i remember my mother's father, pa, as a story teller. i would have been only fourteen when pa died and he lived in new zealand so i had only met him a few times and my impressions have been formed more by mum's remembrances than my own observations but i clearly remember him telling me the story of epaminondas. he told it with a sparkle in his eye, with great accents and facial expressions, humour and suspense. a very quick glance at some websites tells me that the story is regarded as racist and i see why but times were different then and i imagine he just liked the story.
i also remember pa writing a birthday card for somebody and smudging it a bit. he didnt want to give a smudged card so he turned the mark into a picture and though i didnt know it then, in that moment i saw a glimpse of pa's perfectionist side. the turning of a mistake into something acceptable, even attractive would also have been part of his work as an artisan.
pa left school at about the age of fourteen and worked in his father's blacksmith shop and around the age of eighteen he was offered an apprenticeship in some kind of engineering work. pa's father was a binge drinker and knowing that he had a problem he determined to move to a dry area and expected his son to go with him. the plan was that together they would establish a life and the rest of the family would follow. and that, is in fact, what happened. pa never took the apprenticeship. of course we dont know what might have happened if he had taken advantage of that opportunity but i suspect it may have involved great personal cost. i also have fanciful dreams that maybe his sacrifice made a significant difference in the lives of his siblings.
it must have been relatively soon after the big move that pa worked in what i understand to be a mixed business where he learned to make confectionery and ice cream. it would also have been about this time that he met my nanna and these two aspects of his story collide for the period of the great depression, during which time pa made confectionery to sell door to door and waited, a long wait, to marry his sweetheart. without further research the story is hazy but the time from meeting to marrying was seven years for pa & nanna, not so unusual in these days of cohabiting but surely an agonising wait in those days.