Alison Lloyd's newsletter #15
On Mother’s Day, I was thinking how fiction often emphasises the negative in mother-child relationships. Yes, they’re complex, but they can have so much life in them too. I hope this newsletter evokes some of the goodness for you.
Scroll down for:
two brand new very short stories from me
how to dig for family treasure in the Trove website
First, here’s a reflective piece I wrote after Mother’s Day.
The Bride Doll
by Alison Lloyd
My youngest sibling was due on 25th December — a Christmas present for us, according to the adults. I wasn’t so convinced. I didn’t want a baby nearly as much as I wanted a bride doll. I had fallen in love with the romance of long hair and long dresses, the femininity that shimmers in a white cloud of beauty like a fragrance.
I was six. I was going to school with my little sister, learning to read and write and choose best friends based on who wore nice ribbons and had the most Barbies. Just before Christmas, we trailed home on foot — hatless, thirsty, heads burning — along new concrete footpaths to our shade-less new house. Mum had made cookies and bought lemonade to celebrate the start of holidays. The kitchen smelt like baked choc chips and hot sewing-machine oil. The heat from the oven wilted all of us, melting us over the vinyl stools. Reality is often stickier and sweatier than imagination, domestic dreams included.
My new sibling also lagged in the heat. She decided to overstay in the Mum oven and didn’t arrive for Christmas after all. But my bride doll did. She was waiting for me under the Christmas tree. Not a Barbie, but a foot-high, dark-eyed girl, who gazed on the world with a mystical expression of serenity. A white veil and long layers of gauzy tulle floated around her, all sewn by Mum.
How did my mum do it? She must have perched her pregnant self on a kitchen stool, to focus on the tiny seams in the window light, facing the street we would soon come up. She must have pieced together minutes and hours, repurposed offcuts of her time, pinned together love and skill, and sewn it up with hope. The hope that maybe her idealist, dissatisfied eldest would like this Christmas present.
It doesn’t take long before we’re not satisfied with what we have. Mum may have felt that hurt and disappointment, as she listened to our complaints, and the new baby turned and kicked within her. After two of us, Mum already knew – a woman doesn’t become a mother without pain. But still, she handmade a bridal gown for me, her daughter, sewing her dreams and mine into substance.
As much as it’s ever possible, that’s what mothers do for their kids.
Finding Family Treasure
All families create a legacy for future generations. If you’re curious about your family’s past, or the history of your area, you might be interested in a research tool I use.
Trove is a website set up by the National Library of Australia. It’s free. I’ve recently been exploring Melbourne in 1888 there. But you could also use Trove to trace your family or your community back into the past. You can read old newspapers, photos, paintings, maps and even audio files.
in the Search box put in your surname, and the region or suburb where you think your grandparents lived (for copyright reasons, Trove isn’t so useful after the 1940s)
click on the links for newspapers and images
Any joy? A full name, a street name, or an occupation or a hobby are useful search terms too. There’s a help page here — https://trove.nla.gov.au/help. Trove is a rabbit hole — sometimes all hole and no rabbit. But it can turn up some fun finds.
Thinking I should try out my own advice, I searched Images for the name of Trevor Lloyd, a great-great uncle (or thereabouts). He was a New Zealander, but even so the search turned up his lovely sketch of a Melbourne artist:
Under his initials, there’s a little cartoon and inscription. Apparently in Maori ‘Ka pai Te Wahine’ means ‘The woman is good!’ Love it.
If you’re reading this outside Australia, Trove may be less interesting, but try your own national library website and see what it offers.
More Family-themed Fiction
I entered another 48 hour short story competition recently. I had to write a drama in the tiny space of no more than 100 words, including the word ‘ready’ and the action of finding cash. Hope you enjoy the result :)
by Alison Lloyd
I’d got stuck, so I cleaned out.
The first coin I found was a drachma in Grandpa’s tweed jacket. The owl eyed me when I took it from its nesting hole. The silver had greyed with Gramps’ fingering.
‘No inheritance from me,’ he’d winked. ‘I squandered it wandering.’
Yet here it was. I thumbed the surface and put it on my desk.
An Asian circle fell from his suitcase. As I shook the pockets, featherlight pfennigs and heavyweight crowns rained, clinking.
I laid a trail of them to the monitor – a mottled path of stepping-stones.
‘Go,’ they said. ‘You’re ready.’
Finally, thank you to everyone who has liked, commented and responded to my emails. I really appreciate readers. I like knowing what you liked, and what you thought.
Till next month, blessings and best wishes — may you see the stepping stones ahead of you!