Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Mum's Photo Show


Had the funeral today... Gruelling. Lovely. Hard. Nice. Awful. Terribly real and sublimely unreal. I said my thing and my brother wrote a poem, which was funny (of course, if you knew my brother). He's in the picture wearing a purple sleeved t-shirt. That's me there, with my son in front (wearing a dapper hat) and my nearest and most dearest to my left, next to me or behind me. I made the jacket yesterday and I'll take a pic. It turned out ok, thank goodness because there was no back-up.

Here's mine for what it's worth... it's long but... Oh... I uploaded the slideshow...

When Mum was in hospital a month ago, I thought I should write something for her to tell her how much I thought of her and admired her and always had. I started with how nice it was that she’d always been so happy-go-lucky and easy-going… how she took people as they were without holding their differences against them and that she was so pretty. I started to write about how non-judgemental she was with Glenn’s and my many phases and friends and didn’t get bogged down with dumb stuff like us singing Mu Nu Mu Nu from Yackandandah to Alexander or being generally kid like and noisy. She embraced all of my friends, all of my kids friends, and the neighbours and their kids were free to wander through (as we were with them) and we always had a plethera of Fire Brigade blokes at the table. If someone wandered in and put the kettle on it was a sign that they felt at home, and that was a good thing.
One time when I was about 5 or 6, the folks were going somewhere and Mum had her hair piled up in a magnificent Bee-Hive and had on a long, Chinese shift in lilac satin-brocade, with slits up the side and I just stood there looking at her, thinking how Beautiful she was. So pretty.
Tenacity is another trait I admired in my mother. Once a plan took hold she took it to its extreme. ‘Interests’ weren’t passive little passtimes but rampant passions.
She and Grandma and I used to know every fabric shop within a 50 mile radius of Melbourne. We were always on the phone to each other asking if the other had this or that or how to do something or sharing plans. I’d get impatient with Mum because she could do most of the stuff, but she just didn’t have the confidence in her own ability and I’d try to tell her it was easy and why. In my twenties, she was the only person I was comfortable snapping at. Now I’m happy to snap at anyone. But I’d say, Mum, it’s the same as doing this or that… something she’d do eveyday… and she’d say ‘Can’t you just do the collar’ or whatever and I’d roll my eyes and say No! and show her instead… and she’d say ‘oh, that was easy’ and I’d roll my eyes again.
But then around 1990 we did a Teddy Bear class one day and that was it for her. A mighty new craze took hold. We had another excuse to buy dozens of patterns. She quickly became a fantastic dollmaker and all of the skills and experience and sense of style she had fell into place. She went completely nuts as you all know and really excelled in her field.
My Mum was fun. When Glenn and I were little, I remember all of the kids in the street piling into the car with Aunty Shirley or whoever and heading down to the Seville Pool. The Mum’s’d glam it up, lying about on their blankets smoking ciggarette’s and sunbaking all day while we swam and fooled about and went up to buy 10c worth of chips. She was always telling us not to get her hair wet and would swim breast stroke with her head carefully dry which looked really funny, so we’d all bomb her and accidently splash her until she was drenched.
Mum’d give Glenn and I money for a roll of Cherry Paper as we called Butcher’s paper around here, and she’d be on the floor with us drawing. That was what she was like. She had tons of Dash and was fun and approachable and social.
She could never hold a tune so Glenn and I would set the tape recorder up and secretly tape her demolishing The Beatles or whatever. If you were naughty she’d chase you with the nasty end of the feather-duster but if you got away you got away.
And always with a cigarette on the edge of the ashtray.
Mum started doing markets just before my kids were born and I worked for her on and off over the years with kids holed up in the back of the shop or at school. She adored her children and grandchildren. Christmas for Glenn and I was an extravaganza, but when the first few grandkiddies came along there was health, energy and a disposable income available and they were all completely spoiled and indulged. I’d try to get her to tone it down so as not to ruin them utterly but neither the kids nor Mum or Dad thought that was any fun at all. Once, when Rob was almost two, we had Chrissy at Mum and Dad’s and then went to my ex In Laws and they gave him 4-5 presents, which was quite a bit really, and he opened them and then asked where the rest were. Twas ever thus.
Mum bought a swimming pool at one stage and I never saw my children again. They’d be nagging me saying ‘Can we go to Gramps and Mormor’s?’ Or Mum or Dad would be on the phone saying ‘Can the kids come down for afternoon tea?’ and I’d say, half-laughing, half-serious ‘No, they’re my kids’ but off they’d go .
Nothing was or is too much trouble for either of my parents. Ever. For family and friends.
When I was a teenager, my friends Jennie and then Marion were always there too. Marion and I used to try and convert Mum to every new philosophy and she’d go along with it all, happy to be part of the adventure.
She was a real bright spark. Always.
She was so fussy about clothes. She set mine out until I was 14, until I put my little foot down. She always needed a new cardigan. The kids and I would laugh at her and say ‘You’ve got hundreds’ and she’d say she just needed a nice black one to go with some new pants she’d made. Completely serious. And Dad would grumble and give her some money and drive her to Box Hill and then they’d visit the great-grandchildren and have coffee.
I can’t remember her ever being down, except as the illness incapacitated her. Then she’d get so over it all sometimes. Like when she got shingles, as if dodgy lungs and broken bones weren’t enough. She’d get angry and depressed. But it wasn’t her natural state. Her natural state was to be a good egg. A real brick.
It’s inadequate to say ‘She had a good life’ because she wanted more. She wanted us. She wanted to see the little one’s grow up. She wanted forever, not this short little life. Her sewing room has a million projects still to do and little notes everywhere pinned onto the appropriate fabric. In hospital a couple of weeks ago they’d given her some drug that made her hallucinate and she was seeing helicopters crashing and police raids and at the same time was planning to make some pot-holders, which is one of my recent things. She made me bring in some felt and thread. ‘Just two to start with’ she said. Tripping off her face and desperatley ill and planning just two pot holders.
I never finished that letter because it was better to tell her while I could and we all did just that. We all, including many of you, had a sad and beautifully tender final week. She died surrounded by love, filled with the love her family and life-long friends gave her abundantly and that she felt also. She was still a bright personality and was laughing at herself right to the very end. In the middle of the night one night, she said "I’m SO happy’ and when I got up to see if she was ok said ‘It’s ok, go back to sleep’ in a sweet voice. She knew how loved she was by all of you and appreciated every little skerrick of it. Mum held court there in her purple chair in her purple lounge-room and I’d say we’re all still doing as we’re told here with our purple ties and socks and shoe-laces, running all over the place to accommodate her… still!
She lives on in us in so many ways, my kids all have a shoe obsession and I have enough fabric to last even my grand-daughters lifetime. Her lovliness is evident in her children.

I’ll always, always miss my beautiful mother, I love you Mum.
Thanks

6 comments:

shula said...

Jacket looks great.

Coffin is sensational.

So hard to comment in a way that doesn't sound glib.

Hope you feel better soon.

Linda said...

only just catching up - thinking of you, very, very much

Linda @ chloe

Cousin Chris said...

A lovely, loving memorial in remembrance of Aunty Judy. Hopefully we can get Dad to get some words and piccies to you from the "Western half" to help put the rest of the family puzzle together. Love you - take care, Cousin Chris

Victoria said...

Reading this piece and then looking at the slideshow - took my breath away - just the sheer amazinginess of what one life can encompass. And that's only a tiny part of one life story - incredible.

(p.s. love love love love the idea of your Dad getting into the internet and onto forums full of men discussing those mysterious manly things.)

msaims said...

a purple chair in a purple lounge room. holding court. of course. purple is a regal colour. what a woman! i hope i can be a mum such as her.

pauline brauer said...

such a lovely closing to a beautiful mum. I'm proud to be your friend Robyne X