When my mother died, I cleaned out her room but I couldn’t find the one thing I desperately searched for, in every little box and packet, in every piece of paper, every letter, every single thing she kept and treasured for eighty-four years of her life.
I looked through her beloved jewellery collection, her rock and precious stone collection, the stamps that she lovingly placed into her stamp books over generations of time. Receipts and Christmas cards, but not one word to understand who she was, or what she believed in, no clue about how she felt or thought.
Not one letter from her, or to her, kept as a record. No journal about her life, her feelings, her emotional journey, her fears, things that made her happy or sad. I searched for her beautiful handwriting, just for a message, an understanding of who she really was, what she really thought. Of her dreams, her hopes, her failures, her successes. I was searching for her legacy to me, hoping to find a way of making sense of her life, to make sense of her.
Days later we bought some olive trees for the garden and it started me thinking about these beautiful, abundant, spindly trees. When the Greek and Italian immigrants came to Australia they planted their olive groves. They weren’t doing it for their children; they planted their trees for their children’s children. Olives take generations to mature and bear fruit to sustain their keepers.
I thought about what I could plant, what legacy I could leave for my grandchildren. Where was my Olive Grove? Where could my grandchildren sit and ponder their heritage and the lives of their forebears? Would they have some link to their grandparents, great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents? How would they gain a glimpse into the tapestry of their ancestral past to make sense of their world?
So I am leaving a trail. My grandchildren will have stories to follow to find out about their physical, genetic, emotional and spiritual landscape. Stories of the people who came before them. Folk stories of our family, stories about my parents and grandparents and my story of who I am and how I think. It may not be as important to them as it was for me but this becomes their choice, to pass onto their children and their children’s children.