Returning to England.
Michael was now formally adopted, Gloria’s baby boy gone forever from her arms but never ever from her heart. She had to get on with life though so she found a nursing job in Sydney and spent the rest of her two years in Australia working there. She loved life in Sydney but every day she thought about Michael and prayed for him. She wondered endlessly about how he was getting on with his new family “has he cut his first tooth yet?, has he taken his first steps yet?” It cut her to the core knowing that another woman was witnessing these milestones and not her. She physically ached with sorrow when she imagined him running up to another woman with outstretched arms shrieking “Mummy”.
Every day Gloria’s heart yearned for her little boy, but every day she masked her sorrow with a smile as she tried to get on with life and finding her ‘new normal’. She spoke to Sylvia about Michael, but to everyone else in her life he did not and could not exist.
Gloria made many new friends in Australia, lifelong friends with whom she would write to and exchange Christmas cards with for the rest of her life.
But all to soon her two years in Australia were up. Did she want to return to England? No. Did she feel obligated to go back and see her parents? Yes.
So she once more boarded a ship in preparation for the 6 week return voyage to England. As she sailed out of Sydney Gloria recalled sobbing constantly for three days solid as the ship made its way down to New Zealand to pick up more returning immigrants.
Two years earlier Gloria had sailed out to Australia via the Mediterranean Sea, the Suez Canal and the Indian Ocean. She sailed back across the Pacific Ocean, the Panama Canal and finally crossing the Atlantic, so by the time she reached Southampton again she had fully circumnavigated the globe by boat, stopping at many different countries along the way so that these small ships could re-stock with food and fuel.
Pauline remembers going to Southampton to meet Gloria from the ship along with her parents Betty and Percy, and remembers Gloria getting off the ship slightly ‘worse for wear’! Mum was never a big drinker so I can only imagine this was a last binge to numb the pain of returning and leaving her now 17 month old son on the other side of the world.
Pauline by this time was happily married to David, having left Australia and returned to him in September 1964. She and Gloria hadn’t actually spoken in the time in between, purely because phone calls cost so much to make. In fact in the two years she had been away Gloria had only had two 3 minute phone calls with her parents, both of them being on Christmas Day.
Pauline had 101 questions she wanted to ask Gloria, but of course they couldn’t speak about Michael in from of Betty and Percy, so they returned to Sussex in a taxi together and by the time Pauline returned home to David nothing had been mentioned of Michael at all.
As soon as Gloria reached her home town of Worthing, she knew there was just one thing she wanted and needed to do – book a sailing back to Australia, only this time she booked only a one way ticket. She was going to return back to the land she now called home and settle there for life.
She couldn’t return immediately though, she had to save up for the fare and once again there was embassies and visas to deal with. It was going to be about another year before she could return.
Gloria felt suffocated back in Worthing though, so she found work in a hospital in Ashford,close to Heathrow Airport, and rented an apartment with some of her nursing colleagues.
In January 1967 one of her flat mates (an Australian) was going to be return home to Oz and invited Gloria to her farewell party. By the time the party came, Gloria had just finished a long shift at the hospital and was just not in the mood for partying. She tried to make her excuses but her friend was not taking ‘no’ for an answer. So Gloria agreed to go “just for one drink”. True to her word, Gloria had just one drink and couldn’t wait to escape, so she slipped out quietly and was making her way down the staircase when a rugged Scotsman said to her “hey, where do you think you’re escaping to this early?”. Gloria explained she was tired and not in the party mood, but the Scotsman (introducing himself as Bill) was persistent in his pursuit of her and told her that it was his birthday the following day and invited her to have a birthday drink with him.
The following evening (January 8th). Gloria and Bill had their first ‘date’, except they didn’t acknowledge it was actually a date. Gloria told him how she was sick of friends trying to set her up with guys and made sure he knew she had a one way ticket booked back to Australia. Bill responded in telling her that he was not long out of the army and enjoying his single carefree life. They had an instant connection though so agreed to hang out and have some ‘no strings attached’ fun together. Little did they imagine that night that Cupid had just shot a golden arrow through their hearts, and within days these two people who were determined to stay footloose and fancy free had fallen head over heals with one another and just two weeks later Bill proposed to her.
Gloria had no hesitation in saying yes, but she also knew in this moment she had to tell Bill all about Michael. As I said in an earlier chapter Bills reaction was simply “let’s go and get him then and I’ll bring him up as my own”. Oh how Gloria wished this was a possibility but Michael was adopted now and this just wasn’t an option.
There was one more big hurdle standing between them, Bill did not want to live in Australia. Gloria had a huge choice to make but so deep was her love for Bill that her one way ticket to Australia never got used, and instead they found themselves planning a wedding just 14 months later.
A wedding and two daughters later, Gloria fronted an image of being a mother of two, but in her heart she was always a mother to 3. We didn’t know this or even notice it at the time but apparently every year on December 9th (Michael’s birthday) she would make her excuses for going out and would make her way down to our local Catholic Church and light a candle for him.
In the early years of their marriage with what was then a big mortgage, Gloria and Bill had no money to spare, so family holidays as mentioned were the most basic in the U.K, yet always very happy. As a family we had very little and yet wanted for nothing.
The costs of overseas travel turned itself on its head too. Sea voyages which had once been the cheaper options were now replaced by cruises which were only affordable to the most affluent, air travel became the cheaper and easier option. The problem was that there was absolutely no way that Gloria and Bills finances could afford either option, and in addition to that Bill was absolutely terrified of flying. He had once witnessed an army aircraft with many of his friends on board, take off and come down directly in front of him exploding into a fireball. He had to watch helplessly and traumatically as his friends and comrades perished in the burning wreckage and understandably he swore that day that he would NEVER fly again.
Gloria’s heart yearned to return to Australia but hurdle after hurdle stood in her way.
Her marriage and commitment to Bill was strong though, they had many ups and downs along the way, things which would have probably torn many younger couples apart, but they were from a generation which fixed things and didn’t throw them away. They worked hard to make their marriage succeed and as they overcame the earlier challenges they grew closer and closer as the years went by, and honoured their marriage vow of ‘till death us do part’
Years came and went and nothing truly significant happened in this side of the story until that night in October 1986 when Mum told me I had a brother. She had told my sister several years earlier but she never felt any desire to find or know our brother.
Me, on the other hand became completely obsessed by it. In the weeks that passed in 1986/87 I thought it was going to just be a matter of time; Mum would find Michael, we would be reunited with joyous hugs and kisses and all live happily ever after. But just a few months later Mum dropped yet another bombshell…….she had changed her mind about searching for Michael.