Tuesday, 19 May 2009

The Trouble with Families!

Families!! It's what makes life wonderful, but it can be what makes your life difficult too. I have been thinking a great deal about my childhood recently and various events that happened to me, that I considered traumatic, the death of my mother when I was 11 in particular. And of course that would be a terrible event for any child - but because my father was brought up in a very different world we seemed to do the 'stiff upper lip' thing and we carried on as normal, or as near normal as possible, as if nothing had happened. Of course if you don't deal with emotional events, if you suppress your feelings, they always come back to haunt you later on.

This is a picture of my grandmother (the little girl on her mother's knee - she looks to me like she was squirming) and her brother and my great grandparents. When I did some research into what their life was like I was amazed at what great granny had to cope with.


My great grandmother Jessie shown here, about 6 months pregnant, with her second husband Duncan (my great grandfather). I did not know until fairly recently that she was married with four children and widowed by the age of 27, with child no 4 being born two months after the father died. 2 years later Jessie remarried. Her three daughter's from her first marriage were farmed out to relatives or put into service at a very young age. Her son by her first marriage was apprenticed to a trade but still lived with Jessie and Duncan. She then had 7 more children, one of whom died as a toddler of about 2. But she also farmed out one of these children to live with Duncan's elder sister and her husband (below... astonishing beard eh?). They didnt have any children of their own.

This little girl, called Jane, was sent hundreds of miles away from her brother's and sisters to be brought up by her aunt and uncle. As far as I know she had a good life with them. But I was a bit horrified at the thought of sending any of my children away! There is no point in trying to judge them by our modern day sensibilities. And I understand that it was not uncommon to send children to live with relatives. But I always wonder if the little girl felt rejected. I also wonder at Jessie being able to give her children away like that, surely it wouldnt matter how many you had, you love them all. I do understand that life was difficult enough for them without those extra mouths to feed - but wouldnt a mother feel the loss terribly? I daresay she carried on as normal, did the very Victorian thing, stiff upper lip and all that... to my knowledge.. no backlash later in life, no nervous breakdown recorded. They seem to have just got on with it. Did they suffer emotional problems or did they have another way of coping? I can't decide.

5 comments:

  1. Hi Jane, interesting post. I wonder what they did do and how they felt and how they coped - did they have to cope or as you say, did they just get on with it? I think the problems of older generations come out in similar behavioural ways as they do now, but for them, there was no "psychobabble" to consternate over or turn to, so they had to just get on as normal, or perhaps risk being committed to the nearest loony bin! Supressed feelings must have been a way of life, much as they are in other parts of the world today xx

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  2. I cant help but wonder if, in spite of the modern advice, if suppressing it all is actually better than the way we do it now or not? I mean, people seem to get on just the same, and appear to be neither happier nor sadder than we are... but I need a time machine in order to check it out...

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  3. Life can be so dreadfully grim, but I think it is part of our human coping mechanism to also find joy when it presents itself, even in little things. I'd like to think that suffering makes you stronger, and then you pass that strength along to the younguns. Still, it is a harsh world sometimes. When you get that time machine, swing by and pick me up...

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  4. My dad was the only one sent away from his four brothers and sisters,to live with a strict very sombre "maiden aunt" and grandmother. I think it affected him a lot.A whole lot of repressed stuff - he never talked about it with his Mum.

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  5. That is one amazing beard, suddenly I feel I have a lot of work to do!

    When my gran died we found pictures in her house of what we can only assume were my great gran on her great gran's knee. The rest of the family where stood around in one of those poses like above and my great gran certainly wasn't present in the picture anywhere, the house told us who it was likely to be.

    But the tangible link 150 years straight into your own past is amazing.

    My gran had a hard life. She was a farmer to start with which instantly made life tougher in terms of work. She was married for only four years to her first husband, she bore five children, of which two died in birth. My mum is the only one who can remember her first husband as my uncle was to young and my aunt was unborn at the time.

    Left on her own, she raised three children, and when they were all married off and settled she finally thought about marrying her gentleman friend of some years. They had scarcely been married a year when he died of throat cancer.

    In all her life she had maybe half a dozen married years and gave herself to her family. After the passing of her second husband she had cancer 4 times, but fought it with a silent determination until the last one was too much for her 70 year old body.

    Between bouts of cancer she had to provide a lot of care for my great gran who by the time she was 80 was suffering dementia and by the time she reached ninety didn't even recognise my gran as her daughter. This was real harsh dementia as well, up the town in the nighty type stuff.

    If any of this affected her in any serious way then I never once saw sign of it. Not once did she complain or bemoan.

    I think now we hold onto the grim too much, I am guitly of it certainly, without remembering the good that is all around too.

    Yes my gran lost two of her own children, but she had 4 grandchildren around her, and a raft of nephews and neices as she was one of 13 children and one of twins. Maybe it is just perspective.

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