Mothers Day & Two Years of Blogging

I started this blog coming up to Mother’s Day 2017; I write this one on Mothering Sunday 2019. Didn’t really know back then what the blog was for, other than a desire to share what was in my head. I am somewhat surprised to find, looking back, that I have actually carried out what I intended to do – write about family ramblings, history and observations. I don’t even need to edit my “About” page – except to note that I’m now 65 – as it’s pretty much what I would say today.

I don’t know why I should find this so surprising. I suppose its reassuring to find that I can look back on my 60-odd posts with a degree of pride, and realise that it was probably in me all the time to write consistently and regularly, instead of my rather sporadic attempts in the past. I suppose there was a fear at the back of my mind that I’d make a start only for it to peter out after a while. But it hasn’t. I have what you might call a body of work behind me now and I no longer worry that I’ll run out of things to say. I have screeds of topics lined up that will keep me writing for weeks, months, years to come.

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Some posts almost write themselves, pop in to your head practically fully formed. Others (like this one!) are more of a process of discovery, of delving into one’s skull to try and find out what it is I want to say about a topic. Even when there’s a lot of research, there’s always the question of how to present it, what to leave in, what to leave out. Because I’ve realised that the way you tell a story reveals much, above all, about yourself. You don’t necessarily write it all down, but the process forces you to examine and perhaps re-evaluate what you thought you knew. If you are delving into the past it’s almost inevitable that you will find pain and hurt, whether its your own or someone else’s.

I’ve mentioned before that my intention here is not to uncover dark secrets, but rather to appreciate better the circumstances that made people – and yes, myself – who they were. And more than that, to understand and forgive. The stories, the facts, are always fascinating, the truths universal, and, I venture to suggest, worth sharing!

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I have to confess I felt a bit bereft when I recently came to the end of what turned out to be the 10-part saga of the history of my childhood home. I’d imagined it would be worth two or three posts when I started, but once I got into it…! And the latter part of course was largely about my mother, whose story, for more than half of her long life, was inextricably entwined with that of our house.

And yet she left it without a backward glance. I always felt, in that time when she became confused and lost the ability to safely be left on her own, that it was a kindness that her brain had drawn a veil over that period. She didn’t know it, but we sisters took over the care of the house from her, cleared it out, gave it a fresh coat of paint and, not without some considerable soul searching, let it pass on to someone else.

The one thing my Mum never forgot was her love for all of us. Names would come and go, but those feeling were at her core. I could (and probably will!) grumble on about the shortcomings of my upbringing, but at the end of the day none of that matters any more. I read once that one’s parents’ shortcomings are what make us who we are. I really hope that’s true because, though we do our best, we’re only human and we all fall short in one way or another. I never cease to be grateful and proud of the amazing, delightful people that my own children have turned out to be.

In the end, what matters to me on this Mothering Sunday is the love of my children and grandchildren and the infinite tenderness of my memories of that singular woman who was my mother.

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Thankfulness

 

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You find some lovely quotes when you type ‘thankfulness’ into Google, especially at this time of the year when our America cousins are starting to prepare for their Thanksgiving Day in November. I’m going to use just a few of those quotes to illustrate this post. The occasion? I’m having myself a mini celebration of nearly a year and a half of blogging and as I look forward to making my 50th post quite soon, I’m feeling grateful that I’ve come this far and want to pay tribute to all those who have encouraged and supported me along the way. I honestly had no idea when I started just how much of a collaborative effort it would turn out to be…

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ANCESTORS. Starting with my dear mum and dad, John and Nellie, and back through grandparents, great grandparents and beyond, I am truly thankful for the lives they lived, their struggles, triumphs and tragedies. My quest to understand their lives and the influences that made them the people they were have enriched my understanding of myself and my own genetic heritage.

SISTERS. My five sisters have had to put up with MY take on our shared upbringing for the past 19 months and deserve to be thanked for their great patience and forbearance, which I do most sincerely. I also want to thank them for their interest and encouragement throughout this continuing journey of discovery and in particular the sister who has stayed with me every step of the way, unfailingly prepared to prop me up and offer new insights whenever my momentum started flagging. You know who you are!

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COUSINS. I hope you all know how much I appreciate the odd word of encouragement and answers to impertinent questions, that come from my lovely first cousins, especially Michael and John and Pauline – and any others who also read the blog without putting your head above the parapet! Not to mention my couthy third cousin Catriona in Fort William, who is always keen to know where the bodies are buried, and Liz in South Africa (also a third cousin), who I never even knew existed until she wrote to me a few months ago after reading the blog. Both have shared freely their knowledge and memories of aspects of the family I was only dimly aware of. As has the lovely Steve Bentley who helped greatly in increasing my comprehension of the Bentley side of our family.

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FAMILY HISTORIAN. A third cousin I WAS aware of, but had no contact with until a few months ago is Robert MacFarlane of South Africa. It is Robert I have to thank for screeds and screeds of information and pictures and documents related to our family history which it has been his mission to collect over the past 35 years or so, and which he has generously made available to me to use as I wished. Not to mention his great patience in answering my stupid questions and unreasonable demands for more pictures!

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BLOGGERS and OTHER FOLLOWERS. The world of blogging was a mystery to me when I first started, but I quickly learned what a marvellous new community I had joined when I had my first ‘like’ from fellow blogger Caralyn, aka BeautyBeyondBones. Perhaps she just took pity on a newcomer, but she has been a faithful follower ever since, and I follow her, learning much about blogging in the process and also enjoying her unique perspective on the world. I don’t have a lot of followers, but let me tell you I very much appreciate the ones I have, getting the odd comment from them, joining in conversations, and learning, always learning. We hear a lot about how nasty the internet can be, but it is also full of kindness and intelligence and that’s something else to be thankful for. I’d like to mention Val (Colouring the Past), Luanne (The Family Kalamazoo), Elizabeth (My Descendant’s Ancestors), Pancho, Dr Perry, Kat, to name just a few of the blogs I now follow – and would recommend to everyone!

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And of course, there are friends who express interest when I say I have a blog and are then kind enough to to follow up their curiosity by actually reading my ramblings. Perhaps you don’t realise how encouraged I am by your interest, so I’m telling you now – thank you! Not to mention those who just stumble upon it by accident – you have my thanks too!

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Gratitude is of course a choice, a way of life. I’d like to think it was my default setting, but I’m just as likely as anyone to find myself moaning about the imperfections of daily life, the aches and pains, the frustrations, the times when things don’t go the way I want, the things I don’t have or can’t do. Which is why I’m taking a moment to ‘re-set’ myself and really and truly count my many blessings, not just regarding my blog, but for the beauty and abundance of life in general.

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Blog, Book or Burial?

Well, blog of course – you’re reading it! Maybe bits of it will turn into a book in the fullness of time, I’d certainly like to think so. But for the moment, this blog is the perfect medium for gathering together and sharing the random material that constitutes my family – and personal – archive. And it also reflects the random way the subject matter has come to me, both physically and mentally.  The alternative would be that all these memories, reminiscences, new revelations would remain buried somewhere in the recesses of my brain, until I start losing my marbles just like my dear old mum and no longer have the ability to get it all down in black and white – or even the glorious technicolour that the internet affords us these days. The clock is ticking!

I think I’ve always had an urge to gather ideas and create something out of them. ballet artWhen I was a child, I used to make scrapbooks (sadly no longer in existence). I’d spend hours searching through old books and magazines – not always waiting for the owner to be finished with them I have to confess – hunting out suitable pictures and composing pages on themes that interested me, ballet being the only one I can now remember. scraps #9And while I’m thinking about “scraps”, I also used to spend my pocket money on sheets like this one, and collect them in the pages of a book. When the craze was on, playtime at school would see us endlessly flicking though our well thumbed books of scraps looking for doubles to trade.

And then when ‘scraps season’ was over, we’d go on to the next obsession – marbles, hula hoops, ropes made out of elastic bands. I suppose children have done this from time immemorial. I remember football stickers and Rubik’s Cubes from my children’s day and I’m sure you’ll have your own particular favourites.

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I’ve diverted myself – so easy to do when you start trawling though Google! I wonder if you know what this is? roneoIt’s a Roneo duplicating machine, something I remember from student days in the 1970’s when I was involved in printing out hymnsheets, pamphlets, etc.  It was a lengthy, messy operation involving cutting a stencil by typing onto a sheet of heavy waxed paper and then cranking out copies while keeping your fingers crossed that the stencil didn’t tear or the machine have to be re-inked before you got to the end of your run. Said fingers inevitably ending up covered in the distinctive purple/blue ink the process involved.

roneo sheet

Having said all that, I loved this process of disseminating information – it always reminded me of the scene in the movies where the grizzled old editor would yell “run the presses” and you’d get a shot of the newspapers being churned out at high speed before cutting to a small boy in the street waving a copy and shouting “read all about it!” I know! I should have been a newspaper baron!

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By the time I was editor of I Spy News (playgroup newsletter) I’d progressed to photocopying. That makes it sound as if photocopying wasn’t invented until the 1980’s, but in fact a gentleman called Chester Carlston invented his electrophotography machine in 1938, way before I was born, I’ll have you know! Carlston’s machine utilised the properties of light and magnetism to make copies, but the detail I like best is that it took him a year of experimentation in the kitchen of his apartment, including several small fires and an angry wife, before he was successful. It took a further 20-odd years before Xerox started producing the first commercially viable machines, making Chester a wealthy man, so I’m sure his wife forgave him in the end.

What next? Word processing, desktop publishing, home scanning and printing, the Internet. We’ve come a long, long way since the Chinese first invented woodblock printing over 20 centuries ago. I would never have imagined when I was a child that “cut and paste” would come to mean something quite different from my scissors and glue activities. Instant communication is something we’ve come to expect in the 21st century. But I will never take for granted how wonderful it is to have a scrap book where I can draw upon a library of facts and illustrations from all over the world and have the ability in my own home to scan my precious old family photographs and share them with my kinsfolk and the world at large.

family collage