Lest We Forget (the women left behind)
Posted on April 29, 2014
Al, Perry and I went along to the Anzac Day March last Friday.
Assailed as I am by fluctuating hormones and sudden floods of tears many times a week at 33 weeks pregnant, I was nevertheless quite shocked to find tears rise to my eyes as I saw the old men shuffle by, and the shyly proud children bearing polished old medals upon their chests. The bagpipes played, and the brass and the big drums. Solemn or smiling, the parade marched by, and suddenly I thought of my maternal grandmother Francie’s twin brother Ronald, in his early 20’s, dead in Kokoda a mere two weeks after enlisting in Melbourne. I thought of my great grandmother,a Nanny Nicholson, and of the grandmother I never knew, his twin sister, and of the scars left on the women left behind.
I thought too, of my other great grandmother, Colina, who kept her letters from family and friends from WWI, which I have been transcribing for a while now. (You can see the letters at www.dearcolina.blogspot.com.au )
Those 50 or so letters have brought to life for me the experiences of 4 or 5 men on the Western Front.
“Are we downhearted? No, no no!” They declared, to each other and in their letters. But what of the hearts of the women at home?
Nan must have written hundreds of letters over the war years, yet not one of them survives, amongst her carefully curated letters, carted around with her over the course of a life time. All of those men that she wrote to came home, relatively unmaimed. What was it like for her, and her contemporaries, oceans away from all of the young men in the prime of all of their lives? What was the cost of reading between the lines, and wondering? In the next world war, Colina’s son was the recipient of her letters and her hopes and fears.
All handsome, strong, young men. Leaving behind all of those terrified, and of necessity, brave mothers, lovers, wives, sisters, children.
Lest we forget.