Saturday, August 29, 2009

Family history

My mum and stepdad are here from the big smoke. They are here for a quick sticks visit before going back to Austria to help my grandparents move into a retirement village. They aren't really my grandparents by birth, but they are the old people who have been in my life since I was born - so it's the best way to describe them.

So anyways, after Persepolis, I started to think about how so many families have interesting and sad stories. And then I was all like...hang on, like mine.

My dad has told me a heap of interesting stories about growing up in Europe during the second world war, but it is the stories from my mother which have always held a kind of mythical draw for me. They are mythical in the sense that she doesn't like to talk about that part of her history, so as a child I picked up bits and pieces and, I guess, have created my own version of events. Some parts are true and some parts are from a childs imagination.

My mums dad fought in World War 2 and never came back. Then her mother died during childbirth - which I thought was so bittersweet...a woman gives birth as her husband is away at war and tragically dies. I think thats the bit I made up. I'm not sure what she died of, but it was a bit after the war and she had another partner, but that was kept under wraps so my mums mum could keep claiming some sort of war pension. That was all well and good, until she died, and that meant my mum had to go to foster care while her step dad got to keep her half siblings.

So she went to foster care at age four or five and lived on a farm. It didn't sound like fun, because she was put to work, and there wasn't much love or money. Just a little girl stuck on a farm, confused and alone.

Somehow, about seven years on, my mums Aunty and Uncle found her, and took her away from the foster family to live in a small village called Kaprun. They are the old people she is visiting that I call my grandparents.

That life wasn't a bundle of laughs either, but fast forward, and my mum ends up living in Australia, with no english, no family, nothing. Then she has a family of a boy and then a wonderful, cute little girl. Hey - my blog, my story!

My memories kick in here. Trips back to the homeland to find her mothers grave. I remember her tears and then mine as a child, upset at my own mother is crying. The grave was never found, because so many people died and they kind of buried people on top of each other. I might have made that bit up, but I'm pretty sure I didn't, because I remember having the bunch of flowers to take to the grave and then the same bunch coming back home with us.

Then there was the next trip, where mum was reunited with a half blind lady who I thought was a step sister. She lived in Graz, in a funny little apartment block right up the top floor. I remember the blinds being drawn and a dark room full of cigarette smoke. Now looking back, I think that woman was her foster mum.

On another trip I witnessed my mum reunited with her older sister, a relationship which is now complicated by feelings of betrayal and jealousy. And then there are the siblings who have never been found...and probably a hundred more details and stories to fill in the gaps.

I'm not sure if I'll ever know the truth, but I think it is amazing that so many ordinary people hold onto extraordinary stories.

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