A photo and a memory

I was ready to hit ‘Publish’ on a puzzle post (I’ll be back to more mathematical posts tomorrow, I promise!), but a news story and the day prompted me to dig out this photo.


This is me (age 4) and my mother at my birthday party in 1984. (When I look at how tiny I was, I can’t quite believe I started school a couple of weeks later.)

There were two cherished recipe books in our house — my mother’s handwritten collection and the birthday cake book. The most exciting pre-birthday task for my brothers and me was to pour over the intricate designs in the Women’s Weekly birthday cookbook and select the one that mum would make for our birthday. Yesterday, all 107 cakes from the book went on display for charity. The news article has photos including the cake from my 4th birthday, along with others I remember from my childhood.

Looking back, I have no idea how my parents raised four children, managed a hardly-profitable fruit property, cared for a time for my terminally-ill grandpa along with three small children, eventually took on second jobs (my mum, full-time; my dad, a collection of part-time jobs) — and still had the time and energy to take us to music practice and sports games, help with our school projects and events, make beautiful birthday cakes like this each year for their children, and a myriad of other acts of love. I am full of the utmost admiration and respect.

Fourteen years ago, for reasons best known to her, my adored mother chose to end her own life. So this Mother’s Day I hold dear the memory of her. While searching for this photo, I found some of the words I said at her funeral.

To focus on mum’s death is to not understand her at all. She was about life; a bountiful vitality which affected all who knew her. She was my best friend, and for a mother that is probably one of the greatest compliments a daughter can give.

My mum is my hero. She embodied all that I feel is important. Honesty, trust, generosity, loyalty, respect, and love. Whatever age we were, she always listened — without judgement she would hear us out. She may have disagreed with what we said but we always got a fair hearing. Mum and I never argued, only discussed, each seeing the other’s point of view.

She could see the potential in all people and encouraged them to chase their dreams … To her, success was not measured by degrees or dollars, but who you were. 

It’s been many years since I have thought about these words, but I realise now how much of an impact she still has on my life. As a teacher, and in general, I believe that everyone has something important to say and a right to be heard. I believe that when we accord our students respect, trust and generosity, we are repaid many times over.

We shared a love for a glass of wine, a mug of tea, good music, and thoughtful conversations. I miss her dearly, and rue that our friendship never had the chance to deepen as we both got older. I wish that she had seen the person I have become, rather than the fairly self-righteous young adult that I was. But I am thankful every day for having known her for 22 years, and for how she shaped the person I am now.





6 thoughts on “A photo and a memory

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  1. That’s a beautiful photo that tells a story. And the Women’s Weekly Birthday Cake Cookbook should be a National Treasure – it’s far more deserving than some others that currently hold that title.

    Your Mum, being a loving Mum, raised you to the best of her ability and with love. A daughter she taught to be proud, intelligent, self sufficient, questioning and pugnacious when the going gets tough. She would be very proud of you. And so am I, cheers 🙂


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