Two intertwined love stories have circled back to where it all began with this visit to Mauritius by my friend’s family.
The timing of the trip means that we are in Mauritius to celebrate her Mum, Mrs C’s, birthday today. This birthday marks the 42nd anniversary of a defining moment in her courtship with Mr C that took place before they migrated to Australia to start a new life.
We are also here to celebrate the 40th wedding anniversary of Mr C’s brother, Uncle J, who proposed to his wife Aunty F just a few days before he left for Australia.
We all gathered for pre-dinner drinks a couple of nights ago in Mr and Mrs C’s room and it was heartwarming to see Mr C and Uncle J so excited about recounting memories that had flooded back to them with their return to Mauritius.
In particular that night, they were each telling the stories of their courtships and engagements in Mauritius, followed by weddings in Australia.
“I’m going to take it from here,” Mr C would interject.
Then moments later, Uncle J would speak up: “I’ve got this next bit.”
The brothers migrated to Australia in 1971 with another brother and a sister to seek work opportunities, a better life and, as Mr C puts it, ‘adventure’ in Australia.
Their wives can hardly get a word in to share their sides of the story, but we get a quiet moment with Mrs C in the car while out sightseeing the next day.
The way she tells it, she and Mr C might never have met if it hadn’t been for the man driving the car and his wife, who is Mr C’s cousin.
Mrs C’s father was very strict and she wasn’t allowed to talk to boys, but Mr C’s cousin was a trusted family friend, so the teenage Mrs C was allowed to accompany the couple to a dance.
That night, Mr C spotted Mrs C for the first time and asked another girl: “Who is that girl?”
This is another point of intersection for the love stories of these two brothers. The girl Mr C asked was a young single Aunty F, who was friends with Mrs C because they were both policemen’s daughters.
Aunty F blurted out loudly Mrs C’s name and Mr C was so embarrassed he gave her a swift kick, which was the exact moment when Mrs C looked up to see him for the first time – her own Mr Darcy?
“My first impression was that he was a bit rude! But then he asked me to dance and I was on top of the world. We danced and danced.”
Soon after she had a party for her 17th birthday and Mr C was one of the guests. Mrs C’s Dad set a strict curfew for everyone to leave.
“At midnight, that’s it, Dad said,” according to Mrs C. “So I went around and changed all the clocks! After that, that was it, we just kept seeing each other.”
Later that year, in December 1971, an 18-year-old Mr C and 19-year-old Uncle J migrated to Australia, both leaving their new fiancées behind.
The couples kept in touch by letter until Aunty F was able to join Uncle J about a year later and Mrs C joined Mr C in March 1973.
Some of Mr C’s letters were intercepted on their way to Mrs C by one of her curious younger sisters, Aunty MC – who is also part of this current visit back to Mauritius.
After reading the stolen letters, Aunty MC tried to cover her tracks. She re-sealed the envelopes using the sticky juice from cooked rice.
“So I’m getting these letters with rice all over them and I hit the roof!” Mrs C said. She’s laughing as she retells the story, able to see the funny side now. “She had read them all before me.”
According to Aunty MC, she only read the letters for a while: “I thought it was great!”
Mrs C resorted to writing in code. So that prying eyes wouldn’t understand, she scrambled the letters to the words ‘I love you’ and ‘I adore you’ – or Je t’aime and J’adore as she would write them then in French.
J’adore les histoires du cette famille. I love the stories of this family.