A Story Steeped in Time - Shelby's Story

How would I summarise my Nan in a single word? I think fearless! She was fearless, that’s for sure. But, I don’t think she would have thought of herself in that way. Especially not before she went through the process of telling her life story and sharing it with us all. She was too modest for that.

Nan was celebrating her birthday and we wanted to do something special for her. My Mum and aunt and uncles all got together and put in for a life story voucher. Nan was so surprised when she opened it. I think she was a little apprehensive at first – she didn’t like talking about her childhood much. But I think in the end she was so grateful for the experience. 

We met with the storyteller at my Mum’s home. She came over and spoke to us about the process over a cup of tea. You know how a cool breeze comes over on a hot day? She was like that! She had such a soft touch and spoke to us so calmly, it was very comforting for us all and we were excited about the process.

During the first visit, we came along and introduced the storyteller to Nan. They both were chuckling and talking like they were old friends in no time! She had the personal touch and I think that made such a difference to Nan.

They spent many weeks together, going through the details of Nan’s life. The storyteller took photos of Nan with her favourite things, and even took a photo of her next to Pop’s Mercury article for an award he received back in the ‘80s. That is one of Nan’s most prized possessions. She took out all her favourite cups and ornaments–including the ones we were never allowed to touch! The storyteller asked her about them and wrote down the meaning behind everything.

We enjoyed having a family portrait taken. It was just us girls, the boys didn’t want to have their picture taken. I am so grateful for that, because I have this beautiful picture of four generations with my Mum, Nan, and my daughter who kept us laughing the whole time. She and Nan had a special relationship. You would always see them talking to each other and sharing little secrets. In fact, since Nan died, my daughter has mentioned a few times that she likes to talk to Nan. It breaks my heart.

Nan had a fall and her health soon deteriorated. We all came in, all the grandkids and her son came from interstate. The storyteller brought in the final copy of her story for us to read. My sister sat on a chair and we all gathered around and listened as my sister read out all the amazing stories from Nan’s life. I had no idea she had such an incredible upbringing! She helped to raise money for the troops when they were overseas in the war and even managed a bank while the boys were at war. She looked after my Pop when he came back from service and raised three generations of us–with a quick wit and ruthless determination, mind you! There were so many stories I had never heard before about her debutante ball and how she suffered after losing her baby boy. It is amazing how we can live our whole lives and not really know someone.

My Nan was so grateful to hear her story at the end. So were we. When my sister was reading her story, it was like Nan was speaking to us from the page. We could hear her voice, it was so special. It’s like an heirloom for us. I think Nan would be proud.