arrived yesterday afternoon and, before she had even made it through the door, said, "I have to write this thing about my family!"
My heart did a sort of uncomfortable hop and I said, "Oh."
Family is not a good topic for the Whirlwind. There is the Whirlwind herself. There is her father. There is no other family in Adelaide. There is an aunt in Canberra but the relationship is rather awkward, although the Whirlwind tries to pretend it is not. They are short of what she calls "relics" or blood relations. Her mother's death is still a highly sensitive subject for the Whirlwind. I think it always will be.
Her teacher had set the topic "my family" for the class. It rather surprised me. Like any other school these days they have their share of non-traditional households. It is not a topic I would set for a written piece.
The Whirlwind's father holds down a very responsible position in government but it was not what she needed to write about - and I knew that without suggesting it.
"I don't know what to do! I hate it when they do that!"
There were tears. There were not floods of tears but the blinking hard and blowing the nose sort of tears.
"Right," I told her, "We are going to think about your grandfather - the motorbike one."
She looked at me.
"But he's dead."
"Yes, but he is still a member of your family. You can write about him. Sit down and start thinking. What did he do?"
Her grandfather rode a motorbike from England to Australia. It took him six and a half years to do it because war broke out on the way and he spent four of those years in India and Burma. It is a fascinating story. Her father has the diaries his father kept but they are written in a sort of terse shorthand of the English language and parts are blacked out for security reasons. There are some photographs. I wish the old man was alive so Ciaranne could learn more. He is someone to be proud of.
An hour or so later the Whirlwind has a story to tell. It just needs typing up. I suggest she asks her father to help her scan in a couple of photographs to add to it. That way he can read what she has written and make certain nothing untoward has been said.
It is History Week at school. Everyone has a history but not everything can be shared.