I’ve always thought that an insightful question to ask at autobiography workshops is ‘How was your milk delivered as a child?’
The responses it brings are so diverse. Stories about jugs being left by the farm gate for the milkman to fill at dawn, visions of frozen milk sticking out the top of glass bottles being pecked at by early morning birds, recollections of milk floats being driven around streets at teatime with milk delivered in cardboard cartons, and all kinds of tales in between. Every decade and lifestyle has its own version of the seemingly commonplace and everyday occurrence. The responses to this one simple question indicate family structure, income, location, community, time frame, chores, and so much more.
Up until now I’ve never really felt that there’s another autobiographical question that in itself shows so much about a person’s life. But, as of this week, that changed. I now have a question that I think is on par.
'And that question is?’ I hear you ask.
‘How did you stay in touch with your family when you first moved out of home?’
With Steve off house-sitting and our daughters off being adults, this past week was the first time in thirty years that I have (as far as I can remember) lived on my own and had nobody to look after! Quite an interesting week I can tell you (on all kinds of levels). One of the many things it brought to my attention was the differences between my leaving home and what it’s like to do it now.
Back in 1985, when I left the UK and first came to Australia on my Working Visa, the most common way for me to be in touch with home was to write letters and Aerograms. That was mainly because phone calls then cost over a dollar a minute – or over two dollars a minute if you phoned during the day in peak time – and actually seeing somebody on a video chat was, of course, unheard of. In fact, if I were to be honest, even my letters were a little more spasmodic than they should have been.
Now though (with Skype, emails and Facebook, etc) things are so very different – and instantaneous – with letters almost unheard of.
And that’s a change which happened in only thirty years – less than one lifetime!
At the back of my mind, I also have memories of the stories my Grandma used to tell me. Ones when she said travelling to Australia, when she was young, was like going away forever because you’d never know if you’d be heard of again.
The world has got so much smaller over the years, with communication becoming easier, quicker, and more affordable (if occasionally more technical), while milk deliveries have become less commonplace and less interesting.
Just one more thing in life we’ve accepted, I guess, and taken for granted.