In time for a Mother’s Day with buckets of mothers

May 11, 2018

THELMA Meadows never really looked beyond being a very happy grandmother.

But in April the 94-year-old welcomed her great-great grandson Grayson Kavanagh.

‘‘I don’t think I ever thought that far ahead, so to become a great-great grandmother is wonderful,’’ she said.

‘‘I just love children and Grayson is just adorable.’’

Grayson was born to her great-granddaughter Kayla Lavars and fiance Jacob Kavanagh on April 26 and the couple couldn’t be more thrilled to share their joy as a family of five generations.

‘‘It’s amazing to have so much family around us,’’ Kayla said.

‘‘And to still have a living great-great grandmother is even more special.’’

Thelma (nee Richardson) was born in Echuca on February 20, 1924, growing up in Mitchell St.

‘‘I went to school here but didn’t take much notice,’’ she laughed. ‘‘I wanted to be a waitress.’’

She left school at 14 and met her husband Harry ‘‘down the street’’ in Echuca in 1940 while he was in the army.

When she moved to Melbourne she met Harry again at a dance in Richmond.

Though he enlisted in 1939, Harry was injured in a motorcycle accident and discharged so he and Thelma married in 1941 — spending their honeymoon (and the next two years) in Sydney.

They were there when Japanese submarines entered the harbour and attempted to sink allied ships, and shelled parts of the city.

‘‘It was terrifying,’’ Thelma said. ‘‘We were in a two-storey boarding house and you could hear the squeals of the shells as they landed in the street.

‘‘I wanted to come home. I was scared we were going to get bombed.’’

The couple had their son Doug in Sydney in 1942 before moving back to Echuca two years later and welcoming their second son Brian in 1946.

In 1947 Harry, who died six years ago, built a home on Barry St in Echuca East and where Thelma still lives.

‘‘We didn’t borrow a lot of money to build. We only had what we earned, so Harry would just build on the weekends.’’

Brian was only two when the family moved house but has fond memories of his childhood.

‘‘I remember going over and getting milk from my grandmother’s and going cray fishing every Tuesday,’’ he said.

When the 72-year-old Vietnam veteran finished school at the age of 15, he started working as a mechanic at Echuca Motors, a job that lasted 35 years.

‘‘I just loved cars. My cars were always my toys,’’ he said.

Three months short of finishing his apprenticeship, Brian was conscripted and served 324 days in Vietnam.

‘‘It wasn’t great. I don’t really talk about it.

‘‘We were sent over there with the regiment and there was no billeting, nothing. We landed at Nui Dat at nine o’clock at night and they put us straight out in a surrounding rubber plantation on listening posts (mostly for Viet Cong) and we were 200 yards out from the base and shitting ourselves,” he said.

“Then they sent out some artillery and we dug out our own pits, slept in them and when we’d get up in the morning they would be full of scorpions.

‘‘I was in Saigon during the Tet Offensive ... I saw a few dead ones. Slept in the jungle a few times.

‘‘I’d never been away from home before.’’

Brian met his wife Sophia at a dance at St Mary’s hall in 1969 and they married the following year.

They had two daughters — Sharyn in 1972 and Michelle in 1974, both born in Echuca.

‘‘I remember the filming of All the Rivers Run ’cause I rode down going to school and I got to meet Parker Stevenson and got his autograph and John Waters’,’’ Michelle said.

Michelle and husband Paul Lavars were high school sweethearts, meeting in year 9 before marrying in 1994.

They welcomed daughter Kayla in 1993 and son Steven in 1997.

‘‘We were on a beef farm in Patho for a while which we’ve just sold,’’ Michelle said.

‘‘I always thought I’d move away from Echuca but we never did because it’s too good a town.’’

Kayla is thankful her parents didn’t move, as it had been special growing up surrounded by her grandparents and great-grandparents.

‘‘My memories as a child were always camping with the whole family,’’ she said.

‘‘We’d go out fishing and sit by the fire. It was good.’’

And that family support has been particularly important for the 24-year-old, who experienced four miscarriages over three years.

‘‘That was pretty tough,’’ she said.

However, Kayla found the strength to keep trying.

‘‘Jacob was a massive help and I just had a feeling it was eventually going to happen,’’ she said.

‘‘We actually had an appointment at the miscarriage unit at the Royal Women’s and found out we were pregnant with him (Grayson). It was a positive test on my birthday, so it was a nice birthday present.’’

And so Grayson has become the newest addition to the family; and perhaps one day will be able to tell his own children and grandchildren the stories of his ancestors.

And if he’s anything like his great-great grandmother, he will live a long and happy life.

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