In many ways, I found my tribe when I met my family in Wangaratta.
This was quite unexpected. I’ve met some of them before, admittedly as a child on my best behaviour under the eagle eye of my mother. I guess I assumed I knew them all, despite having only met a couple of them.
The first thing that struck me was the family resemblance. They look like my mother. No one ever looks like my mother, but all of these people did. One of my mother’s sisters looks so much like her that I was continually glancing at her. Although her appearance was strikingly similar, she was far more outgoing than my mother is.
And they write! This was a big one for me. I have been a writer since about the age of seven. Writing helps me think, helps me relax, helps me daydream and find solutions and understand the world. My mother writes letters, but beyond that there are no other writers in the family I grew up with, and at times my writing time was forcibly curtailed to get me out of doors and participating in local sports. Not my scene at all, but the world I lived in. Writing for me has always been surreptitious, something I couldn’t stop but knew was an aberration.
In Wangaratta, I was amongst a group of people who treated writing as part of life. One of my aunts, it turns out, is a published author. One of my cousins is another. They write in very different genres but the love of written expression is the same. Those who do not write complete books write newsletters, diaries and pamphlets for their workplaces and hobby groups. These people were word people. The family is not highly educated, many of them working in manual labour or industrial jobs, but they are thinkers and perceivers. One of my cousins, now aged nineteen, and my own son, are the first in the family to go to university. Education was another strong area of interest in the family and we discussed different education systems in some depth, all of us knowing a great deal of background.
When researching a family tree I often do see interests which are passed down the generations, but I have always assumed they were interests encouraged by the older family members. My own mother was raised as a foster child without knowledge of this family, and she certainly did not know about their love of writing. So how is that I have it too? My grandfather’s desire to be a journalist came back to me this week with more meaning. Even by just meeting the family, I had gained a new clue about him.
Despite all this, what I learned about my grandfather was that he was something of a mystery to all of them. He will be the subject of my next blog post.