FAMILY HISTORY – THE STORY OF YOUR CHILDREN

Today, my 76 year old mother in law told me the poignant story of the passing of her beloved father. I listened in awe Рnot so much because it was a harrowing tale, but more because I was engaged in a process that people have been engaged in for millennia. I was listening the history, the oral history of our family. This was the story of where our family comes from and more specifically where my children come from. It is  Рin a sense Рtheir story and they are one of the characters. They continue to write it as it unfolds through their lives.

 

I have always loved history and consider myself the family historian. I have an old worn out green box, that belonged to my grandfather (I think), where I keep photographs, birth, marriage or school certificates, funeral leaflets and letters, precious letters, of people that belong to me. I love the feel and smell of them. It is as if I am reaching back in time and touching a long gone era. My oldest photograph is dated 1914, ¬†some 103 years ago. I’m not sure of the identity of the people, and work on tracing them.

 

My great grandmother, Rowena Blanche Adams, came from St Helena island in her late teens to find work in South Africa. So many letters and postcards to her, from her family on the island, are now treasured in my tired box. It is their story – their joys and tragedies. Her own is one of bravery. I dont know if I would have the fortitude to leave home alone and carve out a new destiny in a new land, with the knowledge that I might never return or never have contact with my loved ones again. This was an age where whatsapp, email, instagram and facebook were not thought of. She went on to have more than 10 children without the comfort of her own family around her.We are told that some very sad things had befallen some of her children. In her later years she fell and hurt herself and chose not to walk again. This from a woman who had braved so much. I wish I could ask her questions.

 

One day I will share my box with my children so that they can learn their own story – what had happened before their part was written.

OUR FAMILY RITUALS

Our family has so many rituals. Some are – when you come to think of it – unusual. Like pickle fish at Easter time or home made ginger beer at Christmas or spicy syrup and coconut koeksusters on Sundays. I know this is tradition among different cultural groups in South Africa or common to them all. And there is always competition, albeit whispered discreetly behind cups of tea as to whose is better or whose is down right awful.

 

Our family (on my mother side) has wine sauce with Christmas pudding. It’s yum and I’m yet to find another family who does the same. Okay, okay, don’t lambaste me if you have its famous recipe treasured in your family’s December memories. My aunts used to set aside a day to bake a wide variety of biscuits every December before Christmas (pinched date cookies – never seen them anywhere else). And the same cookies would only make their appearance once a year.

 

My husband and his five siblings recall fried rice, roast potatoes and chicken as the dinner time meal for every birthday.

 

My mum in law turned seventy six in the week. The family came together for pot luck. And as usual, the family favorites arrived hot and delicious. Aunty Ursula’s Lesagna and Oumies cheese, spinach and chicken pie. And of course fried rice, roast potatoes and chicken.

 

And then there’s that photo that everyone forgets was taken and surfaces years later to show kids smiling around the birthday cake. It’s so nostalgic to look at them years later and think of something special from your past.

 

I love family rituals so much. We’ve started our own. Sean takes a walk with the kids late on Saturday afternoons to hire a movie for the evening.

 

We go out for dinner with the extended family on the kids birthdays and have a party for their friends on the following weekend. They get to choose the theme, gran gets to roll out the fondant and I get to spend hours icing the cake to their exact specifications.

 

My kids take it in turns to lay the table every night in the style that they want. Sometimes the plates and glasses are piled high in the Centre of the table. Other times it’s orderly and the layer of the table gets to tell everyone where to sit because it’s their turn and their idea.

 

We never started all of this intentionally. It just flowed naturally from the mixed masala of personalities that make us us. Rituals are unusual things – they have the power to create a strong sense of unity, togetherness and identity. And all of these will turn into memories that we cherish and give us a sense of where we come from and who we belong to.