Saturday, April 11, 2009


Last night, V mentioned 'Salina's latent tendency towards martyrdom. Then he smiled - because really, he entered a family of martyrs when he married me (and not just because he married me, BOOM BOOM)!!

Its in the Jeans. Or rather, its in the bloodline that happens to be peppered with Jeans.

My grandmother was a Jean. She was the mistress of martyrdom.

My father was not a Jean - but he learned at the foot of his mother's pedastal and passed on pearls.

I am a Jean (d'uh) - and as you may have gathered from some of my more whingy epistles, I can do a mean line in martyrdom myself.

So it is no wonder that 'Salina (who has a Jean in the moniker) can martyr it up if the occasion requires.

I mean, really? Its much more fun to whinge with purpose isn't it?

That being said, my grandmother was an amazing lady, martyrdom notwithstanding.

My great-grandfather was a master horseman, renowned for the stock that he bred and the horses he rode.

Grandma suffered middle-child syndrome - one of six, she was the youngest girl* , a bit of a tomboy, a horsewoman in her own right and plenty headstrong.

She was a member of the Queensland team who took the challenge to New South Wales Ladies Campdrafters in the 1920s.

She was a gorgeous spinster of 27 before she agreed to marry my grandfather, a fellow drafter but from much more humble parentage. They married on Christmas Eve in a town** somewhere between her family property and his dairy/sharecropping farm.

Family-lore has it that a promise was extracted of a five-year plan towards something a bit more along the lines of her heritage.

Just after the 5 year mark was achieved, she had a hyperactive 5 year old boy and a sickly 3 year old girl, was stuck in a town miles from the property they bought while her husband worked at a meatworks - if the meatworks wasn't running, they had no income.

Of course, the fact that the first words my father heard at his new school were "scab labour" - they weren't said fondly - meant that the town experience may not have been happy times for any of them.

The next 5 years there were happy moments - on an idyllic property approximating the promise - but not quite.

For many of those years, she was single mother to those children while her husband scoured the state for something better, something achieveable (in those days the government controlled any property transaction and wouldn't always agree to such transactions) and she ran things at home.

They finally found Granite Glen, and despite some hardships (horses with strangles, feuding neighbours, bushfires and droughts) these are the days where the family lore is golden.

But it wasn't really.

See, my grandfather was very ill with a brain tumour - he had been operated on once, but was not expected to make old bones.

They also had a new baby - much wanted, much doted upon but much younger than his siblings.

And then, she had 3 children and her husband had died. She lived on Granite Glen trying to keep it all together before admitting defeat and bringing my father home from boarding school to help.

I have grown up with these tales (and many more - we are that sort of family) and as you get older, you read more between the lines.

She was an incredibly strong woman - not always easy to get along with, not always easy to please - but fiercly protective of her family and her ways.

She survived incredible hardships using the tools she had available.

We all accepted (or learned to accept) her ways, and it has only taken a few self-help books and hours with therapy to learn that the way she ran it - and lived her life - is not exactly regarded as "healthy" in terms of therapy speak. But she survived and so did her children.

So if I - or my siblings or father or daughter - hanker towards "endurance over the shortcomings of others" and "look how well we have done despite" attitude, please smile and realise we see the humour.

Because frankly? We know it could be worse, but if we magnify the troubles of now and our endurance, then we might never have to learn that lesson.

* - forever unfavourably compared to an older sister who died young (but had mastered quoting the alphabet and scripture before passing). Its amazing what you learn when you read your grandmother's autobiography - and yes, she did pen one.

** - the town is actually my nearest big smoke these days!


Woman in a Window said...

"and as you get older, you read more between the lines." There could not be a truer truth laid, I think. Love the family history.

Jayne said...

She sounds like a fantastic woman and person, Jeanie!
Yep, I hear ya, we do that, too, with plenty of laughter thrown in to make sure we've seen the silver linings ;)

Alison said...

What an amazing family history!
Great post too, Jeanie. Family history usually bores me to tears but I loved this post and want to read more!

I was never much interested in my own, but reading this I am almost tempted to find out. Thanks :-)

Leenie said...

And we think we have problems! It sounds like she had plenty of challenges, but did a fine job keeping it together for her children. Pioneers!

Mistress B said...

Family history takes on a whole new light when we can look at it and see where we got somethings from instead of just where we came from.

Sarah Lulu said...

More please Jeanie .......

BB said...

So much said. So little said. So much more to go. Hmmmm.

She was a woman and a half, our paternal grandmother. And she earned every bloody ounce of respect she had. I realise that more and more, the longer I live out here with kids and imagine her life.

I wonder how she would see us now, Jeanie?


Great story. It's good that the past is remembered and a tale shared.

Ree said...

Hey! It is in the Jeans. My middle name is Jean. ;-)

Maude Lynn said...

It's an odd thing, but we have the Jean gene in my family, too! Skipped me, though.

Anonymous said...

How times change yet remain the same. Great post Jeanie.