I've got to the point with my family research where I've captured much of what I need of the contemporary story. I've filled a number of gaps though there are still plenty of holes. When did my grandfather set up his bakery in Woodburn? And was he really run out of town after the war to create work opportunities for the returning diggers? And was the fact that he was Italian a factor? And when did he buy his 'doomed to fail' cane farm? I have a lead on the last one but I need to go to Sydney to the Land Titles Office.
At this point I am building up courage to try and write about my great grandfather and his family's journey from northern Italy to Australia via New Guinea and Noumea. I'm reading about Italy in the 19th Century, researching life in steerage class on migrant ships and watching the film "Tree of Wooden Clogs". This 1978 film depicts peasant life in northern Italy and is performed by a cast of locals. It's very good.
My major dilemma is finding the story 'voice. I'm playing with having Dominic and Marietta, Lorenzo's children, tell the story. I'm inspired by 'Mr. Pip", the Loyd Jones novel which I read recently, in which the story of island life on Bougainville during a period of major civil disruption is told through the eyes of a 14 year old. It's beautifully done.
Here's my first attempt at an opening. I'm putting it out there so I can see it from a readers perspective.
Time, history, evolution, call it what you will, travels a path none can predict. The only thing certain is that it always continues its forward journey slowly carving a track through time like a glacier. Familes grow and merge and dissolve; children are born, grow into adults and have children of their own. The family glacier splits into ever more and finer slivers as it progresses. Occasionally the glacier follows a deviation, a fault-line leading nowhere and that line stagnates, melts and dies.
I wasn't destined to have my line die out. I had ten children, five boys and five girls and the first of these, Stephen Antonio, produced a son, Stephen Anthony, who produced a further son, christened Stephen John.
In an unusual occurrance in this Italian descendant family, my step brother (we shared a father) had in his line another Stephen John. I say unusual because, while the first family seems to have become enamoured of the Stephen moniker and there are plenty of Giovannis and Johns across the generations, Stephen is otherwise, rare. Add to that, the fact that these two families had not met in over one hundred years, so there was no conscious or unconscious influence at play. It seems that this doubling of names was purely coincidental.
It was more than one hundred and thirty years after my birth that these two Stephen John Capelins met, via email I believe, a form unknown in my era. In fact my father couldn't even write his own name let alone compose a letter or postcard. Their common link was my father, Lorenzo.
One of my first clear memories of my father is the night of the argument which changed our lives.
It had been another bleak day with an icy wind blowing from the distant northern alps. Our village sat exposed on the plains, its back turned to the annual buffeting and sleeting rains of winter. The cows agreed. They stood, forlorn in the late afternoon dun coloured light, their tails limply dropping over exposed rumps giving what little protection tails could. Their udders were full, their eyes sad, as they stood on the rough stony yard awaiting entry to the milking yard and to the warmth of their overnight stalls. The dark was early and a welcome relief from the half dark of the day. ................................................................
More details will expose his relationship within the household and his insights into his father's decision making and way of thinking. He will be the voice of common sense.We'll learn that this is Domenic speaking through the dialogue in the next few pages. I'm also thinking that his sister Marietta will be the emotional voice in the story, the one who sees the emotional impact on the family and her mother.
Good to have begun, even if the story moves completely away from this beginning. It's challenging because I've never really written in a voice other than my own.