Sunday, May 13, 2012

My Mum

Today is Mother's Day or should that be Mothers' Day? Probably Mothers' Day since it's the day set aside to honour all Mothers.

My Mother, Roslyn was born on 31st July, 1918, which means she will be 94 years old this year. She lives in an aged-care facility in Perth

As I sit here at my laptop I realise just how little I know about my Mum's early life.

I know that she grew up in Adelaide, South Australia, but what hospital was she born in? Was she even born in a hospital, or was hers a home birth?

I know that her family lived in the Adelaide suburb of Highfield on Highfield Avenue, and I think she has very fond memories of this time in her life. I think this because on a couple of occasions, at her request, I've taken her for a drive past her childhood home. I don't think she would have asked to revisit a place that didn't hold a special place in her heart.
My Mum when she was about 5 years old.
I remember her telling me that at least some of her school years were spent at Linden Park Primary school, which was just a hop step and a jump from her childhood home. She has talked about walking through cow paddocks to get to school.  These days the suburb of Highfield is now the (quite affluent) suburb of St Georges and nary a cow paddock to be seen.

My Mum had an older sister, Marjorie (Madge), an older brother, Jack and a younger sister, Audrey. She idolised Madge and loved and had a great deal of respect for Jack. For some reason there was no love lost between herself and Audrey, a state of affairs which has carried on to this day.
My Mother's adored sister Madge.
During my Mum's childhood her parents had a fish shop. I've heard her talk about the fish shop on Norwood Parade, but I've also heard her talk about a shop on Glen Osmond Road. Did they have two shops at the same time or did they have one and then move to the other location at some other time? In any case I'm fairly certain they were shops of the fishmonger type, rather than fish and chip shops of the take-away meal variety.

I have no idea when my mother's father died. I have never seen a picture of him. I don't even know what his name was or what kind of person he was. Was he a kind dad or one of those dour, autocratic Edwardian types? How old was my Mum when her dad died? As far as I can recall she has not talked about him, so perhaps she was very young when he passed away.

I know a little bit about my Mum's mother, because she was in my life until I was 14 years old.

At some stage during her childhood, my Mum had long hair and I think she may have worn it braided into two long plaits. I know that throughout her adult life she has disliked long hair and detested plaits.  I know this because later she ensured that hair on the heads of her six daughters was kept quite short while they were children. I have never seen my mother with anything but short hair.

I know that my Mum had piano lessons and that she hated them. She has told me that she had to sit in a very cold room to practise and that her fingers would be icy and stiff. I do have a feeling that she regrets not persevering with these lessons though.

I don't know how or when my Mum and Dad met, or how long their courtship was. I know that they got married in November, but I don't know in what year. Alcohol figured prominently in their married life, but not because my Mum drank it. Mum has probably had a total of 20 very weak shandies in her entire life.

I know that when my Mum was a young adult she was a milliner (a person who makes women's hats). I have no idea how she came to this trade. Did she start out as a milliner's apprentice? Was she always interested in hat-making or did she take it up as an alternative to something she was more interested in. I remember that she took up millinery again briefly when she attended night classes for a time when I was a small child.
My Mum and 2 older sisters circa 1955. Mum would have made her dress and those of my sisters. She probably made her hat as well.
My Mum has always been a talented dressmaker and seamstress. I remember her telling me that her mother advised her very early on that if she wanted to wear the latest fashions, she had better learn to make them herself because there was no money to buy them. So make them she did.
My Mum on her 21st birthday, 1939. She would have made her birthday frock.
She also made all the clothes for her daughters and a good many of the clothes for her grandchildren as well. She made everything from knickers to winter overcoats (fully lined I might add) for her daughters and I can still see, in my mind's eye, the work shirts she sewed for my dad too. She also made the costumes for our end-of-year concerts. These involved a great deal of sewing on of sequins.
Me in a pansy costume made by my Mum.
And our Sunday school anniversary concerts meant a new dress for each of us, made of course by our Mum. She was often still putting the finishing touches to them as we were leaving for the church.

Her needlework is exquisite. She has told the story about handing in a piece of her hand sewing to her school teacher and getting a severe telling off for trying to pass off "machine-sewn" work as hand-sewn. I don't think she has ever quite got over the injustice of that incident.

Smocking was something she did regularly, trimming her daughters' little dresses and later the dresses and shirts of her grandchildren.

My son in the shirt my Mum smocked for his first birthday in 1984.
In later life Mum continued her love of needlework, creating beautiful tapestries and cross-stitch pictures.

At almost 94 years of age my Mum's eyesight is very poor, and her fingers are arthritic so that she is no longer able to sew. She is extremely hard of hearing as well, and is only capable of very limited conversations.

My Mum has never smoked, although I do remember her lighting a cigarette for my Dad once when he was driving the car. I can recall her saying that she had, during stressful times, been tempted to take up smoking, but decided each time that there were better things she could be spending her money on - such as a new pair of shoes for one of the children.

I am probably never going to know much more about Mum's early life than I know now. But what I do know is that she was a very, very good mother. She has taught me to love books and writing, to appreciate creativity. She has taught me goodness, honesty, integrity, determination, respect and respectability. She has instilled in me the value of striving to be the best person you can, no matter what curve balls life throws at you.

I love you my Mum. xx


  1. Loved it. You remember a lot more than I do. Re the Sunday School Annniversaries: I vividly remember sitting on the little stage pulling the tacking threads from the hem of my beautiful new dress. BTW we all got a new hat for the occasion.

  2. I have a photo of our Grandfather standing in front of the fish shop. I'll send you a copy. I don't remember any hats but I remember the new dresses for Sunday school. Great post Annette. Remember we always got a new book at Christmas time and now all six of us are avid readers.