What, you might be thinking – this doesn’t LOOK like a 52 Ancestors article. That’s because this one is somewhat different. I’m writing it for you, and for my descendants. Plus, Mom does make a cameo appearance is a rather unorthodox way.
Both locations are important to the genealogy of people in the Americas. How’s that possible, you ask? I’ll be telling you shortly in another article, but for purposes of this article, let’s just say that Australia and New Zealand were both settled by Europeans, in part, by convicts shipped overseas to sparsely populated Australia by the British Government beginning in the early 1800s.
These outbacks were a great place to get rid of people, given that Europe was overpopulated at the time.
My recent adventure served multiple purposes, but for now, I just want to share the lovely experience with you. I’ll be writing 3 articles, one about Australia, one for Tasmania and another for New Zealand.
Australia has recently been ravaged by fires. I arrived in the midst of the worst of the wildfires. Roads were closed surrounding Sydney. We took 4 boxes of masks with us, as just a couple days before our departure, we saw photos of intense smoke in Sydney Harbor.
I reached out to my genealogy colleagues in Australia for an update, debating whether we should cancel or not. We didn’t. One way or another, we knew it would be an adventure of a lifetime.
I wasn’t wrong!
We were embarking on a cruise, so if the going got rough, so to speak, passengers could just get on the ship and sail out to sea. The residents and the animals, so horrifically devastated, could not escape in the same manner. Especially not the animals. Those who did survive face the challenge of finding food in a destroyed habitat. My heart breaks for them.
In spite of those issues, the trip was wonderful and educational.
Grab a cup of coffee or tea, sit back and come along. Yes, there’s DNA interwoven because there’s DNA interwoven everyplace, literally, and in every aspect of my life.
I realize that food is not a normal place to start, but this is absolutely critical information for anyone planning to travel “down under” who is either hypoglycemic or diabetic and may need to eat something specific in-between meals. By “need,” I’m referring to a medical need. Knowing how to regulate your blood sugar with food, but then suddenly being without the food you need is terrifying.
Australia and New Zealand have very strict biosecurity laws that regulate the importation of food and biological items. This means ANY KIND OF FOOD. From anyplace outside of Australia or New Zealand, depending on which place you are visiting – including planes and cruise ships.
They are concerned about the introduction of invasive species, including seeds and insects, a phenomenon they have already experienced with rats and other non-native species that have devastated the ground-nesting bird population, nearly to extinction.
You cannot take that apple or snack off of the plane. You cannot bring anything from home. I had pre-packaged tea bags and protein bars in my suitcase, which I did declare, and they decided were fine but “plant products” are included on the banned list. If you have something to declare, you need to go through a separate entry line.
We did see entire suitcases confiscated. They are not kidding about this.
Once on the ship, we could NOT take any food off the ship for tours with the exception of processed foods. Thankfully, my protein bars that I had brought for the purpose of maintaining my blood sugar were allowed, as was prepackaged chocolate, but not nuts.
Typically, I make a cheese sandwich on crackers or a croissant and put it in my purse for a snack later, but neither bread products nor cheese were allowed to be removed the ship, so my typical “go-to” was gone.
They are dead serious about this. There are agents at the exits to inspect bags, including backpacks – and they do. There are lovely beagles trained to sniff out food items.
And there is an immediate $400 fine – plus you don’t get to keep the food.
When you are on a tour, you don’t necessarily have the opportunity to purchase anything before you need it. Be aware so you can be prepared.
Speaking of Food
I’m somewhat of a foodie, but I promise not to inundate you with photos of food. However, I found this food art just lovely. Look closely.
These are all hand-made. Art is everyplace, including framed art pieces on the ship.
Seafood? This looks like so much fun!
Not to be outdone, the chefs carved watermelon art.
A honeydew mandala.
If you think this is something, just wait until you see the New Year’s Eve stunning chocolate buffet.
Before undertaking this trip, I really gave no thought to how large Australia actually is. In essence, it’s roughly the size of the US, with most of the population living along the coasts, with the interior being fairly inhospitable desert.
The recent fires burned the ring of the coastline where mountains sport forests that sustain both life and fuel for fire. Global warming has contributed to increasingly devastating fire seasons, with 2019/2020 being the worst on record. Australia had gone months with no rain. That combined with temperatures as high as 122 degrees and violent winds fanning the flames wrought havoc.
To put things in perspective for you, this map shows where the fires were burning about the time we left, with Sydney being right in the midst of the worst part on the southeast coast.
It seemed odd to arrive at the holidays in a location that was sunny and warm. Does not compute!
Welcome to Australia.
The sunrises and sunsets were utterly stunning, caused by particulate matter in the air, of course. Our plane, after a 20+ hour journey, landed at dawn. Yes, I slept in my clothes. I was surely glad to get to the ship and take a shower and change clothes – but that wasn’t going to happen for another several hours.
We were greeted at the airport by an Aussie Christmas tree. This all seemed surreal to me – both because I actually WAS in the southern hemisphere, on the land mass just north of Antartica – and because I was so sleep deprived that my mind was pretty foggy.
And a sand-carved Santa.
We found our bus and headed into Sydney. What a beautiful city.
Reminders of Australia’s English roots are everyplace. All cities have a St. Mary’s Cathedral, right?
Our cruise ship would not be ready until later in the day, so we made our way down to the harbor where we enjoyed the warm weather, historic buildings mixed with art deco and Christmas decorations.
Plus art – art is everyplace.
Croissants, pastries, coffee and tea were waiting for us at the lovely Sir Stamford Hotel at Circular Quay. Bless Viking!
We strolled along enjoying the warmth after leaving the frigid winter and darkness of the winter solstice behind.
At the bottom of a historic street, a vista opened up to our weary eyes that included a panoramic view of the harbor including the legendary Sydney Opera House and bridge.
Meet Kami the Koala and Joey the Kangaroo who accompanied us on our adventures. Yes, I rescued them from a convenience store where they were being held for ransom😊
At this godforsaken hour of the morning, a convenience store was the ONLY thing that was open – trust me.
I was pleased to note in both Australia and New Zealand that the Aboriginal people, the Gadigal people here, were honored as the original inhabitants of the land.
Standing outside the Opera House, we could see tiny people on the TOP of that bridge. Yes, you can pay to participate in the “Bridge Climb,” or you can stay on the ground for free. Guess which one I did!
Rounding the end of the Opera House peninsula, the bay is beautiful. I’d bet that property on the point cost a pretty penny.
Continuing around the Opera House, in the distance, you can see the islands that once held penal colonies. Today, having a penal colony ancestor gives Aussies bragging rights and is a source of pride. Those convicts were tough-as-nails survivors.
The Opera House was amazing of course, but we were actually too close to see it very well. This area is packed with walkers and tourists later in the day, but it was still VERY early when we were here.
The Royal Botanic Gardens cover several acres behind the Opera House.
Let’s take a walk!
You know I’m a sucker for flowers and plants, and I was anxious to see the native flora and fauna. Plus, the temperature was rising. Shade was becoming alluring.
Is now a good time to mention that indeed, it was hotter than Hades in Australia, with the temperature reaching 110 one of the days we visited? 100 on this day was just the warmup act. Yes, that’s the Devil, which I found extremely ironic.
Some of these trees were hundreds of years old, stately, massive and stunning. I see why Lord of the Rings was filmed down under.
Inviting benches were scattered liberally. Yes, we walked pulling our hand luggage. The hotel offered to hold it for us, but we saw the line of suitcases in the hallway being “held” for folks, and we realized how easy it would be for something that looked like a laptop bag to walk away. Whoever invented wheels for suitcases was a genius.
Color for the weary soul was everyplace. These Agapanthus are considered weeds because they grow everyplace in Australia and New Zealand, unbidden. They were music for me.
Even the ducks wanted a cold drink of water. It was HOT and getting hotter by the minute!
Splashes of color are to be found everyplace.
Some garden areas are quite formal, and others not so much. You can see the haze from the smoke in many of the pictures.
Our eyes and sometimes our throats burned much of the time were in Australia, but it wasn’t terrible unless the wind shifted. People who live there just went about their business because there was little else they could do. Life goes on.
The Kookaburra bird wanted a drink in this fountain. This guy was such a ham and put on a show for us, taking a bath to cool off. If you’ve never heard a Kookaburra bird, here’s a YouTube video.
Of course, there was a rose garden. I had a terrible time selecting just one picture to share with you.
Ok, two, maybe two. 😊
I can see the bridge in the distance. We walked for maybe 5 or 6 hours, tired and hot, pulling luggage and backpacks, but thoroughly enjoying ourselves. After leaving the cold northern hemisphere, this was heaven.
I loved our impromptu tour of the Opera House area and gardens, but I was glad when it was time to board the bus again for our ship.
Boarding our ship at the terminal and finding our room, we were afforded a lovely panoramic view of the city.
Sydney Harbour Dinner Cruise
We didn’t remain on board for long though, because we had scheduled a harbor dinner cruise.
At this point, we weren’t at all sure we’d be able to see much if any of Australia due to the encroaching fires, so we wanted to take full advantage of every opportunity possible – despite being incredibly jet lagged.
It looked dusky almost all of the time. Sunset was still a few hours away.
When sunset did arrive, it was indeed spectacular.
The Sydney skyline is truly beautiful at night.
Unfortunately, my pictures just don’t do this justice. The smoke, the light, the water was rough and I don’t have a wonderful camera or the requisite skill. If you want to see some stunning scenes, just google “Sydney skyline at night.” There’s even a quilt panel.
The Opera House.
The bridge actually goes uphill a bit.
You can’t see the boardwalk amusement park from this perspective, but there is one near the base of the bridge.
We docked near the amusement park beneath the bridge and walked along the boardwalk.
No, I didn’t ride the ferris wheel. By this time, I just wanted to go to bed.
The Opera House beneath the bridge.
The next morning, we would wake up to discover whether or not the roads out of Sydney were open towards the Blue Mountains, if it was safe, and if there was anything left to see.
We hoped so, not for us, but for the residents, firefighters and animals.
The Blue Mountains
While Sydney was founded on the harbor, the Blue Mountains ring Sydney and are stunningly beautiful. It’s surprising to me the unique character of mountain ranges.
The day was smokey most of the time. Our driver and guide used their discretion in modifying the planned agenda somewhat to keep us safe and out of as much smoke as possible.
I love driving through the countryside – any countryside.
I always wonder what abandoned buildings would say if they could talk. What stories would they tell?
The city quickly gave way to roads rising uphill towards the mountains.
And then to the mountains themselves.
We couldn’t see the valley floor through the smoke. However, this is the first we saw of the lovely rainforest forest.
The ferns grown to gargantuan size here, and absolutely every plant is somehow drought and heat resistant, or it doesn’t survive.
The bench at this overlook is an acknowledgement of the Aboriginal culture.
The beautiful Blue Mountains themselves. That’s not mist or fog, it’s smoke from the fires. I must admin, the smoke add an etherial, unworldly feeling and is incredibly beautiful.
A few hours later, you couldn’t see these rock formations at all. We were very fortunate to visit when we did.
Yes, there was really a valley out there, someplace.
This must be what “forever” looks like.
I did my best to get a panorama. This scene was literally about 270 degrees. We were standing on a point of land.
In case you wanted to sent a postcard saying “Wish you were here.”
Have I mentioned that I’m afraid of heights, and cable cars. Well, guess what, I just got over myself and DID this at Scenic World, near the overlook.
This cable car had a glass floor. I told myself I didn’t have to look, and I didn’t have to climb aboard if I changed mymind. I recall my mother hyperventilating as she was about to board a similar cable car that crossed the Niagara River Gorge above the angry swirling muddy whirlpools. She couldn’t do it, and neither did I.
Would this time be different?
Hey, when you’re this far up, you’ll die immediately if you fall, so no sweat! I climbed aboard and forced myself to keep my eyes open. Eyes open or closed didn’t matter at all to my safety, but mattered a great deal to the experience.
The view was superb, making me forget about any perceived danger.
I still can’t believe I did what’s coming next.
This is the glass bottom of the cable car. Not only did I stand on that glass – that’s my white shoes – I looked straight down at the rainforest canopy, hundreds of feet below. You can see the creek winding through the bottom of the valley.
And if that wasn’t enough daredevil for one day, next I rode on the incline train that went STRAIGHT DOWN, and, I was in the front seat. Go big or stay home.
And yes, I did keep my eyes open. I also filmed this for posterity. I’ll spare you. But in case you were wondering, I was NOT screaming.
This railway was original constructed for miners as transportation to the mines.
The old coal mines aren’t safe now and weren’t safe then. Now coal mining is done by strip mining so no one is underground.
We hiked through the verdant green forest. This is the land of huge trees and massive vines.
Some vines grow so large as to be the size of trees.
As odd as this sounds, this is a rainforest, even though they haven’t had rain in weeks.
I can only imagine clearing this land. The Aboriginal people lived in harmony with the environment. They understood fire and how to deal with it.
The smoke was moving in, so we needed to move on.
Leura and Lunch
Next, we spent time in the lovely village of Leura.
The Australians have incorporated art into just about everything, everyplace.
Greeting us was the Wisteria Place Café, covered in, you guessed it, Wisteria.
Is this inviting, or what? Tea and scones are staples here.
As luck would have it, just a block from where the bus dropped us off, I spied a quilt shop!!! I can literally smell these!
Trust me, I’ll be making an Aussie quilt with this lovely Australian fabric plus some that I’ve been saving for something special.
The shop owner told me that the fires and resulting smoke had negatively affected her business and she was literally in tears over the sale.
Kami and Joey approve! Theyjust might get little quilts too.
In many ways, the Australian towns remind me of time-worn out-of-the-way western towns in the US.
Quaint shops, including an antique shop and bookstore line the main street in town.
Our guide has rearranged our schedule because the fires, wind and smoke were predicted to be worse by afternoon, so lunch was quite late, but well worth waiting for.
Lunch and tea were served at the lovely restored Carrington Hotel in neighboring Katoomba. In Australia, a 100-year old building is old and colonial. Here, a 250 year old building is colonial. In Europe, 350 is just approaching old.
The interior was lovely.
I’m not sure exactly what this was originally. Today, they’ve used it for Christmas decorations and as part of a seating arrangement, but the original wooden object reminds me of something you’d find in a church.
Here’s a view of the back. It also looks German to me. Whatever it is, it’s large and stunning.
After lunch, we returned through the smokey haze to our ship in the Sydney Harbour.
A few hours later, we set sail for the day long journey to Melbourne.
How does one form an affection for a place in two days? I can’t answer that question, but I did and I wasn’t ready to leave.
As we sailed along the coastline, we passed by several islands.
The beauty of the islands was remarkable, enhanced of course by the stunning painterly sunsets.
Good morning Melbourne. The land where everything even remotely old is a designated historical site, like these buoys in the harbor. No, I don’t know why.
This day dawned sunny and beautiful.
Beaches line the waterfront, with the Spirit of Tasmania ferry docked, ready for the crossing to the island of Tasmania, an Australia State.
Never let it be said that Australians don’t have a sense of humor. All of Santa’s reindeer want to stay here and go to the bakery. Can we please stop????
This iconic old building was “Tea Central” when teas were rare and imported.
I’m sure you realize that I’ve taken many of these photos through a bus window. I managed to avoid people most of the time, but blurred the guides face in this photo.
Photos from a moving vehicle window are very hit or miss – so no judgement please:)
The old and very new, mixed into one eclectic city that sports both history and high tech. Many shiny high rise buildings grace the city with technology names you’d recognize. However, the historic or unusual structures were much more interesting to me.
The clocktower on Melbourne’s old city hall building.
The hills surrounding Melbourne were engulfed in flames in several directions. Fortunately, Melbourne itself was not threatened.
The smoke in the distance looked like mist or fog, but it was much more deadly.
Healesville Wildlife Sanctuary
Unfortunately, in Melbourne, we were unable to do what had originally been planned which involved mountains and a winery, so instead we chose to go to the Healesville Wildlife Sanctuary to support the wildfire relief efforts.
Melbourne is surrounded by vineyards. Australian wines are quite dry.
The Healesville Wildlife Sanctuary provides care for injured and orphaned wildlife, which as you might imagine, was arriving in droves. If you would like to contribute to the emergency fund, you can do so directly, here. They are still in need and will be for months to come.
Rest assured that I’m not going to be showing you any injured animals in these photos, so you don’t need to be concerned about that. I am going to share with you the wonders of nature and critters from down under – nothing like we have here.
The Sanctuary strives to provide a supportive recovery environment similar to the animal’s natural habitat, and an area where they can be released but still receive nourishment and assistance if they can’t quite make it on their own.
To that end, the visitor’s entry fees support the animals. The center of this flower is just lovely and looks to be waving a tiny star.
Some opportunists decide to hang around forever – like this guy. In fact, he’s famous, or infamous.
Judging from the sign, this Ibis’s reputation and tricks are well known!
I couldn’t wait – we headed straight for the Koala area.
This Koala enclosure recreates their natural habitat, plus a sun shelter and a water mister. Ok, so there’s no water mister in the forest.
This sleepy Koala may never leave!
Pathways within the Sanctuary were marked by beautiful carvings.
The animals sought shelter from the oppressive heat. Some were difficult to see.
I’m not sure what this is, but it’s native and beautiful.
A sad testimony to the brushfires which have always occurred in Australia, just never to the degree and with the intensity that they do today. Development in areas without firebreaks, in addition to global warming, contribute to the devastation being experienced today.
These sprinklers offer an artistic touch.
This Wallaby is looking for something good to eat.
Entrance to the Platypus exhibit.
Unfortunately, my platypus pictures failed miserably. Fast-moving water creature in low light.
This photo from wiki is much better. Someone once said that the Platypus is proof positive that God has a sense of humor.
This Emu was as curious about us as we were about it.
The pelicans were some of my favorites.
Not only are they amazing, they’re incredibly photogenic. I think this guy was hoping for flying fish.
This sleeping wombat was hot and burrowed into the coolest place possible, the dirt in the shade.
The Wombat wasn’t the only creature that was hot and miserable. This tarp sheltered a playground. I love how they worked the raptor into the canopy.
There were lots of educational exhibits scattered throughout, along with some colorful play areas for kids. I wonder what kind of a toad or frog this is!
Education, kindness and conservation is the central theme everyplace.
Hey, do you think we could get DNA out of this tooth?
That huge reptile carving illustrates extinct animals! I don’t want to run into him in the dark, that’s for sure.
I don’t know what these are and no one we asked knew either – but they grow wild everyplace in Australia. They are so uniquitous that I don’t think people even notice them anymore.
The Sanctuary sports a large aviary.
Tropical birds abound, but they were mostly quiet and hidden in the mid-day heat.
The carvings were just so incredible.
Unfortunately, I didn’t see a Dingo carving, but there is definately a Dingo area.
Settlers and farmers have been attempting to exterminate the Dingo since the 1800s. The Dingo Fence, began in 1880 and completed 5 years later, was an attempt to prevent Dingoes from entering an area where they had largely been eradicated.
The fence stretched nearly from sea to sea.
Dingos, both revered and maligned were known as the “Sly Yella Dog.”
In 1980, a two month-old child, Azaria Chamberlain, disappeared at Uluru, then known as Ayers Rock. Her parents reported that the child had been stolen from their tent by a Dingo, which began a firestorm of accusations, litigation and 5 separate coroners’ inquests into the child’s disappearance and presumed death.
Her mother was initially convicted, until a chance discovery six years later of a piece of the child’s clothing in an area inhabited by Dingoes triggered the release of her mother.
Was the Dingo a victim, a villain, or simply acting like a canine? Or maybe all of the above.
Dingoes are distinct from dogs, unless they have interbred.
Dingoes were adopted as pets by the Aboriginal people, although others believed they conferred bad luck.
Dingoes just look like dogs, don’t they. But there are differences.
You can learn more about the Dingo, here.
Time for lunch and something cool to drink!
Lunch was purchased in the cafeteria that helps to fund the center. You can’t miss it, just find this huge carved bird!
After lunch, we visited the gift shop hoping to find a t-shirt or other merchandise to leave some additional money in Healesville.
This gentlemen in the gift shop was playing a sacred Aboriginal instrument known as a didgeridoo, made from termite hollowed tree trunks, dating back some 40,000 years. You can hear one here.
I hope to find some fabric incorporating Australian flowers.
The Spiritual Heartland
Another area at Healesville, The Spiritual Heartland, spoke to me, heart to heart.
Being descended from Native American ancestors, raised attending Native cultural events and hearing our ancestral stories, I connect through the heartline with other aboriginal cultures, especially those displaced and attempting to retain their heritage.
Traditionally, the Australian Aboriginal people moved from place to place across the land, driven by the seasons.
The Gunyah is a traditional Aboriginal shelter. As the Europeans settled on the Aboriginal land, beginning in the 1830s, these structures were eventually replaced by more traditional colonial structures, as was the traditional clothing of possum-skin cloaks.
The Aboriginal nomadic lifestyle changed with the arrival of Europeans who perceived that their failure to put down roots in one place meant that the land was unclaimed and available for the taking.
By 1859, less than 2,000 of the original 60,000 Aboriginal people remained. The toll had been heavy with 58,000 people succumbing in only three decades.
Wonga, their leader, petitioned the government for land they could call home, permanently. Finally, after being ignored for years, in 1863, Coranderrk Station was established as a refuge for Aboriginal people who believed that the land had been given to them in perpetuity.
Coranderrk Station was a successful, independent aboriginal village, but created in the image of the colonial settler, not the Aboriginal people. Their traditional lifestyle was replaced by farming.
Many times the Aboriginal women would gather in the “new-fangled” clapboard houses, pull the curtains and pretend to say prayers, all the while quietly speaking their own language.
In 1923, all “half-cast” men were ordered off the land, freeing the land for colonists who viewed this land as too valuable to remain in the hands of Aboriginal people. This eviction fractured Aboriginal families, exactly as it was intended to do.
Today, the Healesville Wildlife Sanctuary is the steward of a small portion of that original Aboriginal land.
These circles mark the last remnant of Coranderrk Station, 80 hectares of land purchased in 1998 and returned to the Wurundjeri people, along with an additional 142 hectares from another source, remnants of Yarra Bushland.
Today, Coranderrk is the spiritual heart and homeland of many.
I stand here in unity with all Native people around the world. We walk together.
Not only does Healesville heal animals, they heal hearts too.
You can donate to support the work of the Healesville Sanctuary, here.
It was time to head back to Melbourne, to our temporary floating home.
For several days, I had noticed signs for “Pokies” everyplace. And I mean literally everyplace. This one is outside a gas station. I saw signs outside restaurants, groceries, and more.
Care to guess?
Pokies are slot machines.
And you know what this is, I’m sure. I had no idea they traded under any other name than the immediately recognizable McDonald’s.
I’m not sure what to think of this balcony drive-in hotel though!
Passing through an Australian small town. I can hear John Mellencamp’s “Small Town” in my mind.
Entering the outskirts of Melbourne again, I noticed a lot of graffiti art.
I know this might sound strange, but I find this quite interesting. I realize that some people find graffiti art a bit of an oxymoron.
Is graffiti vandalism, or is it art? And when?
You have to admit, some of these grafitti artists are quite talented. Some cities invite graffiti artists to have contests.
Much of art versus vandalism is in the eye of the beholder. Or the eye of the property owner. And frankly, in the quality of the grafitti art itself.
Some of these buildings seem to be an ongoing art competition canvas.
A few of the original colonial buildings remain in Melbourne, closer to the waterfront.
Colonial buildings can be recognized by their original iron railings, mostly gone today.
The guide explained that many iron railings were melted down years ago, but a few have escaped.
These fortunate few remain.
I love the old colonial sections of towns. This brickwork is remarkable. Notice that the neighbor’s house has decorative brickwork of some type too. I’d bet this was the signature style of a particular brickmason.
To me, this looks very Spanish and Caribbean.
It feels odd moving from the colonial era to the Olympics within a block or two, but that’s exactly the cultural shift one makes. I suspect that many early buildings were removed to make room for the stadium.
These Olympic rings are found in front of Melbourne Stadium known as the MCG, or Melbourne Cricket Ground. The cricket games played during the 2000 Summer Olympics were held in Melbourne at the ANZ Stadium, and are Aussies ever PROUD of that. Cricket is an Aussie obsession – one which they don’t even attempt to explain to outsiders. If you want to know more about cricket, here you go, and good luck.
It was time to board the ship again.
The harbor was beautiful sailing away. But things can change rapidly. And did.
An hour or so later, the smoke drifted over the water, causing a very red sun that was not setting.
A few hours later, the sun actually did begin to set, looking like a painter’s palette.
The sunset over the Bass Strait sailing into the Tasman Sea.
Viking Cruise Lines always attempts to reflect the art of the locations where their voyages journey. As I pondered these footsteps, I can’t help but think of the footprints of man, of mankind, trekking out of Africa, forging paths across the globe – to you and me today. Songlines of a different type, perhaps.
We are indeed, all related.
I think I feel a quilt coming on.
Mom’s Birthday – January 30th
The next day was bittersweet.
It saddens me every year when Mom’s birthday rolls around, in part because what used to be a joyful celebratory occasion marks the anniversary of the birth of someone I can never see again.
Never hear her voice.
Never tell her stories about my adventures.
How she loved to hear those.
Well, at least the ones I selectively shared with her😊
On this particular birthday, what would have been her 98th, we sailed through some EXTREMELY rough waters in the Tasman Sea, between Australia and Tasmania. The captain would have turned on the fasten seat belt signs if he could have. Everyone was staggering around like drunken sailors, except they were stone cold sober.
Thank goodness for great wifi. Starting on Mom’s birthday and for the duration of our two day sea crossing to reach our next port, I pretty much stayed in my cabin and worked on Mom’s genealogy while popping out onto the balcony from time to time to soak up some sunshine and take a picture.
I probably wouldn’t have told Mom about how rough these seas were, although they did calm down towards evening.
But given that she’s on the other side, I’m guessing she already knows. I can hear her now, “Can’t you just behave?”
In a word, Mom, “no.” I can’t and never could.
Wanting to do something to honor her birthday, I found Mom’s graduation picture in one of my blog articles, decorated it with a Christmas wreath, and posted it as my profile picture on Facebook.
And then, I cried when I saw the result on my phone.
After it posted, I realized that her beautiful photo is juxtaposed against me, in a lab jacket, at the GenebyGene lab this past June when filming the Lost Colony episode.
Oh, the irony.
Mom’s parents wouldn’t allow her to further her education, because they had already spent money on dance lessons because of her heart condition, and they had already put her brother through college.
Not exactly comparable expenditures, but what was Mom to do?
How different Mom’s life would have been had she been allowed to attend college. There weren’t student loans then, and 17-year-old females in 1940 could do little without their parent’s consent, and in this case, assistance.
While they were willing to scrimp and sacrifice to send her brother to college – sacrifices she endured too – they were not willing to make that same investment in Mom. Instead, the brother got a master’s degree and she got married. That’s what “good girls” did back then.
As I looked at those two photos together, taken 79 years apart, I realized just how much things have changed. I went to college and received advanced degrees three decades after Mom’s pleas were cast aside. Yes, I earned my way, but I COULD earn my way – an opportunity she was never afforded.
The lab I was visiting is directed by a female PhD, Dr. Connie Bormans.
I, along with other women have been so blessed with hope and opportunities never possible or even imagined by my mother’s generation.
I know, retrospectively, that mother would be popping-buttons proud of me, even through she was not cracked up about some of the decisions I made along the way to arrive at this place in my life. Like moving away, for example. She wished, fervently sometimes, that I would just “stay home and behave myself,” for what she perceived as my own good.
Well Mom, that just wasn’t in the cards, or my DNA.
Of course, she knows that, because she contributed half of my genetic material and selected my father for his devilishly handsome bad-boy rebel tendencies. He contributed the other half of my DNA. She, of ALL people, shouldn’t be surprised about where life’s path has taken me, with a few pushes, shoves and mid-course corrections along the way.
So, here I am on her birthday😊!!!
Staggering around on an artificial floating island half-way around the world in the very rough Tasman Sea, seeking to solve life’s mysteries using DNA. Something only discovered 2 years before my birth and that Mom had probably never heard of at that time. Yet she herself would take DNA tests that I still utilize today. Genetics would profoundly mold and transform the life of her daughter half a century later.
Happy Birthday Mom, from your gleefully misbehaving daughter sailing the Tasman Sea.
I’ll see you overhome.
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DNA Purchases and Free Transfers
- FamilyTreeDNA – Y, mitochondrial and autosomal DNA testing
- MyHeritage DNA – ancestry autosomal DNA only, not health
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Genealogy Products and Services
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- Legacy Family Tree Webinars – genealogy and DNA classes, subscription based, some free
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Fun DNA Stuff
- Celebrate DNA – customized DNA themed t-shirts, bags and other items