Concord, Sydney 2022
A coloured page
The kiss of the sun for pardon,
The song of the birds for mirth,
One is nearer God's Heart in a garden,
Than anywhere else on earth.
(a poem titled 'God's Garden' (1913) by English poet, Dorothy Frances Gurney that my great grandmother, Esther wrote down on a business card and framed, while on holiday in Kent Town)
When the search ends
I released a podcast episode on 3 August, 2022, for Jigsaw Queensland's Adopt Perspective podcast about my trip to Sydney to connect with my biological family. The episode can be found here - Jo & Caroline - When the Search Ends. Below are some photos from my trip that might help you colour in my experience.
My grandmother & mother
Taken at Crown St Women's Hospital on Christmas Day by a newspaper photographer. Shortly after, my grandmother was hospitalised in a mental health facility for nine months and my mother was sent to stay with relatives for the duration. This was a repeated pattern in their lives until my grandmother took her life when my mother was ten years old.
My grandmother, mother & matron
My mother was the first baby born on Christmas Day. It was nine years after her marriage before my grandmother had her first child. She looks so happy in these photos.
My cousin, Pamela
Pamela was the first cousin to contact me via an AncestryDNA test. She told me about my great grandmother, Daisy and this story began to open up so much of my family's story and my own.
My cousin, Julie
Julie's gifts to me were many. She helped me connect with and expand on information my mother had shared with me about my family. She also gave me my great grandfather's suitcase, full of original photographs and items that belonged to my great grandmother and great, great grandfather.
My great grandfather, Dar's suitcase
Julie told me he took this everywhere, even to the shops to carry his groceries home. His name and the address of his home in Concord (which I visited) are printed neatly inside.
My great grandparent's home now
I have photographs of my great grandparents dancing in the backyard with their Australian Terrier at their feet.
My great grandfather & suitcase
This suitcase sits on the coffee table behind me in my office now and it brings a smile to my face every time I pass it.
One of my great grandmother's items
Julie gave me a number of items once belonging to my great grandmother, Esther. The poem at the top of this page was written on a business card from accommodation she stayed at in Kent Town while on holiday.
My great grandfather "Dar"
There were many 'coincidences' that I uncovered speaking with my cousins. One was that all of his grandchildren called my great grandfather, Dar. My adoptive father was called Grandad by all of his grandchildren, except for my boys, who called him Dar.
My great grandmother, Esther
Many of the items, Julie gifted me had belonged to my great grandmother. By all accounts she and my great grandfather were very supportive of their daughters, who both had significant mental health issues. To feel connected to them in a genuine way is very comforting.
My great great grandfather's smoking hat
Why did people wear hats to smoke? Drop me an email if you know why. This hat belonged to my great great grandfather, James. He was a gold mine manager when he arrived in Australia. The hat is very old and to preserve it I bought this display box.
James wearing the smokers hat
James is pictured wearing the smokers hat and my great grandmother, Esther is sitting on their large dog. Throughout both sides of my mother's family there are many photos of pampered family pooches. I adore dogs. I'd like to think I inherited this from them.
This house saw four generations of my family
Our first stop on my Sydney trip was my mother's childhood home in Concord. My great grandparents, Daisy & George raised my grandfather here and he and my grandmother raised my mother here also. I was conceived while my mother still lived in this home.
The house now
You can still see the bones of the home my family lived in underneath the extensions and modifications. We lingered outside of this house for some time and I let go of much of the sadness I carried about events that took place here. I think I lightened this load for them to, by acknowledging it, grieving it and letting them know I was there.
Crystals I brought home from Rookwood
I had more than two years to consider what I would do to connect with my family at Rookwood Cemetery. Taking a leaf from Jewish tradition, I took six crystals to three gravesites. I left one of each pair on the graves and brought the other three (and some additional stones I found there) home with me. They sit on the shelf above me while I work.
I left selenite on Daisy & George's plot
I'm not sure that I buy into crystals and their powers, however, there was deep, personal meaning behind each crystal I left behind. I chose selenite for Daisy as I believe she has watched over me always and I wanted to let her know that I'd love her to continue doing so.
My great grandmother, Daisy
My beautiful great grandmother, Daisy. I've felt your presence forever. When it is my turn, you'll be one of the first people I rush to greet. Getting to know the women in my family, both alive and deceased, has had a powerful impact on my identity.
I left amethyst for Jean, Esther & Dar
I wanted to leave a path to healing and forgiveness for my grandmother, Jean. My great grandparents, Esther & Dar share her plot.
Rose quartz for my great great grandparents
While only one side of this headstone was engraved, both of my great great grandparents, Annie & John rest here. They supported their daughter to keep her beloved daughter after she was assaulted. They instilled in her the confidence to take her attacker to court...twice. Their example opened the way for other family and friends to show Daisy the same love and support. Rose quartz is the crystal of unconditional love. I wish all of the mothers in my family had known this kind of unconditional love, understanding and a supportive community.
Daisy's mother, Annie
It took us awhile to find Annie's headstone in an overgrown section of Rookwood Cemetery. Despite being the oldest, it was oddly in the best condition...once we cleared the grass and weeds from it. I'm so glad we found her, because hers is an example of mothering that I wish to emulate. Annie died of uterine cancer in 1927 aged only 53 years.
My grandfather, Ray
Sometimes we discover stories about our family that make it challenging to connect in a positive way. My grandfather, Ray was in the first shipment of Australian troops sent to the Middle East in WWII. He suffered greatly while serving and narrowly escaped death when the truck he was travelling in was bombed. When he came to, he was naked in a tree with the only other surviver. The driver and front passenger both perished that day. Ray was a clever man. An occupational therapist after the war, who polished his own precious stones, repaired watches and clocks for jewellers as a hobby and reportedly invented the first paint mixing device for British Paints. Later in life, some of his actions diminished the pride I felt for him. I wasn't able to visit his resting place while in Sydney, however, I choose not to carry the burden of mixed feelings. Rest In Peace, Ray.
The day I met my mother & brother in 1991
This day was the beginning for me. I no longer searched for my mother's face in crowds, I'd seen it. I (we) made many missteps along the way of our reunion. There was so little support and information available when we began trying to put back the pieces. There is so much more now, and yet, still not enough. The fact that 30 years later I still find myself working through these issues says everything about how adoption impacts all of our lives. Nothing has been easy for any of us. At times it has been a heavy weight for all of us to carry...myself, my parents, my sibling, my adoptive family, my husband and my sons. We've all been impacted. My gratitude to both of my parents and brother (and extended family) for stepping forward when I reached out is incalculable. I love them for it.