Dear Friends, Family and Followers…
Welcome to my desk!
I am sure that I am not alone when I say that I wish I could travel back in time and revisit my grandparents, great grandparents, great aunts and uncles, all those characters who are no longer here. If I had my time over again, I would become a precocious child and incessantly question them about the past. What would you do if you had a second chance, before your loved ones are gone from this life? What would you do in an ideal world?
In my ideal world I could visit my ancestors; I could revisit the past. My train carriage would transport me through a tunnel of time into my ancestral world of old. I’d wave from my first class seat, to familiar faces, not yet lined by time. I’d stare into their sparkling eyes; not yet dulled by the sadness that tragedy of Wars and loss brings into their lives. Yes, I’d watch through the window of my carriage and marvel how I can be a witness to their lives in full bloom, a time when their futures appear so shiny bright, full of wonderful hopes and dreams.
Passing the cane-fields of “Strathfield”, my family’s farm, I’d wave to my Grandfather as he drives his red tractor up and down the drills. I’d disembark from my carriage and hail a ride; I’d climb up beside my Grandfather’s seat. We’d chat as he steers; about his years of youth; about my Dad as a child; about his romance with my Grandmother. Alternatively, if I could choose certain moments in time, I could stop in on my Grandfather, the boy, where he grew up with his brothers on the family farm of Fontenoy.
If my Grandmother happens to appear, whilst I’m there, I would engage in a conversation about her religious beliefs. Instead of listening with deaf teenager ears, I would listen intently and tell her she was right in her thinking that ‘religion should be an important part of people’s lives’; how the world is falling apart, now that churches are closing; how foreign influences are invading our wellbeing and peace. But then again, that would only fill her with unrelenting grief.
Perhaps I could take an adventure tour. I would mount a horse and follow the well-worn trails of free spirits like my Aunty Nelly and her sister Lily as they rode their horses across the grassy plains. I’d be privy to their secret romances and escapades with equally spirited local lads. I’d drop in on their Father, my Great Great Grandfather, the canefarmer, horse dealer, engineer, miner and an all- round genius of a man. He was a man of fortitude, so they say, although I never had the pleasure of meeting the man, who they say would dare to do, if he was dared he couldn’t. What a pleasure that would be, to actually meet a real man of steel.
How I would love to visit his older daughter, my Great Grandmother, crowned by her auburn haired beauty of youth. It was a beauty that disappeared by the end of her ninety two years. Despite how wonderful such a visit would be, it would also bring me much sadness, knowing the pain and hardships she is yet to face. I would gladly sit in on her classrooms as she teaches children to read and write; to see her happy face as she is romanced by the handsome young man who would ask her to become his wife. Lastly, I would ask her questions, oh how I would ask all the questions I never thought to ask during my eight years of visiting her house.
Wouldn’t it be fun to stop in on the 1950’s, the period of Rock and Roll, when my parents were only twenty something years old. According to their stories, life was pretty cool where they grew up in the small town of Giru. They romanced in cafes over malted milks, spiders and the like. There were cafes with sweet names like “Blue bird” or “The Candy Shoppe” where they listened to the latest music played on those big ole Jukeboxes that were ablaze with coloured flashing lights. They cruised their big bawdy cars down the main streets of local towns each Friday and Saturday night. Oh what a sight it must have been.
There are so many names and faces on my list, of those I’d love to see. There are so many conversations I would love to have; perhaps rewrites of conversations from the past. These are the ones I wish I had; the ones that only occurred to me as I enter middle age myself. Many of my ancestors I only knew in their twilight years; whereas I want to see them in full youthful bloom, living life fearlessly and free. I long to see them dance to the beat of their authentic drums, instead of moving to the tunes of labels like ‘Grandmother’, ‘Great Aunt’, or ‘Great Uncle’. How I would love to visit each and every one of them in a world beyond that I know; to meet them again, to enjoy a vibrancy that had long faded with the dawning of old age. Yes, this is a journey I would take again and again, to my ideal world through that tunnel of time, to a world where my ancestors would become eternal friends of mine.
Of course, the next best thing is to ask questions of those who remember the dearly departed; to sit down with those who are still with us and discuss the past, before they too are gone.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank those cousins who have assisted me on my journey of discovering the life and times of my Great Grandparents, William and Harriet Lyons. Each time I have asked a relative to share their memories with me, they have replied “I don’t think I can really help you.” However, each and every one of them have imparted a wealth of information. Even the smallest piece of memory, no matter how insignificant it may seem, is invaluable. A jigsaw puzzle is made up of many small pieces. So is one’s life. So, many thanks to you all.
On that note, I will bid you farewell until Thursday when we return to the past; to another chapter in the Boer War Conflict.