This is a combined post for Family Tree Frog’s National Family History Month blog challenge and Geneamusing’s Saturday Night Fun on Favourite Aunts.
When I see my grandchildren’s close relationships with their cousins, and hear of the tight links others have with cousins, I’m a tad jealous of those bonds. With families geographically dispersed, and apparent family fractures over the generations, cousin links weren’t so significant in my own family.
For some reason this week my thoughts turned to my favourite aunt and then to my cousins. Dad was an only child, so no close relatives on that side. On my maternal side, I had three aunts living and one uncle who died before I was born. Unbeknownst to me, (and mum), I also had a half-uncle from my grandmother’s first marriage. I have a grand total of eight cousins.
Mum’s eldest sister was Mary. I had two older cousins from Aunty Mary and her husband Uncle Pat. Pat was a baker and I wrote about his war and work experiences here. The family was peripatetic to say the least. We would see more of them when they were living within distance of Brisbane and I remember visiting them at Tugun on the Gold Coast and in Cairns on trips to the north. Cousin Jimmy had various issues which could make him a challenge to deal with even though he regularly asserted I was his favourite cousin. Jimmy was a bower bird who specialised in collecting stamps, cameras, and vast collection of spoons. His sister Patsy (Patricia) was some years older than me but also very kind to me. When I was in my early teens, she was living in an all-women hostel at New Farm and I remember going for an overnight stay and being given a manicure by Patsy and her friends. Patsy was a milliner and used to make beautiful hats. Both Patsy and Jimmy have now passed on, along with their parents.
Aunty Bonnie and Uncle Alan lived on a farm on what was then Brisbane’s outskirts. We saw them occasionally, depending on their farming schedule and transport as we would have to catch buses to visit. They were the family who we were most likely to spend some time with around Christmas and even once going camping at Noosa together. My two older cousins in this family were book-ended in age around me and I was, and still am, closest to my cousin Alan. His sister also went to All Hallows’ and was in the classroom next to mine with a rather tyrannical Irish nun as a teacher. For some reason we were never very close. Their two much-younger siblings, both girls, are closer in age to my daughters. All three girls look so much like their mother, minus the red hair.
My aunt Imelda was sadly widowed as a young woman not long after her first marriage. She remarried and she and her husband Wally, lived in Cairns. I recall only seeing her a small number of times, possibly because, apart from geography, she and mum didn’t get on. I can’t remember ever meeting Uncle Wally. They had two sons – cousins I wouldn’t recognise if they knocked at the door – unless they looked like their mum.
Mum was very attached to her eldest sibling, brother Joey and has many fond memories of him. She was devastated when he died of peritonitis not long before her 21st birthday. Years later the daughter of his widow’s subsequent marriage came to live with us for a year to get specialised medical treatment.
So who was my favourite aunt? Can you guess?
Well it was Aunty Mary who was so kind to me over many years, always sending cards during difficult times. I was privileged to give a short eulogy at her funeral. She was a linchpin in the family, being the eldest girl, and stayed in touch with the various branches, mainly on their maternal side, given fractures on the paternal side. Mary had a great sense of humour and a most infectious giggle that I can still hear. She loved sewing and craft and had the patience of Job when it came to making tiny doll’s clothes. Reading was another great love and took greater preference to housekeeping. Mum wasn’t impressed but of course this made Mary a woman after my own heart. Her family was so important to her and she would do anything for them. Although my grandmother died when I was four there was something about Mary that reminded me of grandma – she was a gentle soul.
Of all the siblings, mum is the only one still alive and has already passed all the longevity stakes in my family trees.
How about you? Do you have tons of cousins and a favourite aunt or uncle?
The family history month blog challenge is to reflect on life in lockdown. I’m taking a very liberal interpretation, and writing about the various things that have given me cause to think during these quieter, if challenging, times.
It turns out I wrote a blog post on this very topic back in 2013. If you want to see what I wrote then, you can see it here.