I’ve been researching my family tree again to try and find out more about my Gypsy heritage. We heard after my mother’s death that her real father was a fairground worker and the man my grandmother subsequently married was not my maternal grandfather.
My Brother and sister-in-law had a child who died soon after birth. He had Fraser Syndrome, which is extremely rare and the genes usually occur in Romany Gypsys or when 2 people who are related and have the same gene defect have a child together. As my brother and sister-in-law were not related, this seems to support the story about my maternal grandmother’s affair.
There are other complications; I have found a record on Family Search.org that indicates my grandmother married a man in 1929, about two weeks before my mother was born and that she married again in 1931 – to the man who would father my mother’s siblings. I cannot find any other record of the original marriage.
Part of the story we heard about my grandmother was that she was jilted at the altar. Was that in 1929 and the marriage didn’t actually go ahead, or is it that they married and he left shortly after?
In looking into Gypsy/Romany culture I have been struck by the continuing discrimination against them, even today. There’s a wonderful video on Vimeo about 3 Gypsys; one who works as a political leader in Germany trying to change the discrimination against Gypsys by the state (yes, it continues even after everything that happened in the Second World War), one who works as an unpaid teacher in Romania, and a traditional storyteller in Hungary. There is no documentary, just film following these individuals lives and providing insight into their culture, traditions and their daily realities.
It’s all been a bit of a whirlwind of a week in one way or another. My Uncle died last Saturday and it will be his funeral tomorrow. There has been lots of to-ing and fro-ing and telephone calls and a lot of sadness. He would have been 85 this week and in March he and my Aunt would have been married 60 years. It feels like they were cheated out of that milestone. The Paras are sending a standard bearer, which my Uncle would have been immensely proud of and which is going to prove a choker on the day.
Lots of memories have been coming to the surface for me and a very comforting feeling that my Dad has been shining through me for my Aunt’s sake and for mine. For a man I knew for less than a third of my life he seems to be exerting a big influence right now. I feel like I’m there for my Aunt on his behalf and acting for him in this troubled time. He was their best man at their wedding and he’s present now too.
I keep remembering other things in my life too. It’s funny how one set of memories can set off a train of others.
Some things from about 1985/86:
– Being stung all over my head and round my ears while mowing grass in the churchyard at Stow Maries with a petrol mower. I think the bees in the hives at the bottom end of the churchyard took exception to the petrol fumes or to the noise and came out to protest. I fell over as I ran away flapping my arms to get them off me.
– Lying on my side and on my back painting in the names of the fallen on the War Memorial in Wickham Bishops because they had worn away over the years. I was using black enamel modeller’s paint, probably Airfix, and had trouble deciphering some of the names. I was on a back to work programme with the Job Centre at the time and got paid extra for attending community work. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I remember people stopping to talk to me about what I was doing, including a woman on a horse who showed interest too. It struck me at the time that I was doing something that meant a lot to people in the village and that there would be people who remembered some of the names on the memorial.
On our way home from Mum’s last night we made out a small animal in the headlights ahead of us in the road. At first we both thought it was a rather corpulent cat waddling along in the road. It turned out to be a badger running lazily down the middle of the road. We braked sharply and it carried on running, looking over its shoulder at us and used our lights to find its way into the verge a little way further on. Apart from being bitten by a badger some years ago, I’ve never seen one so close. It was also a first for Stephen.
I was a bit concerned at how I was to tell my elderly aunt about Stephen and that he is moving in with me. The morning I went to visit her recently I texted my cousin and asked for some advice. His reply was, ‘She’ll be happy because you’re happy’.
He was right.
Today I’m wearing my mother’s wedding ring.
When I first saw it again at my niece’s it drew me in and seemed to signify more than just my mother. This was the ring that my father put on her finger nearly 60 years ago.
To wear it means to celebrate the happy times they shared; to celebrate the union between them, to celebrate my parents.
It fits perfectly on the little finger of my left hand; so perfectly I can’t feel it after wearing it for only a few hours.
Okay …. I’ve not only met my sister-in-law and niece after a gap of about 20 years but I’ve also discovered I have a great-nephew too. He’s 9! I’m a great-uncle. I’ve never been a ‘great’ anything!
And my brother wants to get in touch after all this time. My first feeling is one of doubt, suspicion, but I also feel compassion. I also think I’m ready to be friends of sorts. That’s something both of us will have to work hard at.
And then there are the friends from long ago who keep appearing.
And all this in the space of about 2 months.
I’ve had some pretty profound moments around family and friends recently. No wonder it gets overwhelming at times.