I’m not sure when it started, but at some point I decided to ‘adopt’ my good friend’s family as what I call my Melbourne family.
I told my girlfriend about my decision and we had a good laugh at the time about the fact that her family didn’t get a choice in it.
I just decided they were wonderful and that if I was choosing a family for myself in Melbourne, I would pick them – whether they wanted me or not!
Over the years it’s been a wonderful relationship:
• Annual trips to Sing-Along-A-Sound-of-Music with my friend and her Mum (Mrs C) and on occasion an Aunt – all in fancy dress, of course!
• The ANZAC Day dawn service with Mr C.
• Birthday parties, dinners, lunches and brunches with grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and more.
• Combined get-togethers with my Mum and other members of my family when they’re visiting Melbourne.
Like family, as soon as they heard that I had been retrenched, they got their arms around me. They invited me around to their place for a barbecue and a well-timed game of football – Collingwood (their team) versus North Melbourne (mine.)
The big hugs and words of encouragement from Mrs C, when my own Mum and family were so far away in Western Australia, made me feel safe and loved.
“When God closes a door, he opens a window,” she told me. I remember replying to her, partly with bravado at that early stage, that I felt as though a little window had closed and a big door had opened.
Some months before all of that, this warm, generous family had let me know that I’ve become like part of their family too.
They were planning to head back to Mauritius as a family for the first time since Mr and Mrs C migrated to Australia in the early 1970s.
They migrated as good-looking young singles with flared jeans and big hair – I’ve seen the photos!
They married in Melbourne and built successful careers, and a wonderful life together here, with four children. There are three daughters and their youngest, a son, was born to this proud, hard-working migrant family quite symbolically on Australia Day.
My good friend is their eldest daughter. She’s a successful businesswoman, a CEO and my running buddy. She was the first friend I called after I was told my job had been cut and she dropped everything to meet and support me.
I knew her family had been discussing a trip back to Mauritius for a couple of years, but I was both surprised and delighted at the start of this year when they invited me to join them.
My best friend from high school had invited me to join a similar pilgrimage to take her mother, who had been sent to Australia as what they called a ‘child migrant’, back to Ireland a couple of years ago.
It was a trip of a lifetime to Ireland for my girlfriend and her Mum, but unfortunately I let work and other things get in the way of joining them. I wasn’t going to make the same mistake with this trip to Mauritius.
Knowing how moving it has been for me to visit my father’s home country of Scotland, it feels like an enormous privilege to be part of this visit to Mauritius as members of a whole family reconnect with their heritage.
It’s a large travelling party – more than a dozen of us – including a brother to Mr C and sister to Mrs C, their four kids, several spouses, a couple of grandchildren and another one on the way!
I’m told that there are two distinct sides to Mauritius – the tourist resorts where the lifestyles of the rich and famous play out, and the villages where normal life for everyday Mauritians takes place, and where Mr and Mrs C grew up.
We arrived here last night and over the next couple of weeks, I’m looking forward to learning more about these lovely Australians – my Melbourne family – and the land that produced them for us.