John Marsden Writing Topic #171


The Branches On My Family Tree

Volume V

All of our children grew up happily. Joanna and Jake loved being big siblings, Joanna even more so considering her childhood started out quite lonely, only to end up having five siblings by the age of 10. Even though Joanna was Jade’s only sibling, due to Joanna living with Dan & I, Jake, Dave, Prue and Paige loved her as if she was their own sibling.

It never ceases to amaze me how wonderful and unique all of my children have become. Jake, who over the years became just as much my child as all the others, grew up to become exactly like his mother: kind, sweet, gentle, looks wise he is pretty much a male clone of her and amazingly talented in photography. Dan was overjoyed that he became just like her, knowing that not only is her legacy living on with him but that it is continuing with his own work. He decided when he was starting out that he would be professionally known as Jacob Simpson-Harrison, to honour his mother and he went full circle with that honour when his last exhibition showcased her work, especially when her last exhibition, ‘Motherhood’ comprised of photographs of his birth and early years.

Prue became the opposite of her namesake, while she appreciated Jake’s and his mother’s work, she didn’t have much in the way of creative or artistic talents, but she certainly has a lot of brains. Throughout her school years she was top of her class and was dux both in primary and high school. She ended up getting her PhD in psychology, which makes her the first doctor in the family, and works as a university psychologist, lecturer and researcher.

Dave was always fixing things around the house as a kid, even more so as a teenager. He was always a quick study, however that didn’t always apply when he was going through school. When he told Dan and I that he wanted to go to TAFE at the end of year 10, we tried to convince him to do his last two years, however we also knew that he wanted to be a tradesman or handyman and that he would be able to get the qualifications he needed at TAFE, so we let him go. It didn’t take long for him to find an apprenticeship and become a qualified tradesman. He ended up establishing a now-successful handyman business, making him the first business owner in the family.

Paige, our baby is studying arts at uni, she’s a talented artist but isn’t following in her older brother’s footsteps. Her talent lies in painting, even though she’s working hard for her uni qualification, I think her dream is to design art for wallpapers and tiles. She actually painted the whole house and has had several exhibitions in her relatively short lifetime. Due to their closeness in age, she and Jade are basically joined at the hip, they’re both studying at the same uni, living together on campus (both Sebastian & Leah and Dan & I tried to convince them to stay at one of our houses, however they wanted the whole uni experience) and are working together as waitresses at an Italian restaurant for extra cash. We wonder how they’re not sick of each other, but at the same time we all love how close they are.

Jade has turned out to be such as sweet girl, despite being Sebastian & Leah’s child and with Joanna being her only blood sibling, Dan & I loved her as if she was our own daughter, especially with her closeness with Joanna and Paige. She’s studying mathematics at uni, like Prue she has brains and numbers have always interested her. Jade and Joanna were pretty much identical, with the exception of hair colour, Joanna inherited Sebastian’s red hair, Jade inherited Leah’s dark brown. Sebastian was always a decent father to Joanna, however he did feel the need to compensate for his rocky start to fatherhood the first time around. He didn’t spoil Jade, but he did work that much harder to make sure that Jade knew that he loved her and that she was his princess. I have to admit, I understood and I would have felt resentment had he not treated Joanna the same way as she got older.

Last but certainly not least, my Joanna grew into a stunning and successful young woman. I have to admit, Sebastian and I were worried, especially throughout her early teenage years that she would end up like us, even more so when she met her first boyfriend, Christopher, at 14. I know it was unfair of us to make that assumption, but being our first child, we didn’t know what to expect. It turned out we didn’t need to worry, she kept her head in the books, made a great group of friends, never rebelled and Christopher was a complete gentleman. Joanna told us years later that her and Christopher never had sex as she didn’t want to become a teenage mother and she was worried that, that admission would offend both me and Sebastian. We were actually both incredibly relieved by her admission.

When her head wasn’t in the books, it was up high when she was centre stage in the drama club. She was in school productions every year, both in primary and high school and was always going to acting classes every weekend. Sebastian and I wanted her to follow her dreams, just like with our other children, but as we said we didn’t know what to expect. We were just worried about her future, both financially and overall.

Christopher planned to join the military after finishing school and Joanna wanted to become an actress, they broke up after four years, a few months prior to their final HSC exams. It was amicable and she knew it was for the best, but four years with her first boyfriend, she was of course devastated.

She met Scott Franklin only a few months later at one of her acting classes, he was then recently hired as a lighting technician. As soon as they met sparks flew and she knew he was the one, we tried to talk them into not rushing things and they agreed. Those plans changed when she entered an acting competition held by Dolly Magazine, with the prize being a role on Neighbours for a year and she won. We were happy and excited for her, but she felt that since she was entering a new, huge and positive chapter in her life that she should added to that happiness and new start by marrying Scott. She only just turned 19 and had been dating Scott for less than a year, Sebastian and I thought she was getting married too young. Unsurprisingly, she had no trouble pointing out the hypocrisy of our lectures, but we also pointed out that we knew she didn’t want to make the same mistakes we made. She said she knew it was the right thing for her and had no intention on having children anytime soon. She looked so beautiful in her white, knee-length, lace dress. Her wedding was a happy medium between mine & Sebastian’s wedding and Sebastian & Leah’s wedding—small, intimate and elegant.

She ended up staying on Neighbours for five years before she discovered her love of stunts when she had to perform her own during an explosion storyline. That discovery was the beginning of the end for her.



**Reference: Marsden J 1998, Everything I Know About Writing, Pan Macmillan, Australia.

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