Thanks to Lesley Carter for her pictorial tribute to her mother who has had an obvious and lasting influence on her life.
My mum, like Lesley’s, was born on 29 December. She died in June 2010. From a very early age I was aware of her presence, not only in our home, but wherever any of her children went, she was there supporting, encouraging and being involved in the various clubs or associations as secretary or treasurer or whatever. She was even nominated for a state award for her volunteer involvement in sport.
Mother – we called her ‘Mother’ because she didn’t want to be called ‘Mummy’ – was mum to six children, grandmother to eleven and great-grandmother to nineteen – a wonderful legacy.
Mother was a very practical person; she loved flowers, but was not a flowery person; she had a keen sense of humour; in her work, she was meticulous; she welcomed all and sundry into her home; and she would not suffer a gossip or a busy-body and was neither of these herself.
Like many from that era, she put up with hardships during the war and post-war as a young wife and mother. Her first kitchen had a rammed earth floor. Her washing was done by hand in an old copper boiler. She cooked, preserved, sewed and knitted. When my youngest brother went to school, she went to work in her uncle’s dealership as a bookkeeper to help with our family finances.
My mum was very generous and hospitable. Our farmhouse was not far from the main road into our town and we were often visited by swaggies who came in seeking a meal. They were always fed and had a package of food to take away. There was always a bed in my mum’s home, especially at Christmas time. She would never turn away anyone who was in need.
My mum taught me all the home duties: how to cook, sew, knit, how to hang washing on the line so it would dry quicker – those were the days when we didn’t have washing machines with spin cycles – how to make sheets last longer by cutting them in half and sewing the outsides to the middle … the Queen did it, you know.
She taught us to eat everything on our plates and responsibility by doing our chores: feeding the chooks, chopping the wood, filling the kerosene fridge, preparing veges for tea. We also learnt that there were consequences for not fulfilling our duties.
When I was a young teenager, my friends would say, ‘Your mum is great.’ I would often wonder if we were talking about the same mum, because as a teenager, I didn’t appreciate the sort of person my mother was. It was only as an older person that I learnt to fully appreciate her: the love, the care, the discipline, the dedication, the sacrifice, the generosity – all attributes that describe my mum.
She was often praised for her excellent work ethic, her diligence, integrity and the high esteem in which she was held by her employers and fellow employees. She always dealt openly and honestly with everyone in both the workplace and privately. In this, she was second to none.
Mother loved to dance and in her day was very graceful on the dance floor doing the Pride of Erin, the Fox Trot or Waltz. She and Dad made a very stately pair. She loved to travel interstate or overseas. She really enjoyed driving in the country with one of my older brothers and his wife because he would always find a ‘road less travelled’ and drive along it just to see where it would take them.
Mother underwent major surgery for cancer in 2006 from which she recovered well. The last ten months of her life however were not pleasant for her or her family. Her health deteriorated rapidly with much pain and frustration. It was upsetting to see her suffer as she did, although she was so pragmatic and stoic to the end. I think the advance of technology and the invention of ways to keep people alive can be somewhat unethical. I am no advocate for euthanasia at all, but I am in favour of allowing ‘nature’ take its course.
Her mind was always very sharp, even when her body hurt. She often said she wished she could just go to sleep and not wake up. Mother’s wish was realised in the early hours of a Thursday in June when she died peacefully in her sleep. I had the privilege of sitting with her towards the end, reading Psalms from the Bible to her. She always said she wanted to see her 80th year. God gave her two more.
I enjoyed scrolling through Lesley’s tribute to her mum, but cried when I read that they shared the same birthday. I miss my mum. I miss being able to give her yellow roses or gerberas for her birthday or Mothers’ Day. I miss just sitting with her, drinking tea and listening to her talk.
There are so many other things I miss about my mum, but one thing really sticks out. I want to ask her more questions. I used to ring her if I wanted to know about some long gone member of the family, who was related to who, or how to cook something, or the best way to get beetroot stains out. I miss that.
Every now and then I find myself saying things just like Mother did. And when I listen to my sister, I know my mum has left her legacy.
My brother said of our mum, ‘We got the best one.’ I reckon you’re right there, Sunshine … we did.