Recently I attended a writer’s workshop presented by Rachael Brown, author of ‘Trace”. I loved being in a space surrounded by others who share the desire and need to write especially when so often as writers we are alone and there are times when that creeping self-doubt sets in. There is nothing like scanning a full room of enthusiastic readers and writers personifying diversity and feeling right at home. One of the suggestions from Rachael was to perform writing exercises – ‘like lifting dumbbells for your writing’. I loved that idea and decided to take this one on today. This warm up to a writing session requires the writer to start with the statement – I remember and then write ten memories. I decided that I would theme my ten recollections on my mother and mother-in-law. I did so, as I felt I have been passing on many stories of the fathers in my family and was curious about the memories of the women who helped shape our family. I wrote the remembrances as they came, in succession and without editing. I admit I was tempted as I found myself thinking – oh they should be deeper, more revealing. I resisted and here are the memories intact, as they came starting with Mum, Gerry Johnston and then rolling on to Joan, Patricia Caughey.
I remember walking into Myers on Queen street with Mum when the downstairs department baked biscuits and the exquisite mingling of the smell from the perfume counters as the baking aromas drifted up the wide stairwell to the entrance.
I remember Mum waving goodbye before she slipped into Dad’s white ’64 EH sedan. She was wearing a lime green skirt and jacket with an orange and white stripped top. The jacket had wide lapels and white stitching to outline the curves and I was thinking that it was the most beautiful outfit I could ever imagine.
I remember Dad turning the lights off so we could all surprise Mum with a little birthday party in Glasgow. The table was set with a cream birthday cake and trick glasses with fake bottoms and there was an plastic ice cube with a pretend beetle!
I remember Mum letting me eat cornflakes by the fire as a treat whilst the other kids sat at the table with their porridge. It is a vague memory but it was because I had an allergy to oats although I loved porridge for breakfast and still do!
I remember bacon sandwiches, coffee made on milk and watching the midday movie with Mum.
I remember Mum singing whilst she peeled potatoes over the sink.
I remember walking through the door and seeing Mum holding a telegram, typed letters on thin paper telling her that her mother in Scotland had died.
I remember buying my mother a new dressing gown and that deep feeling that I could not bear my Mum to ever feel cold.
I remember pushing Mum in one of the centre provided wheelchairs at Logan hyperdome and feeling like she was enjoying being out of the house.
I remember once going to the Shingle Inn, Edward Street with Mum where the ladies wore bavarian style uniforms, the tea was served in real silver pots into china cups and the cakes were made with butter.
I remember Joan walking down the driveway with Harry as we arrived in Shane’s yellow ’74 Celica. I was about to meet my would be future parent-in-laws. We married a year later.
I remember Joan always having an African violet on her kitchen windowsill.
I remember Joan ironing tea towels and I have done that since just because I miss her.
I remember treating Joan to her first and best I know, only pedicure. It was in Townsville and she was elderly but the lovely girl and I carefully and gently helped her to settle in the chair. We chose a girly pink colour and she was excited to show Harry.
I remember coming home and finding Joan watching Australian Rules football in my home in Point Lonsdale. I teased her about it and she told me and I quote – “But they are rather nice in their shorts!” My memory is crystal clear on that. I made us a cuppa and we watched on together until Harry, Shane and the kids turned up from somewhere.
I remember wanting to share every achievement of Shane, Alex, Harry and Annie with Joan. Not because it made me feel good, although it did, but genuinely because I knew it gave her such enormous pleasure.
I remember Joan watering her hydrangeas wearing a straw hat and how it created a life long association for me. I never see hydrangeas without thinking of Joan.
I remember Joan raging if dishes were left in the sink overnight after she had cleaned the kitchen for the night. I thought it was pretty ridiculous when I was a girl in my twenties. I don’t think that anymore.
I remember sitting beside Alex in the Corowa church the day following Joan’s funeral and losing complete control of my emotions as the loss was so totally unexpected and ended an era of Shane and I having parents and my kids having grandparents.
I remember Joan answering the phone when Shane and I were calling to tell her Alexandria was born and feeling so in awe that she had actually gone on and done this six darn times!