Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mothers Day! A little bit about my ma...

Today is Mothers Day - a day when we take some time to show our love and appreciation for our mothers, grandmothers, aunts and all the other strong, amazing women in our lives.

And this seems as good an occasion as any to give my own ma a bit of praise...

My beautiful mother Amanda picking flowers in the late 1970s
Here she is holding me in 1984. The tweed jacket I'm wearing is her handiwork!
My parents were idealists, passionate about the very specific decisions they had made about the childhood they wanted my younger brother and I to have. We were both birthed at home (in Annandale and Marrickville respectively), raised on a vegetarian diet and surrounded with music, books and sunshine. The television was almost never on and when it was always proved a rather strange experience: you see we had two; one that had a colour picture with no sound and beneath it, covered in a cloth, was a black and white television that provided the slightly out of sync audio.
Almost all our food was made from scratch by my ma - there was even a brief period when my parents grew wheat to grind into flour to make bread believe it or not - and it was all delicious, wholesome, unprocessed fare.

My brother and I hanging out in the garden in Marrickville
By today's standards some of these choices still seem extreme, so you can imagine how bizarre they would have been in the early 1980s. We lived a very simple life, both by choice and by necessity - my father was a musician who drove taxis, whilst my mum, then a primary school teacher, looked after us at home until we started school. And my childhood could not have been a happier one. My brother and I had several cubby houses we had created, dotted around the generous quarter acre block of a backyard and loved playing in the garden, learning about the different herbs and vegetables. We would go outside in the early hours and only come back in at night-fall. We were healthy, robust, adventurous children who had an appreciation for the small things in life instilled in us from an early age.

Reading to us with her 'reading glasses' which we found out only recently were completely for show. She was always quite the joker!

Messing around in front of the humongous rosemary bush in the back garden, behind the old stone shed.

Our birthday cakes were never new-fangled, tiered contraptions covered in a slick of coloured icing; we had wholemeal spiced pear upside-down cake. Rewards were fancy fruits - creamy custard apples and juicy mangoes. Summer treats were frozen bananas dipped in lemon to retain their creamy colour.

My brother patiently waiting for the cake-eating to begin at one of his birthdays - I love the decorations of colourful wooden beads and streamers. Not to mention that shirt!
Most of our clothes were made by our ma on a very old and very heavy sewing machine. Her handiwork was spectacular with hand smocking and embroidery on a number of beautiful pieces. Sometimes it's hard to believe when looking through old photos that we were even part of the 1980s because my mum dressed us so well. I can thank her for teaching me how to sew and to knit and to use my hands skilfully. I can safely say that my own talents will always seem rudimentary compared to hers.

Some examples of her work - a simple play dress on the left and some hand-smocking on the right.

As a kid I do remember going through periods of longing for different, 'normal' things - I held white bread exulted above all others and would do just about anything to get my hands on a pot of chocolate yogo. I absolutely LOVED the chain store clothing my well meaning grandmother would buy me for Christmas (that would all mysteriously disappear around February), wanted a Barbie doll pretty badly and would read banned trashy books like The Baby Sitters Club secretly at night with a torch.

Now, as an adult older than my own mother when I was born, I can only thank her for her steadfast patience, perseverance and practical skills. My brother and I both know how to create tasty, nutritious food in a flash; how to sew on a button and fix a hem; how to plant something and keep it living.
And most importantly we understand that hard work pays the greater dividends, to never give up no matter how ridiculous the whirlwind, to believe in our own abilities and to remember that happiness is more important than monetary gain. Given our chosen professions of designer and luthier (my very talented brother makes handmade guitars under the moniker Lockwood Guitars) are so very niche and specific, this last point is particularly important. We know that no matter what seemingly ludicrous decisions we make in life, our ma will always encourage us to do what feels best and true for us at any given time. And that is a luxury so many do not have.

Riverside hugs with ma

So here's to my mum Amanda - Happy Mothers Day!


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