a change in time

musings on behavioural change – the small stuff and the big stuff.


To be a grandmother

We take on many roles in our lives; some we resist, some we question, while others we embrace. It’s almost a year now since I feel fortunate to have been able to add the title of grandmother to the list of many other roles I have gathered over the 64 years I have been on this planet.

On the 24th September 2020, Towera May Webb was born to Louis and Tam. Well, actually, Tam gave birth and Louis had the role of support person and chief photographer. Giving birth during Victoria’s 111 day lockdown, they were lucky to be booked in at the Royal Women’s Hospital where partners could stay overnight if there was a single room available. There was.

In joining the ranks of those who have gone before me, I have been contemplating how the women who were my grandmothers, and my own mother as a grandmother, have shaped me.


I didn’t have the chance to meet my maternal grandmother, born Amelia Jane Hateley in Kinimakatka, Victoria, on the 24th December 1890. She died just over two years before my parents were married. She was 58 years old. This is the only photo I have ever seen of her. She raised eight children, four with her first husband and, after he was killed in an accident, she married again, giving birth to four more children, one of which was our mother, Edna. Amelia volunteered for several local community groups in Bendigo and was a founding member of the local state school mother’s group.

I never thought to ask mum if she liked being a grandmother to Peter’s and my two sons, Louis and Yoshi. When I think back over the years, I remember how generous she was with her time and energy, especially when it came to anything grandson-related. She once said to me that she wanted to create memories for them, and based on Louis’ and Yoshi’s recollections of the times spent with my parents, I think she achieved this end. Her desire to be involved in their lives was inspiring.

I like this photo of mum with a very young Yoshi and a very grown-up five year old Louis. She would have been around the age I am now. I like the way she is presenting Yoshi to us, as if to say, and here is another one!


My father’s mother, was born Lillias Norah Gertrude Mitchell, on the 17th March, 1891 in Wanurp, Victoria. She spent much of her younger years living on their farm near Goschen. She raised five children. Our father was the youngest. She passed away when she 82 years old, the year I turned 16. I wish I could have known her when she was a young woman, she was clearly a resilient person. I remember her as a sweet and quite fragile grandmother, which did not reflect all that she achieved throughout her long life.


In early 2020, Keith and I arrived home from our trip to Japan and Europe. Louis and Tam were eager to catch up. Tam’s mother, Dorothy was visiting from Malawi. It wasn’t long before the news was out – Tam was pregnant! It was very thoughtful of them to wait until we returned home to hear the news ‘face to face’. One of the special moments was the acknowledgment that passed between Dorothy and I, that we would both be grandmothers to this baby, something we would always share.

This photo of mum, Tam and Dorothy was taken when we visited mum at Anzac Lodge in 2016. I like the smiles. Mum would have been proud to show off her book about Barack Obama. Dorothy is already an experienced grandmother to Ivan and Natasha. I’m sure she has learnt a few ‘tricks of the trade’ from them! She was going to be here for Towera’s birth and to support the family in the early days however the pandemic soon stopped these plans when international travel was taken off the map. We hope it won’t be too much longer before they can meet, at least not on Zoom!

My grandmothers, both born in the early 1890s, arrived in a world that had just seen the last of ‘the long economic boom which began with the gold rushes of the 1850s… unemployment and poverty soared.’ (www.parliament.nsw.gov.au)

A happy coincidence was finding this postcard of the Bendigo Art Gallery from 1890. Even though both grandmothers were born in rural Victoria, they both ended up with strong connections to Bendigo in later years.

My parents were born in the late 1920s, growing up just after a devastating war, in the middle of the Great Depression of the 30s and then being old enough to enlist in another war. The awareness of the frugality required to survive difficult times would have been passed onto them by their parents, helping them embrace living lightly and being content with what they had.

‘Dig for Victory’ was an initiative started in January 1942 “the Prime Minister, John Curtin, launched the publicity campaign urging householders throughout Australia to grow their own vegetables as a contribution to the war effort.” (Source: https://www.awm.gov.au/articles/encyclopedia/homefront/victory_gardens) Both our parents came from families that already had such gardens in place however I’m sure this campaign would have encouraged them to grow even more vegetables, to share with those less fortunate.
Ian Campbell and Edna May, taken on the day of their wedding, 19th January 1952, the year they both turned twenty-five. They had met as the best man and bridesmaid for our father’s brother, and ended up getting engaged after only six weeks of having met. They chose well!

Edna and Ian soon became parents themselves, and raised the four of us Hugo, Rod, Jann and I, in an era that, while post-war like their parents, had a very different motivation. Governments were committed to providing jobs for the returned servicemen and woman, encouraging families to ‘live the dream’ with all of the modern conveniences that were promoted as saving time and contributing to the growth of the economy. A refrigerator hardly seems like a luxury!

Our mother outlived both grandmothers, making it to ninety years of age. This photo was taken on her 90th birthday. We spent the night at the Sofitel, the same hotel she and our father had celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.

When I think of the lifestyles of my brothers and my sister, I think our parents’ values rubbed off on us more than we would like to have admitted as teenagers in the 60s and 70s. We all live lightly on the planet in our own ways.


So here we are, twenty years since the 9/11 attack, in the midst of a global pandemic, with much disagreement in the air about who holds the truth. Towera will be a year old in just under two weeks. What will she make of us, and all of this? We don’t know which way things will go. Will the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow in early November bring countries together, to work for a common cause, for our children, our grandchildren, and all creatures on this planet? This is a hope that so many have held over the generations. Only time will tell if we can make it happen, let’s hope we see change for the better.

Whatever future we create together, Towera will have her family by her side, bringing our collective experience, of those living and those who have gone before us, to prepare her for a life worth living. This photo was taken on the 26th August. Towera at eleven months already shows so much sprit and determination. She might be the one showing us what is needed to steer ourselves onto a more sustainable path, where, as my brother Rod would say, we have love and respect for all, everyone included. That sounds worth doing.