The end of stories.

Image result for old script on paper pics.

I can remember exactly when that feeling came over me that here was one of those moments when, through some “native intuition”, you can feel that it is the ending of an era…a passing of a moment in time when something important is being lost…

I was at my aged mother’s house doing some regular maintenance..I am a carpenter and her house, built by my Italian father just after the second world war, was a hotch-potch of scrounged materials and added-on-as-needed rooms that now, some sixty years later was a veritable endless loop of patch-up and maintain.

My mother was quite old at the time…she is deceased now..and I was there having a small lunch after doing the jobs..and it was at the moment when I was spreading some honey on a bit of toast that I remembered something..

“Mum….do you remember telling us about that old chap back there in your Mallee days, who used to raid those honey-bee hives in the hollowed trees and he had a big square tin of honey and comb mixed that he used to give you and your brother and sisters a scoop of honey and comb in a twirled cone of wax-paper when you went past on your way to school?”

My mother was fussing around over at the kitchen sink as I asked..fussing over nothing in mothers seem to be able to do..

“ Oh, yes…old Charlie Rhidoni…yes…I remember..”…she had looked up and now went back to whatever she was doing.

“Yeah…I suppose that’s him..if that’s his name”…I continued..” You oughta jot that little story down so others can read of what life was like out there in the Mallee in those days.”..and I bit into my toast.

“Ah…nobody’s interested in those silly yarns anymore.” Mother absently remarked.

“I don’t know..” I persisted..”there are so many I remember you telling me of those the Italian men at the charcoal burning camps near the Murray River during the war, where you met dad when he was interned there…and that old German man who carried a small pebble with him every time he crossed the river because he couldn’t swim…an’.. (here, I paused, hoping my mother would pick up and run with the yarn…but she didn’t) ..and he did so because he said the little pebble represented his soul..and if the punt started to sink, he believed that if he could throw that stone to the closest bank and it reached the bank, he would be saved..but if it didn’t and fell in the river..he would drown…That’s a good one too!”

But my mother just kept at her business in the kitchen sink, neither acknowledging my enthusiasm nor exhibiting the slightest interest in my I had to catch her attention..

“Mum…?” I called to her gently.

“What?..Oh yes…they may have been interesting then, but people are busier with other things now..There’s mortgages and car payments and the cost of living and all that…even IF they have a regular job now..they don’t have time for some old stories of olden times…nobody’s got time anymore for old stories.”

And that was the end of that.

But as I sat there, I could feel like an essence of spirit was escaping from me..a losing of that muse of enthusiasm when YOU are the only one showing keenness in an idea and you have to let the feeling go. So I didn’t press on with the conversation…but I sure as hell could feel that at that particular moment, an era was passing from my grasp..

It saddens me at this moment to even write about that gives an ache to my body..for now, my mother..both parents to be exact..and all those earlier generations I grew up with in those times…grandparents and their friends, Uncles and Aunts ..have all gone and with them passed away a record in oral anecdote and short tale all those wonderful, colourful, terrible and tragic snippets of stories of when work, home and childbirth was an enormous struggle with life itself..just to survive..just to make ends meet..especially if you came from the place where my folk came from..and so many others of that class of people.

So I have written them close as I can remember them having been told to me..I have written them down, but now too, I am getting old..and being a recorder/writer of no note, I am certain those stories will die with me. There is not many in my immediate family holds great interest in either story, anecdote or the times and the people. It is like a whole episode of the past has been boxed and sealed off and put up on the dead-storage shelf to be forgotten.

I have written of that old man with his pebble crossing on the punt on the Murray River .. …I have written of the birth of my Aunty in a smaller punt on the river whilst my grandfather wrestled with the mid-wife who was trying to trick them out of the birth-endowment money from the government.. ..  I have written story and tale of love affairs and loss in the Mallee..  story after story of that generation who had so little that they would be willing to take a chance on WHATEVER came their way..truly courageous folk hardened in the wars and a great depression..Their everyday events taking on a almost mythological epic…like the story of old (now long deceased ) Alma suddenly breaking pregnancy waters at home with no-one around to help her with the birthing save her own thirteen year old son…who had to act as mid-wife to the birth of his brother…story after story…moment after moment..I cannot empty the pail for them..the stream of stories is unending… .. For me, I will persevere while I can maintain this isolated enthusiasm…I work on alone.

But not for my mother…her enthusiasm for a past was being slowly squeezed dry..where once there was enormous enthusiasm to write of the world around her, I could now see that the weight of social responsibilities in trying to raise six children in the city suburbs drained the last bit of creative energy from her and she sacrificed her story-telling ambitions for the duties of a hired domestic cleaner to wealthier ladies who could afford to pay (so little) for time to persue THEIR own pleasures. Here is a little of her writing :  .

I remember she paused at one moment in what she was doing at the kitchen sink and spoke out to her garden outside the window there..and in that last mention of the subject, in that hiatus of forever, what she said sent a shiver through my soul and I could hear in the emptyness of her words the passing of time itself and a portend of the possibility of my own loss of connection to the past…

“No…no-body’s interested in those old things anymore…there comes a time, I suppose, for the end of stories..”

The Vanishing Door.

Though pleasant enough ;

These days of wine and roses,

When the wash of an evening sunset

‘Purples the fleece’d horizon.’

And yet..yet..does this doubt seep

Over me, like the fevered shiver

Of an approaching cold.

I have everything..and yet the

Small freedoms I have traded

For some obscure security

Seem to hark back to me as whispers

From behind a wall..or door!

A vanishing door!

Through which passes every thought,

But I stay.

I see them vanish, but I stay.

Last night’s dreams..I’ve forgotten,

Yet , I still feel I enjoyed them so.

Gone, with my youthful memories,

Through the vanishing door.

And even the door soon will close forever.

But I fear;.I will stay…

22 thoughts on “The end of stories.

  1. A very good story Joe and such an important subject. Can we preserve something of that past which enriched us so when growing up? It has occupied me quite a bit from the time I realised that actual stories might be an easier way for me to break into writing, rather than creative fiction or poetry, albeit that our greatest writing comes from those sources. So I decided to jot down fragments from my childhood experiences, now anything up to 70 years ago. They could be fascinating but also demanding, as I’d get writer’s block here or there or merely get distracted into the events of the moment.

    It still remains an unfinished project but one firmly in my mind to, if not complete, at least construct a coherent pathway. A few aspects still remain in my head which I want to get down. It’s funny to talk about the old as we ourselves become old, but perhaps it gives us the right experience to value it. I keep coming back to my maternal grandmother, a second generation Irish-Australian, fully brought up in the poor-Irish traditions, albeit she knew only Australian poverty which was relatively benign in comparison.

    She was a mountain of folklore and tales of every eccentric relative and their various hilarious mishaps. Yet as I grew out of adolescence I’d find these stories a little annoying because I’d heard them all so many times before. Not so my first cousin, Jacquie, who’d heard them all just as often but could never get enough of them. Jacquie had brain damage at birth and it left her restricted in what she could do, both at school and at home. But she’d love to hear these stories even though she knew the punchlines as well as my grandmother. She’d rub her hands with glee as Dah (what we called our grandmother, which I’ll explain later) built up to the punchline and burst into laughter as she told it. As I said it irritated me at the time, but I can see the value of it.

    Aside from entertaining her grandchildren with these tales, I am sure now that it was an old Irish (pre-literacy) method of passing on information about your family and your place in the scheme of things. Jackie always felt she belonged, as indeed she did, even though some cruelly saw her as an embarrassment. Not only did she belong, but she was an avid reader. Her retention might not have matched mine but it was pretty good, and she was fairly numerate too, capable of handling her own money very well. In her old age she has become something like a family archivist with an encyclopaedic memory plus letters and photographs of long past events.

    I loved the change in her, which was much more articulate than I’d known her as a young woman. I think a lot of it may be down to the loving nurturing she got from her grandmother and others.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ha, ha…Don…your’re already writing it!….had to read it through…couldn’t stop…THAT’s writing as far as I’m concerned…after all, it’s the flaw in the object that always attracts the eye…always the flaw…perfection has a certain mockery about it…I look for the flaw and it’s there I find the interest.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Trish…was going to ask if you could…and certainly is not the end of stories…I’d like to see more of them!…I thought I’d remind people how valuable are our stories of our kin folk.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Lovely story! My Father used to say to me, “I must write down my story” I would always say, yes, you have to! He had an interesting life, born in 1913. But alas, I have had to piece things together, he wrote down so little.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My father often went on about it how everything about our extended family could be made into a great novel. Alas he never wrote a novel or a biography as far as I know. But I do have a great number of long letters that he wrote to me! 🙂


      1. Those letters they wrote in those times make for interestng studies and no mistake…I have my Grandmother’s letters to my mother….god…she was a vicious little Irish woman!…ha, ha..make you laugh though!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Jacquie or Jackie is a fascinating character. So ‘gorgous Dunny’ is really Don? I’d sure be interested to read a lot more about what he can tell us about his cousin and his grandmother.
    It saddens me, Joe, when you think the next generations are not going to be interested in the stories you write. You never know, the interest may come later. Just keep writing as honestly as you can. To me every story that is written with some honesty is worth reading!


    1. Thanks for that enquiry, auntyuta. Yes Don is my name and I blog under the pen-name Gorgeous Dunny. It was a nickname once given to Don Dunstan, who remains my political hero to this day.

      Actually Jackie was always how we referred to her. I called her Jacquie in this post since it was easier than explaining that her full name was Jacqueline. I never did get the full description of her disabilities and have had to surmise them on my later experience in life, which included quite a lot on disabilities. I’d imagined it could’ve been cerebral palsy because she had some problems with balance and speech. But later experience suggested to me it might be Aspergers, since she had obsessions with strict routines and habits and didn’t initiate much conversation.

      Sadly, her parents, among the finest and most loving people I ever knew, had trouble facing up to her problems or even acknowledging how external help might have been good for her. My mother used to be greatly concerned about her, but my Dad told her that she must not interfere in a parental issue, even for her sister. The worry was what would happen when her mother died because her brother was rather selfish and detached, and even more in denial than her parents.

      Luckily my sister and my young brother, my only remaining siblings in Adelaide, took an active interest in her after our Aunt died and got proper disability care, where she responded really well. She needs a walking frame to get around but otherwise is more active than when I knew her 40 years earlier. Her speech is clear; her comments are direct and well considered. She talks and looks like the O’Donnell great-aunts that I knew all those years ago, apart from the laughter which was always part of them. Which was justice for Dah, our grandmother.

      Dah was the first-born female in a family of 12. In the manner of extremely poor Irish families, she had a special status as the oldest sister, taking on a secondary nurturing rule. She was not really known by her proper name as Gertrude, but as Sister or Sis. In fact the later generation of O’Donnells knew her as Auntie Sis. I need to tell you more, but I’ve gone on too long and will save it for another post.

      Warm regards …

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Hi Joe, a great idea that “Vanishing Door”. But with your stories, you are keeping this door ajar. Even the word “yarn” is vanishing now. I had a Greataunt who told me about her life during the late 1870 and 1880ies and before the Great War. Even then people feared war, she was telling me of an emperor’s funeral in 1888 when it was snowing like hell.

    Now, our grandchildren are not interested in our past. They have their smartphones in which they find the new world. At Christmas Eve when the whole family is here, and I have a captive audience, I read them a story, I have written, from my early life.

    Keep it up, Joe. Someone is interested.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It is so interesting, how our 8 year old great-grandson Lucas did read one of Peter’s stories from the 1940s at Peter’s funeral service.
      I was amazed, how well this 8 year old could read. I don’t think I could read this well as an 8 year old.


  5. Is it the prognosis of a perpetual youth
    That asks their teacher`s recollection of a past truth
    To recall,retrace,relive,those events bygone
    For mother & father &,grand-one`s great
    Had colourful lives,exciting them to their fate
    To hear,listen & remember them may be great
    But as we age we understand,we know
    What it`s like,this truth that makes us weary
    It`s an understanding that our time may be at hand
    We somehow quite gladly embrace,no even welcome
    That soon we`ll shuffle off this mortal coil as a command
    A Song To The Siren

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Thank you Joe,
    You are perceptive young man.
    We women (such as many baby boomers who had mothers who didn’t pursue their dreams so we weren’t encouraged to grasp those dreams and go for the ride), do put our dreams aside.
    But that’s really no excuse, because when it’s all said and done we are creators of our destiny creating our own stories which rise out of others stories.

    Liked by 2 people

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