When I started this blog, I cited one of the main reasons as legacy – looking back for the benefit of looking forward. For many years now I have particularly and deeply thought about my mother on my birthday. Next month will mark seven years since my Mum died in palliative care in Brisbane. I shared fifty years with Mum, those baby ones that I don’t recall, snippets of early childhood then a whole mash of memories and feelings which make up a life.
My birthday is the sixth day of September. It was a home birth with a midwife in attendance at 848 Argyle Street in Glasgow, Scotland. Incredibly, this was the common practise of the era. If a woman’s first hospital delivery was without complications, subsequent births would be at home with the midwife in attendance. Fathers were not present in the birthing room. Certainly during those tough years in Glasgow, men were not necessarily able to leave work nor be in communication with the home. Childbirth was a women’s domain. I do know that my father was home given the early morning hour I made my entrance. More than once my mother told me the story of how the progressive midwife called my father into the room and passed me to him fresh from the state of birth. He did not receive a cleaned, sweetly wrapped baby girl! When I was younger I was embarrassed by this, when I was older I wished I had asked my father what that was like for him.
I didn’t always think about Mum on my birthday. Most of my birthdays were thinking about me – what would I get? What kind of cake would there be? We did not have parties though there was always something a bit special about dinner and a cake from the fabulous cake shop at Annerley. Just walking into this family run shop was a treat. Butterfly cakes with real cream and a dot of strawberry jam, buttery slices and trays of beautifully crafted cakes tempting locals from behind the spotless glass counter. The cake shop only changed hands when the owners became too elderly to run it. It turned into a ‘hot bread’ shop with sad looking mass produced buns and donuts.
Last night when I awoke after midnight, I did think of Mum. I was trying to imagine how she must have been feeling fifty-seven years ago in labour with baby number four. My Mum was just twenty-five. In the house that night my siblings would have been fast asleep. My sister was five, my big brothers four and two. In another hour my Mum would be recovering from birth with a new born and three little ones to look after. At twenty-five I was in my second year of a teaching degree, working part time in the cash office at Target (back in the days where we would collect the cash from the registers – easily counting and banking tens of thousands of dollars on a busy Saturday morning when the stores closed at noon) and living nearly eight hundred miles from Mum and Dad’s home. We were in our third year of marriage, we had a dog, hosted dinner parties that went into the wee hours and were not even close to thinking of having one baby, let alone a house load of kids! My Mum had endless energy and could never leave a job undone though I must imagine that she would have had moments when she wondered how long it would be until we all grew up.
So today Mum is on my mind. I have missed her for seven years and before that I lived a life that took me miles and continents away from her. She was not perfect my Mum, nor am I – who is? Mum was a softie, could be talked into most things, never ever set out to upset anyone or be hurtful. She was clever but uneducated and nursed that missed opportunity with regret. My Mum knew better than anyone how to have a roaring good time. She was a fabulous dancer and as a young woman lived for the Friday night dance at the Palais in Scotland. Mum sang beautifully, whether peeling potatoes or sitting on my Dad’s lap with a rowdy bunch of Scots at the Caledonian Club. She was happiest in the garden and grew marigolds. Mum never complained about weeding and after three kids myself I discovered that if you are out in the garden weeding – everyone tends to leave you in peace! I think Mum knew that too!
It’s my birthday Mum and I am thinking about you. I’m not sad Mum though I miss you so much. I’m just truly glad that I have so many stories and memories to put my mind on. I know I am blessed to have those. So thanks Mum, thanks for my birthday and Mum, happy day of my birth.