Regina had a big heart and her generosity was housebound. I have no memories of her being in any relationships with anyone other than her family members. I don’t know the names of any of her friends. She welcomed family and if anyone of us had someone else with us, she just set another place at the table, and popped the table extender her husband Ken, my grandfather had made. It would increase the size of the table and make it all a little more comfortable for everyone to fit.
Her signature dish was roast lamb and I used to love, love, love, eating the shank that would be cooked through first. When my first born embraced the roast lamb dinners, it felt like the baton had been successfully passed on to the next generation. (She is a vegan now – Charlotte’s Web saw to that).
Regina’s mum was a mid-wife and they lived in a little siding called Ramco, downstream from Waikerie in the Riverland. Apparently the name of the village is derived from an Aboriginal word “Bogorampko”, a mythical tribe supposed to be superior to all natives. My grandmother was able to me tell me stories of her childhood on the river, but the only story that stuck in my memory and had import enough to transcend to adulthood, was the one she told me of her mother helping troubled Aboriginal women labouring unsuccessfully on the banks of the river. It was accompanied by a story of menfolk distributing blankets “to the natives” impregnated with itching powder and pepper. I imagined my great grandmother as valuing life – anyone’s life and possibly seeing her skills as her Christian duty, I’ll never know her reasons. It was important enough for my grandmother to tell me, so I am treating it as inheritance.
My father was his mother’s sun, moon and starts. Her life revolved around him and his achievements she basked in, as reflected graces. He was her only child. I miscarried my first pregnancy and she told me at the time, that she too had a miscarriage. This shared experience transcended our connection to a new level, a relationship as women. It was a bond, I appreciated even more when my first child was born, and I got a glimpse of what it was to be so consumed by love and besotted by a tiny person at the centre of everything.
Being a grandmother is one of my joys. I love learning about Minecraft, imaginary dragons, going on bug detection garden tours, teaching life lessons in the kitchen, celebrating new discoveries and making puppets. There is literally nothing more pleasurable than the tenderness of a cuddle, sharing a laugh about something completely ridiculous, and conspiring acts of piracy on the unsuspecting. I love watching tenderness evolve and empathy being extended to those who need comfort. These acts give me hope.
My grandmother was born in 1906 and it was her 115th birthday this week. Mother’s never forget their children and to see the next generation and remembering those feelings, the legacy and the inheritance, is a wonder-full way to meet the moment of the announcement of new life arriving. In these moments I think of all the generations past and my place in the cycle, what stops and starts with me, and what batons I get to pass on. It’s been quite a while since I cooked a lamb roast.