Easily the most well known line from the movie “Forrest Gump”, and one I have thought to be true countless times.
I have also thought it could just as easily say, “you never know what you’re going to learn.”
As I discovered this past weekend.
In the last couple of months my Husband and I have read the biographies, respectively, of former Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam and his wife Margaret Whitlam. We have spent many hours discussing their fascinating story, the events surrounding his sensational dismissal, and the kind of people they were in their everyday lives. In particular I was excited to learn that they had lived and raised their family in two suburbs which have played a large role in my life. One very near to where I grew up and the other very near to where I have lived for the last twenty years. It was fascinating to me to read of them living in the midst of places and streets so familiar to me. I was also interested to learn that the house the Whitlams lived in at the time that he was PM was just a couple of minutes from the street my Father had grown up on.
So imagine my surprise when I raised my interest in the Whitlam family in a discussion with my parents, only to discover that for a few months in 1973, while he was PM, they had lived across the street from him.
In the very first months of my parents life together they moved in with my Aunt and Uncle (my Father’s sister). And who just happened to live across the road? The Prime Minister of the country, his wife, and children.
Over the years I had very dim vague recollections of family members mentioning what a great woman Margaret was, and of how Gough himself had assisted our family in completing and lodging paperwork to grant them citizenship. I never paid much attention, and if anything I would have assumed that they meant him broadly, not directly. But no, he actually did help my family through the process of attaining citizenship. And my family members knew that Margaret was a great woman because she was also their neighbour.
It really blows me away. And how has it taken me so long to learn this interesting tidbit?
I guess it’s because like many others I know, politics holds so little interest for us until we are well into adulthood.
I don’t know if it makes much sense as it was really just a huge fluke, but it makes me a little bit proud that my family members were able to experience this. That we have this little tale to tell. That as migrants who struggled with this new language in a strange country, they found themselves neighbours to the PM of the time. And that it was him personally who offered them his assistance. That they were able to see that the PM’s wife was a hardworking wife and mother who worked tirelessly for her community, as well as the country.
Is it any wonder Australia is known as “the lucky country?”