I liken a family to a tree in your own garden.
Its roots are the ancestors, its trunk is the current family group of
grandparents, parents and siblings, and the branches the uncles aunts,
and cousins, and for the rare lucky ones, subsidiary branches of some
or many of these. Like a tree, the family is always there to protect
those who need its shelter.
When measured against this criterion mine was
hardly recognisable as a family. One cold, severe
grandmother. A loved uncle whom I rarely saw as he was in
the Royal Navy. An unloved, unloving and secretive
father, a full-time working mother, and an elder brother,
all of whom virtually disappeared from my life when I was
evacuated to the country at the beginning of WW2 at age
eleven. No other relatives were known to me until a delightful aunt
came into my life in my
thirties, bringing a never-seen cousin in Ireland and
telling me about two more in Australia.
Late in life, as my wife Sue and I unravelled some
of its mysteries, warmed to the anecdotes, and shared in
some of the pleasures and tragedies of the Toulmin
family, it gradually became our family. The never-met
aunts and uncles are all real people to us, as are some
of my direct ancestors back to kindly
great-great-grandfather Joseph, with his generous nature
and enigmatic smile. Sue and I emotionally
“adopted” uncle “Freddie”, from the
picture of him as a little boy. We felt a real personal
loss and sorrow for the fate of so many uncles and aunts
who died in the spring of their lives, as did our two
great- aunts, Eliza Josephine and Isabella, who both died
in their twenties.