Flowers and grief: for my mother

Recently I posted about Vermont Street, Sutherland, where I lived from 1952-1955, and again in 1963-4. The circumstances of that first sojourn are well expressed in my mother’s words from the 1960s:

Then in 1945 the guns of War ceased. We hoped so vainly they had stopped for all time–and the father came home. The next few years held struggle of a different kind for the young weary parents whose lives, like so many, had been so deviously interrupted. To return to the normal, the everyday, does not perhaps seem difficult, but it is so very difficult, as so many found. Everything had altered, values and concepts had changed. One thing sustained this young family–the love of man for woman, of woman for man, of man and woman for their children. To hope, to pray, with faith, that some day, sometime, there would be a better world for all to live in. Again the years went swiftly–two years, four years, ordinary troubles, measles, mumps, broken arms, children’s hurts to mend–the guiding, the helping, the encouraging, the children growing, the joys, the laughter.

The babe of 1940 [my sister Jeanette] was now a slight, fair, lovable schoolgirl of twelve. So proud were the parents of this so dear a child who held the promise of the future in her clear blue eyes. The dreams they had–the dreams she had–such lovely dreams, such beautiful golden dreams.

The father and the mother bought a house, their first “own” home. Just an ordinary house in an ordinary street, in an ordinary suburb, in an Australian city. A house with room enough for the children to grow in to live in, to be “home” in all its true and good meaning. Moving day came with all its pressures, its turmoils, but with happiness in the hearts. The unseen figure in the shadows moved closer and struck, taking with it back to the shadows the beloved child, the child with so much promise, so many dreams–the child whose very presence had helped the mother’s war-torn soul through the years and whose sparkling nature had helped the father through the rehabilitation period. The beloved blue eyes were closed to this world forever.

So we were all grieving in that place, I see now more clearly: my father, brother, and myself no less than my mother. I can recall nightmares often involving death, and odd little memorials made of pebbles that I would make in various obscure parts of the garden.

My mother took to growing flowers, even winning a prize in the local flower show for her pansies or sweet peas or violets — I don’t quite recall which. Her flowers were those of that time — no natives among them. That came later when we moved to Kirrawee and had waratahs and wattles and bottlebrush in abundance.

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Sweet peas

iceland-poppy

Iceland poppies

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Violets

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Pansies

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Phlox

Did you know that Iceland poppies have nothing to do with Iceland?

65 years on I recall Vermont Street

See Frameworks for belief — 2 – my world 1952 to 1959. A repost and Curiosities and ephemera 5: 1955. There you will find these:

Here was my world from 1952 to 1955-6: Vermont Street Sutherland, NSW.

Vermont Street

And here I am in that world, towards the end of the period.

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That is April 1955 and I am in the front yard of 1 Vermont Street with my mother.  I am 11 years old, and newly at Sydney Boys High. I had had a serious illness just three or four months before – pancreatitis – so I may look a touch thin still. All the ribbons are because we are going to the GPS Regatta at Penrith, a big deal in those days and perhaps even more so in my family. I was the first in the family entitled to go as I was in a GPS school – albeit the only state-owned one – as I would later be the first in the family to go to university.

Just three years earlier my sister had died – 61 years ago today*. She was cremated and her urn placed in a rose garden at Woronora Cemetery, which she now shares with Grandma and Grandpa Christison, who died in 1959 and 1963 respectively…

* January 2013

And this from the other post:

Oh dear, yes, that is me…

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That’s my Aunt Fay on the left, then my mother, then ? the mother of my sister-in-law ?, then me in SBHS rig as I was in what we would now call Year 7. The photo, I suspect but don’t really remember, was taken on my brother’s wedding day. It was certainly taken at 1 Vermont Street, Sutherland…

Except now in 2017 it is no longer 1 Vermont Street, but 48, and it seems to be in a sorry state…

vermont1

And across the road another house where I lived at the age of 21 is completely gone, the developers having moved in. The white house on the corner is still recognisable, however, and the reservoir up the street, though much expanded since 1952-1955.

vermont2
Time! Yet lately I have found myself thinking about Vermont Street in the 1950s. It is amazing how detailed my memory of the interior of that house, as it was then, still is in my mind!

Neil’s Family Specials — a reminder

I spent most of May setting up a sequence of posts about the Whitfields and Christisons, my paternal and maternal lineages. If you go to Neil’s Family Specials you will be taken back to 1815 and Ireland and Scotland. Keep scrolling and the posts will take the story from convict days here in NSW through the 19th century, World War 1 and finishing in the late 1920s on the south coast of NSW where my mother and father eventually met.

Do look. I have enjoyed creating the resource, primarily for family connections but family history so often is a good way into history more generally.

Here is a letter from my great-grandmother, Sophia Jane Christison, on the occasion of the death of my grandfather, Thomas Daniel Sweeney Whitfield in 1948. You can read more about both as well as about other ancestors in that family history sequence.

19481948a

Family history project finished!

For the past month I have been compiling a series of posts, mainly from 2015 but with quite a few interpolations, tracing aspects of the journeys of my Whitfield ancestors from Ireland and my Christison ancestors from Scotland. You can begin simply by going to Neil’s Family Specials and Memory Hole and scrolling down for as long as you like!

Sydney was a tad different c.1815:

C 359 Joseph Lycett's painting of Natives and the North Shore of Sydney Harbour, courtesy of Mitchell Library.lightbox

1815