I’ve always been so grateful for the positive influence my Mother, my Nana, and my Great-grandmother had on me in my formative years. My mother and I had to leave my father in the early 60’s. We left our country life and came to live in the city – We had no home, no money, no furniture, and our clothes – but we did have each other.
Fortunately, we went to live at my grandparents home where my aging great-grandmother was also living. The men in this family always worked away, and the women had what seemed to be a quiet confidence. They had a resilience that was born out of caring for each other and being connected to their community.
We loved living in our new home, my mum found a full-time job that required her to leave home at 6.30 each day, it was hard work, but she was happy that she had some money coming in. – And I was also very happy to be left with my Nana, she loved me so much. I particularly loved it when she shared her many stories with me about her life as a young girl in the bush with her two younger sisters. She spoke of aboriginal ceremonies that they witnessed, and of the “tea and sugar train” that they would buy their groceries from, which I found very exciting.
And then there was my incredible Great grand-mother, she never really spoke to me very much, but everyone in the house had this profound respect for her.
Her presence was one of dignity, strength, and resilience.
This is a woman, who around 1886, while in her mother’s womb, escaped from Germany to England with her family on a small boat, and was born on arrival in London. Now that is indeed an amazing start to life.
I heard this story many times from my mother and often wondered why they went to England? I found out later, it was because up until 1914, there were few controls over immigration. People could set up in business anywhere they wished and Protestantism, the faith of many of the incoming Germans, was openly accepted in England. Also, Britain was the centre of the Industrial Revolution and the Empire, which meant there were a growing market and demand for willing and skilled workers.
But for some reason, this was not the life Great Grandma wanted and around 1908 she set off on an extraordinary adventure to Australia, she was only 21. She started a new life for herself in the gold rush town of Broken Hill. Great grandma (Elizabeth) got married and had her first daughter Edna, my Nanna. Sadly her husband died young, not long after that, she lost one of her eyes, she now had to fend for herself and her Little Edna, and deal with the loss of what she thought to be two absolute essentials.
FROM GERMANY TO ENGLAND TO AUSTRALIA
Even with such hardship, she kept on exploring new ways to express her potential. She had two more daughters to another man but chose to never marry again. Later on in her life, she took herself off to the city of Adelaide. She became the proprietress of her own cafe right in the heart of the city next to the Tivoli Theatre (now Her Majesty’s) it was called The Tivoli Cafe and had an apartment upstairs, she lived and worked from that location for a number of years.
My mother adored her grandmother and at the age of 10, she went to live with her at the cafe for a year while her mother was recovering from an illness. It was hard for my mother to be away for that long, but from the stories she shared, it was also a truly valuable experience for her in her formative years. And hence why she named me Elizabeth.
The one strong memory I have about my great grandma was that she wore a full apron every day to keep her clothes fresh. And in the front pocket, she always had a few lollies. However, she would never give any to me, which made me a little cross, and by the way, she would always give them to the little boy next door. It took me until I was an adult to work out why – See, as a small child living at my Nana and Popa’s home, I was given whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted… And great grandma was witness to this and the truth was the little boy next door had very little, I got lollies and much more all the time, he only got lollies when Great grandma gave him a few from her pocket.
Great-grandma was teaching me a valuable lesson that has become part of my personal character –
“I Love To Share Because I Have More Than Enough”
Great Grandma in her stoic way, taught me to be Benevolent
Thank you, Great Grandma, thank you for being an authentically empowered woman so I could S E E I T and B E I T also.