F is for Family…

me at my photogenic peak
me at my photogenic peak

F is for….family…

I have a bit of an over sharing dilemma when it comes to my birth family. Generally speaking, I don’t think they’d welcome being the subject of a blog post. Not because there’s anything to hide, just that, well, I don’t think they’d welcome it.

Suffice to say, I’m the eldest of four kids (three girls and a boy) from a (relatively speaking) functional (but not so functional as to be dysfunctional), conservative, Aussie family.

I was born in south western Sydney in a fibro home that had 2 dogs and a cat out the back, and a holden in the driveway. My Dad is a country boy who worked in the same bank for 40 years, and my Mum gave up work to raise us kids a year or so before I was born, and never went back.

We moved to a red brick home in western Sydney the year before I started school, and moved to the country (Merriwa, in the Upper Hunter) when I was in year 3.

After this, we moved every few years. I started high school in a new town (Bombala, near the Victorian border), and moved midway through year 9 (this time to Springwood in the Blue Mountains). We were back in North West Sydney for my final school year. Mum and Dad are still in that house.

Looking back, it seemed as though I spent most of the last four years at school studying by correspondence in the library, as I did half the syllabus twice, and taught myself the other half. No matter, I got through- at the cost of my teenage social life- with enough marks to gain entrance to an Economics degree at Sydney University.

The moving was hard- especially at the times we did it- but in hindsight, it’s given me an independence and resilience to change that I don’t think I would otherwise have had.

There was lots I loved about it too. Those years gave me a love of the country and the land that’s never left me. I learnt to ride a horse and a motorbike. I learnt to drench a sheep (amongst other things….), I learnt how to milk a cow and I learned about the cycles of nature- in all their raw glory. I have a scar in my leg from a cow horn, and a broken bone in my back from a horse fall. I loved it so much that I majored in agricultural economics (and political science) at Uni. To this day I can tell a murray grey from an angus…and know that a charolais isn’t something you drink.

We used to split Christmas and Easter each year between Mum’s family in Sydney and Dad’s in Tumbarumba, and each May we’d have two glorious weeks by the beach somewhere- usually Coolangatta or Kirra on the Gold Coast. With four kids and one income, Dad worked and budgeted hard for that holiday. On the money front, there was never too much, but there was always enough, often more than enough. As I said, we were fortunate.

I think it was Debra Oswald, the creator of Offspring, who once said that as a teenager she despaired of her family. It all worked too well…where would she possibly get the angst from that was required to be a real writer? Aren’t writers meant to have troubled childhoods?

My birth family is a little like that…not a lot to inspire an introspective, seriously angsty and literary work.  Touch (a lot of) wood. I’m happy (these days) to find my inspiration elsewhere…and long may it last. Touch wood, again.

If you’re after labels, I started off as being the smart one (I would have preferred to be the pretty one, or the skinny one, or the popular one), and have since developed into the “I don’t know where she got those ideas from” one.

My Mum and Dad celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary this weekend. All four of us are endlessly grateful for our upbringing…and also more than a little in awe. I remain very concerned about their propensity to both listen to and believe right wing shock jocks, but if that is my biggest concern, I’m a happy girl.

Sure we’ve all had our dramas and our troubles, but, touch wood, nothing seriously angst producing…and that’s a good thing.  No childhood is perfect, but in retrospect, and relatively speaking, ours was pretty damn good and very fortunate indeed.

We’re close, but we’re not close…if you know what I mean. Most of us don’t really know what’s going on below the surface in each other’s lives- nor, in many cases, is it appropriate for us to do so. We may share the same heritage, but we don’t necessarily have the same priorities, beliefs, ambitions and deal breakers- and that’s ok. When we do get together, there’s lots to laugh about.

Each of us have gone on to make our own families- with partners, kids and outlaws…and that’s the way it should be.  It’s the families that we’ve created who share our dreams, our pointy bits and live with the parts that are screwed up. That’s just the way it goes.

My other label? As the oldest, I’m also supposed to be the responsible one- the one who looks after the others…cross any of my siblings, and you cross me…you have been warned…



6 comments on “F is for Family…”
  1. Rae Hilhorst says:

    Can relate to your post, I am the oldest of six and have the most dysfunctional family you could possibly imagine. Parents divorced, a very bitter divide, three of my siblings are in the same country and we rarely speak. My dearest brother and father live in another country and we speak every week or fortnight, so I am grateful for what I can get. xxx Rae

    1. Jo says:

      Acceptance & gratitude is so important. Thanks for dropping by Rae, and best wishes to you for a wonderful 2014.

  2. Debbish says:

    Oh how lovely to share that Jo. That was really interesting. I didn’t move at all as a child and my mum’s still in the same house that she and dad moved into just after my brother was born (nearly 50 yrs ago). It would have been their 50th anniversary last year.

    The relationship thing was interesting as I realised that mine with my brother and his family is a bit like you describe. I feel as if were once close but as time’s passed we know less and less about each other’s lives. Am sure mine they know about cos of my blogging, but we rarely know what’s happening in theirs. Mum and I had this conversation the other day cos my niece finished school last year but there’s some sensitivity around ‘what she will do next’ so we don’t even feel we’re allowed to ask…. It makes me sad that she and I were once close, and now….

  3. Debbish says:

    Oh… and by the way…. that picture of you is SO cute!

    1. Jo says:

      awwww thanks. I was at my photogenic best at 2! Yeah, families are funny- you can be close without being close…

      1. Debbish says:

        My brother and I were quite close growing up and my family naturally close (as in intimate but not in a weird way). My SIL’s family is the opposite and I suspect that’s a big influence on my bro and niece.

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