the street lights went out at midnight and we could leave our doors unlocked etc. However, now I have a new generation to pester!

teddy-and-me

Grandson and Granddad

The beach we walked on was the one I cleaned every summer during my High School years. From 5 am in the morning to 10 am my mate and I wandered along the beach with our buckets collecting the detritus of the previous day. If the wind was right we also found the loose change that had fallen out of pockets. The coins would sit on little mounds as the sand would have been blown from around them over night. On a good day this would increase our income by 10%. Later I got a promotion to toilet cleaner. This meant I had to clean 13 toilet blocks along this stretch of coast line but I got to drive the old Land Rover from block to block!. My final step up was garbage collector. Then I had reached the pinnacle of my career! Today the rubbish tip has become a golf course and I think to myself, I helped build that!

My favourite story from my time working on the foreshore was when I was preparing the tracks along the campsites before the influx of summer holidaymakers by removing excess sand using a tractor with a scoop. Hooning around a corner with the bucket in the air I

telephone-lines

Old fashioned telephone lines- Google images

collected telephone lines snapping quite a few and interrupted a few conversations. My boss was initially livid but later thanked me because he had been asking the PMG (telecom of its day) for years to have the lines placed underground – which happened because of my youthful foolishness.

The road between my town and the next meandered for 3 kilometres through sand dunes and tea tree. Our town having been a Methodist resort was “dry”. No alcohol was sold within its boundaries. The town next door was under no restrictions. So this route was rather popular at the end of the day among certain gents. However the problem was that Victoria had a “6 o’clock” closing law. All hotels had to stop serving alcohol by 6 pm (this was repealed in 1966). So drinkers had to scull (Aussie vernacular for drinking) their beer as quickly as they could. For the drinkers in my town this made the homeward journey rather interesting if not hair raising.

One of our neighbours, we’ll call him Claude, terrified the locals and the streets in our town were very quiet, children pulled inside and dogs tied up, when we  knew he was coming home.

Now I have a grandson it is incumbent upon me to instill his family history at every opportunity.

 

Categories: Family, Uncategorized | Tags: , | 4 Comments

Memories That Shape

Two days ago I posted a poem my wife wrote about the death of her father 50 years ago when she was only seven. Her two sisters were nine and two years of age.

Last Sunday was the anniversary of her last “Fathers’ Day” with her dad and today is the anniversary of his death.

Hetty's Family048

My wife (right), her sisters and their Papa … and the puss.

Fifty years later the events of this day are still firmly embedded in her mind. The events, the emotions and the memories have remained clear all these years.

Dad’s are such a critical presence in a child’s life. Even an absent dad.

The girls grew up with a mythology of what having a dad would have been like. Our first argument after we were married was about who would take the rubbish bin out. In my wife’s mind this was the job her father would have done for his wife if he had been alive. I lost the argument – and most others since.

In many ways my wife’s memories of seven years are just as powerful as my memories of my father over 44 years. Her memories of family walks, dad coming home after work, meal times, stories and the like are etched so clearly and deeply – reinforced by years of remembered loss.

Not all the memories, we have discovered over time, were accurate. Because there was a tool box in the house didn’t mean that he was a brilliant handyman. That is what my wife thought and that is the image that she compared me with. She found out many years after we were married that this was far from the truth. This took some of the burden off me!

Warm memories are like treasures which we nurture and protect. We can take them out of the box every now and then to admire and to reminisce. They give perspective and depth to our lives and take us out of our present and anchor us in our past.

Categories: Children, Family, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

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