99 Word Flash Fiction: Amelia

Great-Grandma

Great-Grandma

 99 word Flash

Amelia left the two women who stared after her.

“Amelia’s in the family way again.”

“Every time that ne’er-do-well husband comes home she has another bairn.”

“Lucky his ship don’t come in too oft. Threes enough on yer own..”

…………

One hundred and ten years later Amelia’s great-grandchildren scoured through Ancestory.com. Little was known of their great-grandfather apart from his birth date in Boston, Massachusetts. The last time the family saw him was 1904.

“I’ve found something.” We poured over the 1910 marriage certificate – to another woman. Not only new aunts, uncles and cousins but a skeleton in the closet. Great-Grand Dad was a bigamist.

 

This piece was in response to Charlie’s prompt for June 25, 2014: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that considers history, near or far. Is it a historic account? A character’s reflection upon finding her grandmother’s hidden love poems? A modern family contemplating the ruins of an old structure? An archaeological dig? A classroom discussion of the History Channel? Dig into the past and record what you find. Respond by noon (PST) Tuesday, July 1 to be included in the compilation.

This immediately had me thinking of my Great- Grandma Amelia. She is
a woman who has always fascinated me from when I was a little girl. The
fact that she had a wooden leg conjured up all sorts of possibilities. She might have been a pirate as at least one pirate on each ship had a wooden leg. I developed all sorts of stories around this leg and the one that stuck was losing it in WWI when she went to the front as a nurse and became injured. She was so heroic that Edward Prince of Wales stopped to be introduced to her on his Royal Tour by train in 1920 when it stopped at the small town of Tiaro in North Queensland.

Of course none of this was true. She lost her leg to gangrene after an injury and was busy raising three children by herself as her husband rarely was in the vicinity and he wasn’t seen again after 1904. Instead her introduction to the Prince of Wales was as the head of the Red Cross in the small town and not because she had been heroic.

Amelia Stanley-Clarke and the Prince of Wales

Amelia Stanley-Clarke and the Prince of Wales

It was exciting to learn more about this stern looking woman and when we discovered my Great-grand dad’s other life I wondered what this tough pioneer woman would have thought. My Mother told me that she was glad my grandma was no longer with us to hear about her father and that she would have been shocked and mortified. She would have hung her head in shame. I think my Mum felt that way as well. I was excited. We suddenly had so many more aunts and uncles and cousins and I have yet to discover whether they want to be found.

Did Amelia know that her husband was never going to come back? Did she know that he had another wife? Did she wait, hoping that the man she loved would one day walk through the door and as each day passed her face set more and more to stone? Sadly, I’ll never know the answers to these questions but I do hope that her life was happy.

 

 

About Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

I began my working career as a reluctant potato peeler whilst waiting to commence my training as a student nurse. On completion I worked mainly in intensive care/coronary care; finishing my hospital career as clinical nurse educator in intensive care. A life changing period as a resort owner/manager on the island of Tanna in Vanuatu was followed by recovery time as a farmer at Bucca Wauka. Having discovered I was no farmer and vowing never again to own an animal bigger than myself I took on the Barrington General Store. Here we also ran a five star restaurant. Working the shop of a day 7am - 6pm followed by the restaurant until late was surprisingly more stressful than Tanna. On the sale we decided to retire and renovate our house with the help of a builder friend. Now believing we knew everything about building we set to constructing our own house. Just finished a coal mine decided to set up in our backyard. Definitely time to retire we moved to Queensland. I had been writing a manuscript for some time. In the desire to complete this I enrolled in a post grad certificate in creative Industries which I completed 2013. I followed this by doing a Master of Arts by research graduating in 2017. Now I live to write and write to live.
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20 Responses to 99 Word Flash Fiction: Amelia

  1. TanGental says:

    I love this, Irene. A few years before my mother died she decided to tell me and my brother as much as she could recall about the family history. After relating the story of a great aunt who ran off to be a prostitute in WW1 and married a Norwegian sailor (I’m still not sure which was thought of as worse), I said ‘what don’t we have in this family’. ‘Not much,’ said Mum. ‘Murder?’ ‘No, but theft, fraud, bigamy and incest…’ She didn’t blink as she told me. I still wonder how much of it was true!

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    • Thanks Geoff. You were lucky your Mum opened up and told you all of these stories before they were lost forever. I have been trying to get my Mum to tell me stories of simple things that gave her pleasure as a child, or what my grandparents were like, routines that they had, holidays, just anything but everything is so censored that she won’t let out a thing.

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  2. joannesisco says:

    How exciting for you to discover this new information!! At the same time I can’t help but feel sad for your great grandmother to have waited in vain. In today’s world I get antsy if I don’t get immediate responses to a text message. I can’t imagine the lives of women waiting for men who never came back … always wondering … and perhaps hoping.

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  3. On the other hand, maybe he was domestic tyrant and she was delighted when he vanished. How frustrating that you’ll never know!

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  4. Nida S. says:

    wow this was fascinating. Imagining the lives of our ancestors is intriguing and inspiring. Reading this only made me wonder about my own:)

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  5. Sherri says:

    Oh Irene, how fascinating is this story? I have to say that actually it’s good for me to know that my family isn’t the only one with more than one skeleton in the closet…several, in fact! What a story this is and as you say, you can only hope that Amelia did live a happy life despite the fact that her husband had another life. Oh the stories from the past that could be told if only we knew what really happened…loved the sepia photographs too and how incredible that Amelia really did get to meet the Prince of Wales! Fabulous post, you had me hooked my friend and wanting to know more, much more… 🙂

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  6. Glynis Jolly says:

    I love your outlook on the adventures of your great grandfather. Sure, he was a scoundrel, no doubt about it, but as you stated, more relatives to find out about.

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  7. How fascinating, Irene. Clearly you got your pluck from her! Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to go back and ask her all the questions that have to remain unanswered?

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  8. ChristineR says:

    A wonderful relaxed looking photo – a change from the stiffly rigid poses of those days. You can’t trust those sailors, a girl in every port they say. She probably was glad to see the back of him. 😀

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  9. The photos are good to have. Yes, I hope she was happy that he wasn’t around. XD

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  10. Pingback: From Dirt to Words « Carrot Ranch Communications

  11. Charli Mills says:

    My apologies, Irene–I missed your flash! While traveling I completely forgot to check my second gmail account. And it is a terrific flash! It’s now up on Carrot Ranch and has a proper spot after Geoff’s flash as it seems to be the history that is brewing in Geoff’s characters.

    What a fascinating woman Amelia was. I would have made up stories, too about a grandmother with a wooden leg. Yet, she headed up the Red Cross and raised three children on her own. I’d be excited to make such a discovery, too. I’d think there would be enough distance for you cousins to connect and swap tales on that grandfather! I’m sure there’s stories about him as well.

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  12. That’s okay Charli. We are doing our best to locate the half relatives but we know that he had one son and several daughters with his other wife but these have as far as we can find died and finding their progeny is proving a little difficult as some have dropped the Stanleigh (ours was Stanley) and become Clarke only whilst some only had daughters who have taken up their husbands surnames. The funny thing was that the great grandfather and a number of his children lived in Chatswood (a suburb of Sydney) and my grandmother (whose father it was) moved from the Far North Queensland town and also lived in this suburb. It is possible she had run into some of her half siblings whilst doing the shopping or elsewhere.

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