During the late 1930s, the Lebanese people in South Brisbane had taken a great liking to my father Ted. Perhaps these immigrants to our country related to my knock-about Cockney father who was himself an immigrant from England. They kept him busy renovating, painting and repairing their houses … and he had great affection for them too.
He loved their warm welcoming ways, which often included being fed as he was very tall and lean and they thought he needed building up! It was nothing for him to go from one Lebanese household to the next by way of recommendation, so it was just another job when he was asked to come and work at Merivale Street for my mother’s family.
However, this assignment was to change his life forever … he would meet my mother there and they would both find love. But, why am I writing about this? Because yesterday, thanks to the legacy that Mum and Dad began, we had a reunion for all the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of these two dear people … who are no longer with us.
Before going to sleep, I was mulling on the day and couldn’t resist writing in my Poppy Journal about the events that had unfolded during the day. Here is my entry:
Sunday 14th July 2014
The rain came early this morning and was in danger of totally ruining our family reunion day in a local park. I knew as soon as it began to pour down that we were in trouble. What to do? We had met every year for 22 years but now two years had gone by and we were restarting a new tradition; we were therefore reluctant to postpone it.
Thank God that help was at hand in the form of our daughter Maria! She offered her home – which was near the park – with its large dining room and big verandah with incredible city views. And so it came to pass that our ‘Christmas in July – Strachan Family’ was saved from a wash-out. Oh, how wonderful it was to be high and dry in a beautiful house; warm too as the whole family came together.
Such keenness on everyone’s part to meet up, warmed my heart … with only a few missing. As we chatted with each other – my brothers and sister, nieces, nephews and their many children – I was reminded of my Mum and Dad and the legacy they left behind when they passed away.
These two wonderful people, who met when my father was building my grandparents fence, had started it all. Their love affair began slowly as my mother was not impressed by the tall, skinny Cockney who tried to lure her with invitations to the ‘pictures’. It was his persistence more than his charm that eventually won her over!
Mum’s insistence that her younger sister Pauline come to the pictures with them was taken up and so began a regular occurrence of Dad taking the two sisters to the pictures every week … until Pauline finally refused to be the ‘third wheel’ any longer. Even the fresh peaches Dad bought the girls on one occasion, failed to impress when grubs were found in the peaches while they were being eaten. That was a story we heard often!
And so eventually, Mum was won over. In 1938 they married and had six children. Mum said she was never disappointed as she repeated the pattern: girl … boy … girl … boy … girl … boy. As us children grew, Dad always insisted that Mum had chased him because she came out to the fence and asked if he could fix her sewing machine (she was a dressmaker) which had broken down.
Despite protests, Mum never lived this story down … but we all knew the truth of the matter!
And so Marge and Ted began a family in 1940 that now spans three generations, who came together every year to form what we referred to as: ‘The Strachan Family Christmas.’ What a wonderful thing we created when we decided to meet together – 24 years ago – for our first Christmas without them. It has grown enormously since then and is now an institution in the family repackaged today as ‘Christmas in July – Strachan Family’. May it continue ever onwards …”
You see dear friends, Marge and Ted would be so proud of the strong family unit they created all those years ago. Who would have thought that a woman of Lebanese heritage and a man who came from within the sound of ‘Bow Bells’, would leave such a legacy? What an unlikely pair they were … so different: Mum educated and well dressed, Dad with grade five education and no taste in dress whatsoever! Yet it worked.
I thought about them yesterday as we chatted and laughed whilst children ran in and out. Of course, our eldest Margaret who died on New Year’s Day was not with us and we missed her, but I am sure she was ‘up there’ having a cuppa with Mum and Dad, watching over us all as we talked and laughed, making far too much noise … as usual!
Now, before I finish today, let me give you an update on my blog remembering-our-lost-little-ones where I wrote about the grief I felt over my four miscarriages. Before writing that post, I shared my story with my daughter-in-law. When she arrived here for Geoff’s birthday celebration last Saturday (13th) she had a huge bunch of lilies in her hand and a big smile on her face. Cheeky!
She pointed out the four glittering butterflies that were sitting amongst the flowers had a meaning; they represented my four little babies lost around 40 years ago! I was so touched by this gesture that I had to share this information in my blog post today.
Thank you Belinda, for your understanding of my loss … but then again, YOU of all people understand very well after your own great loss of the twins. Love you. xx