Before I was even thought about, my grandmother died at age 48. My mum was just 14 years old. Today, 26 November 2015, Grandma would have turned 90. As I grow older, I am more aware of how not having loved ones around on their birthdays and other important occasions is. I can’t even begin to imagine how my mum and her siblings cope on Grandma’s birthday, the anniversary of her death, and in every day life. Although I wasn’t even on the horizon when Grandma died, as I grow older I realise that I miss her: I miss that I cannot ask her questions about what it was like to live in the 40s and 50s, I miss that I cannot ask her what my mum was like as a child (though accounts from mum and her siblings indicate my mum was a little bit of a cheeky thing), I miss that I cannot ask her to teach me to sew (she was a tailoress), but most of all, I miss that my mum did not get to watch her mum grow old.
My parents went to England for the first time in July of this year. It was the first time that my dad had been home to England since migrating here as a child with his parents and sisters as part of the Skilled Migrants ‘Ten Pound Pom’ scheme in the 1960s. While mum and dad were overseas, my mum’s sister house sat their place. Aunty H called me one day asking me if I knew where mum kept some family photo albums. I had absolutely no idea, but suggested that if they were anywhere that they’d be in the big chest in the lounge room. Sure enough, they were there. A few weeks later The Mister and I went down to stay at mum and dad’s so I could have a clean out of the stuff I’ve had in storage in their shed since 2009. While we were there, I noticed that the albums were still out so I decided to have a look through. One album contained memories of my grandmother’s young twenties and the other my grandfather’s family memories, though his album is somewhat a family history. Included in Granddad’s album is his and Grandma’s wedding certificate (below). I never knew when my grandparents married, that they were in their mid twenties, or that Grandma was older than Granddad – though this is not stated on the certificate.
Granddad didn’t feature in Grandma’s album at all. Why? Grandma’s album was compiled before they met. Grandma was born in Geelong but grew up in Melbourne, Camberwell to be exact. Her album contains lots of photos of her and her friends as young women in what I am assuming is their late teens and early 20s, possibly only their early 20s. Both Grandma and Granddad were proficient with their annotations of their albums, making my curiosity to explore the footsteps once travelled by my Grandma deepen. Much to the disgust of her mother, Granny – whom I did have the pleasure of knowing, Grandma had her 21st birthday in Western Australia. Mum tells me she was young and in love. Sixty-nine years ago, my grandmother was in this very state on this very day. I can’t help but think that the universe had this written somewhere for me long ago.
Grandma, wherever you are, I hope you have a wonderful 90th birthday and know that we love you and miss you – even if we haven’t met you.