July 14, 2020
About Mum – my memories
Here’s the Little Book of Memories I put together for Mum for her 80th birthday on 14 August 2019. My friend Denise Tombs (a graphic designer) made it into this printed booklet for me.
Here’s the text inside the booklet.
Crafts are something Mum enjoys outsourcing! I can remember her relief on coming back from Mrs Rogers’ place (who was making something for me on her knitting machine), or when Diane Smith was sewing our school uniforms. Nana Bradshaw also did a lot of knitting of jerseys.
But Mum did make a major effort by going to sewing classes … at night! I used to laugh at Mum holding the needle out, trying to thread it. (Now I know what that feels like!) When I left for the South Island I took Mum’s dictionary and Globe sewing machine with me — and I’m sure she missed the dictionary more.
It’s fair to say Mum is not a natural sailor, due to getting seasick a fair bit. I remember her spending most of a crossing from Coromandel to Waiheke getting sick over the side of the boat — and us callous children entertaining ourselves by counting the times.
Night time rituals on boat holidays included two chocolates per night, plus a story. One I vividly remember was about a girl who was told she should eat her dinner because people in Africa were starving, and so she posted her dinner through the letter box.
Waking up to put her foot on the floor in Shalako one morning, to discover inches of water, was another adventure that probably meant Mum was quite happy when the days of boat holidays came to an end.
Mum and I both share a struggle with physical puzzles, and have shared lots of laughs about tackling these, such as not being able to figure out how to get through kiddi-locked gates.
Mum has loved all the animals on the farm, including Cheeky Charlie, Blackie and Jimmy. The most recent one was a wild ginger cat, which she enticed to stick around. She called her ‘Little Girl’ but Dad wasn’t keen on owning up to this name when he took her in to be spayed (especially after spending years setting traps for her relatives).
The cats and Jimmy followed Mum around the Trig Road garden as she weeded. I remember thinking I would like animals to follow me around too, when I had a garden. Max does this now and it is a really nice experience.
We had our own garden plots — Susan’s out at the gate where we waited for the bus, Malcolm’s just inside the gate, and mine down by the vege garden. We were allowed to plant whatever we wanted — mine was a mix of both veges and flowers.
When given a cacti or other succulent by a friend, Mum knows she needs to plant it somewhere in case they look for it when they visit, but she also wants to hide it away because she really doesn’t like them. She is also no fan of the dahlia. Her favourite flowers include: roses, boronia (always a wonderful smell beside the back steps at Trig Road), begonias, anenomes, ranunculus, daffodils, freesias, gysopyila, fuschias, and little white daisies. And at Trig Road we had a beautiful white magnolia stalata, which was the first thing I planted when we bought our house in Nelson.
Each time I visit Mum has some new outfits in the spare wardrobe to show me and we spend some time deciding what goes with what.
Mum likes her hair nice — I can still see her swimming with her head up, not wanting to get her hair wet.
In terms of home furnishings, Mum likes things nice, but plain. Getting new cream curtains at the Beach Road house after years without curtains was a real treat. Nana Bradshaw had heard a lot about them, but when she came out to see them for the first time she couldn’t hide her disappointment about their lack of pattern. Mum had a good laugh about Nana’s muted response.
She also likes new duvet covers, for the difference they can make to a room. It suited her quite well when Dad was asleep in the car in Auckland and she could duck in with Susan and get what she wanted without having to reach agreement first.
Mum is always rushing around, especially just before going out somewhere. We have all had the experience of waiting by the car while Mum does 10 more things. But Mum has a strategy that takes this into account — setting all the clocks and watches to be at least five minutes fast so she can still arrive on time.
The house, garden and food are Mum’s top priorities. So when Nana Thomas gave her a magazine subscription, she always had a pile of the magazines beside her bed, because she couldn’t keep up. She will start reading and fall asleep with one finger over a book. This busynesss also means Mum is always several episodes behind with Coronation Street.
Mum was lured into getting a computer by the idea of having Skype calls with the Brisbane family. Then she was lured into the mobile phone for texting. Keeping in touch with family is important enough to make her continue to battle the technology, but it hasn’t been easy. There have been numerous trips to the ‘computer man’ with the lap top, and returns to Noel Leeming in Tauranga to get the mobile phone (aka the ‘wretched thing’) sorted.
Mum is a whizz with the multiple remotes involved in recording TV programmes, and shares interests with all three of us. She records house programmes for Susan, dramas like Coronation Street and Seachange for me, and rugby for Malcolm.
Movies have never featured highly with Mum and Dad. I only remember going to two movies with them while growing up (Gorillas in the Mist and Swiss Family Robinson).
I like a list myself, but Mum takes it to a whole new level. On her shopping lists, the items are noted in the order she will come across them on the supermarket shelves. There are also lists for Tauranga shopping, Christmas presents, and things to take back to Nelson.
I remember so much waiting around on the days we were heading to the Waihi Beach cottage for a holiday … not understanding why it took so long to actually get underway … but Mum was doing all the packing to make the holiday work.
Mum stays busy all day, so will often be ironing while watching TV … and one of her favourites is Coronation Street. I got lured into this while watching a couple of episodes with Mum on a trip up to Waihi and have been hooked ever since.
We also share a strong preference for mornings. Mum will be in slippers and dressing gown by 5pm, and out in the garden first thing in the morning.
The downside of an early morning is getting tired by afternoon, and an afternoon sleep is a long-standing tradition. This has led to quite a few times getting caught out with not many clothes on while having an afternoon sleep, and visitors unexpectedly arriving. She has had to make a dash for it, to get to her clothes in another room.
Mum is quite happy having ‘a day on her own’, or if Dad was out at teatime, having mushrooms on toast.
Mum and Dad are getting used to the hugely social new life at the beach, but Mum definitely has preferences. She is no fan of standing around having ‘nibbles’ — and gravitates to smaller groups of people and having a ‘proper’ conversation around a table.
Mum and I are equally averse to events which have a ‘theme’ or a fancy dress element, and she resisted Garden Circle for years because she didn’t like the idea of presenting a perfect specimen flower or (even worse) having to sit through an AGM.
She loves the Thursday morning radio programme about child behaviour and parenting skills.
Mum generally doesn’t like ‘chemist smellies’ for presents. But recently I took a risk and bought her an essential oil perfume because it smelled exactly like the one Dad used to buy her — it has the same warm, yellow colour. We both share a touch of synaesthesia, which means colours become associated with words and letters.
Mum and Dad are rapid decision makers … they sure don’t muck around once they decide to buy something … whether that’s a new dishwasher, dryer or vacuum cleaner … and even a house! All these transactions are generally done and dusted within a morning.
Nana Bradshaw often said to me: “Your mother, she’s good to me. And she’s a real cook, not like me.”
Any visit to Nana, Poppa and Shirley involved taking a load of food from Mum and bringing back empty food containers from last time.
We used to have massive lunch boxes at school. I can vividly remember a huge slice of passionfruit sponge cake with lollies in the icing (my birthday choice) plus the cut up orange in the round Tupperware, and a segment of cheese. And then we would come home on the bus to warm, enticing things on wire cooling racks.
A highlight was being able to lick the bowl when baking was happening — it always tasted a bit more delicious that way. There was the coconut, weetbix and chocolate concoction, and the smooth joy of raw chocolate cake mix.
I typed up Mum’s recipes at 10 cents a page. I think she got a bargain! I typed them up on thin, almost see-through, paper which I would hole punch and place in the green ringbinder.
If I’m coming up for a Waihi visit Mum still wants to know ‘what food would you like when you’re up?’
Mum enjoyed Nana Bradshaw’s decision-making process. She would ring up Nana and ask ‘do you want to come out?’ … knowing Nana would say she’d think about it and let her know later.
Just like with Nana Bradshaw, Mum is smart at planting an idea and then being pleasantly ‘surprised’ when that person later makes that suggestion themselves. I think this may have happened to Dad a few times!
As kids, we used to get to choose a story to be read to us in bed each night, but we also got to follow Mum around to each bed and hear the other story choices.
I consumed Enid Blyton books as a kid, and Mum used Enid Blyton books to teach kids to read — even though they weren’t really approved of by school librarians. I remember Mum coming home really pleased when she was working with a boy at school who achieved a reading breakthrough with Mr Pinkwhistle.
The Pollyanna books on the shelf in Susan’s room were also a favourite. And Mum definitely has Pollyanna’s attitude — if it’s meant to be, it will work out. (Just like selling the house on Beach Road following three sunny Sundays in August, in Waihi!!)
Mum has done her fair share of visiting old people in rest homes. I remember her coming back from a confusing visit with Mrs Robinson who had been living back in the past, and Mum had to play along with that being current reality.
Mum is still sending us socks and easter eggs at Easter … even at 49!
The Glory Box was a source of treats. There were surprises in there for us, as well as emergency presents for unexpected occasions like someone bringing a gift to our house.
Whenever I am returning to Nelson after a visit, Mum always stuffs last minute things into my bag – including cheese pie for me, and avocados and pesto for Dean, saying ‘have you got room for …?’ It’s a regular thing to be sitting in the airport hearing the warnings about bags exceeding the allowable weight, juggling the weights, wearing lots of layers of clothes to make room for the extras. In the early days this also included a bag of cuttings from the garden.
I also love having a flower in the bathroom when I visit, and another by the bed
Mum has made so many arrangements of flowers to take to family and to the people Mum visited in rest homes.
Before email took over and phone calls became cheap, Mum used to write me weekly letters in a very recognisable, looping handwriting.
When we first moved to the South Island we picked apples in the Upper Moutere. One day I rang home after a particularly tough day. Mum said ‘you can always come back if you want to.’ And I have always had that feeling — there’s a safety net, I am always welcome back. This has been such a major background note to all my life.
Mum, thank you for your kindness, unwavering support and all the love and care you have given us all.