Dear Diary

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28 January 1915
Dear Diary,
Mother has been deceased for a year today, and socially I can now come out of any level of mourning, although Father doesn’t yet want that for me. I want to though, I need to start to feel more like myself. Living in this boarding house has suited Father and I well, it’s meant that we have clean linen and three meals a day, but I haven’t really been able to properly socialise. There is a piano downstairs in the parlour, and I am resolving now to start playing it after dinner a couple of times a week. If that is well received, as I believe it will be, then I will ask Essie Ackland, and some of my other friends to come around and help me hold some “At home” musicals for the war effort.
Eileen.

10 December 1915
Dear Diary,
Arthur has just told me that he’ll be shipping out for the Western Front in 10 days. I may never see him again, war being what it is. To think, if I hadn’t started playing mini concerts in the boarding house parlour, he’d have never come with his friend, and I would likely have never met him. I pray he comes home safe though, because I think I love him, and I think he loves me. We’ve promised to try to reconnect after he comes home, to see if there is any spark there for us in the long term. I pray there will be.
Eileen


These diary entries are my own creation based on known events that occurred within 1915 in the life of Eileen, my great grandmother.

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George, I will need some help.

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“George, I will need some help.” Helen’s voice came across the room firm, but calm.

“I will not manage without another pair of hands after James leaves. I am too old.”

George put down his newspaper and thoughtfully scanned the faces of his family in turn.

Helen, his ever patient wife and ten years his senior, the lines on her face and hands reflected her work and life ethics. She had borne him 6 children since their marriage, but had also suffered the deaths of their two eldest daughters. Their eldest, Elizabeth, had been a strong child, but even if she had lived, she would likely be married with her own family by now.

George considered Robert, their eldest son. Bob had not lived with them for some time now, having married his sweetheart some four years ago. He himself could do with Robert’s help around the home, and Diana, or Annie as she preferred to be called, would be able to help Helen.

“No, I do not want you to ask Bob and Annie. They need their own space.”

George didn’t answer, but his thoughts dutifully moved on.

Flora, as sweet and delicate as her name, could do little more than sit and sew all day. Her efforts did at least contribute to the household income. Wilhelmina was a capable house keeper and cook, and supported her mother well with these tasks, but could not be expected to do any more. James, the youngest, was due to move next year as part of compulsory military duties.

“All right dear,” George replied.

“Would you prefer a boy or a girl?”


George and Helen adopted a daughter sometime before January 1908. In the past I’ve written about this event as if the child was a family adoption, a niece or cousin from the extended family. This time I chose to write as if the only purpose for adopting the child was to gain household help due to age and infirmity. It should be noted though that she was well cared for and well loved by Helen and Flora at least, even if contact was lost between the families in later years. This story as well as the others I have written about Linda’s arrival into the family are fictional.

My name is James

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My name is James and I’m going to be 5 and I live at the railway station because Father is a guard on the train. I have a brother called Bob and two sisters Minnie and Flo.

I like living here because there are lots of hills to climb and then roll and slide down, sometimes I slide down when I don’t mean to, but sometimes I do it because I want to. There’s a good hill near Sunday Creek with not too many rocks but I have to be careful not to roll into the water because Mother gets scared if we go too close to the water. I used to have an older sister called Lizzie, but she drowned before I was born and that’s why Mother doesn’t like us going near water.

Some of the old men here like to dig holes and then make rocky mud pies with the dirt. They don’t do it the same way I do though, they use noisy machines and they say that they are looking for copper and gold. They showed me some copper that they found once, it just looked like dirty blue rocks to me.

There are some small trees here that I can hug, but there are lots more trees that even Father can’t hug. Bob and Minnie and Flo and me all held hands one day and tried to hug a tree, but we still couldn’t get all the way around. Bob reckons we’d have made it if Father or Mother had been there.

I like living in Mount Perry.


Based on facts, I tried to envisage what life could have been like for the almost 5 year old James and his concepts of where he lived at that time.

The Revelation

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The boy listened from the back yard. His mother and his sister were arguing again.

“I’m 25 years old mother! I want to get married and have my own family!”

“You’ve got a son already, you need to raise him.”

The boy was confused, his sister didn’t have children, did she?

“Mother! You promised you’d never mention that! How dare you! He’s 11 years old now, and you said I could marry after he reached 10 years. I’ve waited longer than we agreed.”

“He’s only just 11 years old, and I’m too old to be raising him any longer. You need to stay.”

“No! I’m leaving today, and I’m getting married in two weeks. And you can not – and will not stop me! Do you hear me Mother? You can not stop me!”

The boy looked towards the house to see his sister rapidly coming towards him, and in that second he realized that he knew exactly who the argument had been about. Him. He was the son. He had turned 11 years old just yesterday.

She was his mother, not his sister.

She embraced embraced the boy tightly, tears streaming down her face.

“It’s ok Mother,” he said gently, and as he said that word, mother, he felt in his heart that it was the right thing to say. He also felt his sister’s sobs, no, his mother’s sobs, get stronger and harder.

“I love you son,” came the whispered reply, “I always have, and I always will.”


A follow up to Fast Fiction – What now?

The Soldier and the Convict

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John was drunk. He knew that if he were caught he’d lose his ticket again, but right at that moment he didn’t care. As he raised his bottle to take another mouthful, he realized there was a pair of shiny boots in front of him. Boots that lead to the dark blue trousers and scarlet jacket of a soldier’s uniform, complete with the stripes of a Sergeant Major.

John cursed internally, “Shit, it’s Hardman.

John only knew of Sergeant Major Abel Hardman from what other convicts had told him. Hardman by name, hard man by nature, and you really did not want to cross his path on a bad day.

The Sergeant Major ordered John to his feet barking, “On your feet! What’s in the bottle?”

John handed the bottle to the Sergeant Major and made the herculean effort needed to get up. Falling against the wall, John slid half way back to the ground before he regained control of himself.

The Sergeant Major sneered at John, “Papers and name, now!”

John reached inside his jacket and pulled out his crumpled papers. Offering them to the Sergeant Major with shaking hands, he knew he was saying goodbye to his freedom.

John thought regretfully “Three years I’ve had that ticket, why did I have to go and get drunk. Stupid, stupid move.

“Wood, sir. John Wood is my name. I’m sorry sir.”


John Wood and Sergeant Major Abel Hardman were both in Sydney in 1840, John lost his Ticket of Leave that year for drunkenness, and through research I believe the two men could have very well crossed paths. Both men were 4th great grandfathers of mine, and their families connected with the marriage of their grandchildren many years after their respective deaths.