Canberra has been in Lockdown for over two months now and there are just one or two highlights every day that keep us afloat. We are allowed a daily walk, and fortunately there are many paths and bush trails near us…
and lots of gardens to look at along the way.
Even in the middle of winter, it is lovely to get outside and walk around. Another daily highlight is buying a take-away coffee at our local café. It’s the small pleasures that count.
The Brindabella Mountains around us are a deep blue hue in winter and early spring. Even with our mandatory masks on, the clear mountain air is a tonic.
Almost everyone I know has become a bit more reflective in Lockdown, we all appreciate family, friends and neighbours now that we cannot spend time with them. People need people!
During this time I have been putting together some of my family history. ..and not for the first time I’m reminded of my family’s good fortune in emigrating to Australia.
It has taken three generations for my family to find a place to call home, and how lucky we are to live in Australia.
My father was born in Scotland of Irish parents…amongst his many stories he talked about hiking in the mountains of Scotland ….
I’m sure he would have loved to spend his life in the wide open spaces, which he always loved, but earning a living was the most important thing to do and he applied for and got an apprenticeship on the Clyde River in Glasgow.
My father and his brother decided to emigrate to Africa, for work, and in my father’s case, for adventure. As they boarded the ship, my grandmother stood on the dock, and said
“I wish you were all wee again”.
It was only when I was a mother myself that I realised the poignancy of that remark, he thought he was off for an adventure, but she knew the truth. Both her sons left for a better life and she never saw them again.
My mother was born in Ireland, and brought up in South Africa.
Her father and mother left Belfast and ”the troubles” only to find life in their new continent just as difficult.
My mother became a nurse, and she and my father moved to what was then Northern Rhodesia, and is now Zambia.
Although my parents had excellent skills to survive in a new country, my father had always wanted to be a farmer, and so they accepted a job of farming and care-taking a farm in a remote part of Zambia called Abercorn. In the way of new migrants, my aunt and uncle came to stay on the farm as well, and all their skills together, kept them afloat.
My older brothers and my parents loved this time of their lives, despite the trials and tribulations. The stories they told were wonderful, and I feel I missed out on something special.
However, the remote farm was a precarious long term prospect, and my father and my uncle were able to get work in one of a cluster of copper mines in Zambia.
I was born in the small mining town of Mufulira. My brothers and I had a happy childhood in this town, but, over time, there were tensions as Zambia struggled for independence. It was our temporary home.
Eventually, at the difficult age of 55, my parents made the decision and we left Africa for Australia. I was eighteen and my brothers were in their early twenties. We had a clean slate and a future full of possibilities in Australia.
It was more difficult for my parents. They left behind relatives and friends, people who had the same experiences and interests as themselves. Just as many migrant children have done, we became the bridge between our parents and the new country. At an age when we were leaving the family home, we were helping them make a home. We worried about them, often without realising how resilient they were.
When I married, it was to a 5th generation Australian. (although Paul’s ancestors are Irish too!) I was glad to know that my children had ancestors, not only from all over the world, but also in the country of their birth. Our daughters have a natural sense of belonging in Australia, they wear their nationality with ease.
The initial struggle to live in a new country was successful for my parents. They came to love Australia, and over the years they appreciated the landscape, the Australian humour, and the uncomplicated way of life.
They loved their big garden, and filled it with mango, avocado and many failed attempts at pawpaw trees. Many years later, although the house and garden have long been sold, the avocado trees survive…. which just goes to show, you can’t keep a good avocado tree down!
Lockdown is almost over in Canberra, and we will, very tentatively, begin moving around, and seeing family and friends again.
Best wishes to everyone and stay safe and sensible!