This week my household has been a bit noisy with the sound and commotion of my cheeky two kids running around whispering and giggling between one another. They are obviously trying to hide the Mothers Day cards and pictures they have made, and it made me think of my own childhood. I grew up with my mum and dad and was the eldest of 6 children.
I remember the Mothers Day stall at school and some of the gifts I purchased then – usually soap, shampoo or a flower of some sort. I also remember making my own cards for mum and drawing pictures for her, some of them I bet she still has.
I’m lucky enough to still have my mum and dad around, but I know that this time of year can bring a lot of heart ache to those whose parents are no longer with them. For those of you out there, my heart goes out to you at this time.
So yes, I grew up with 5 brothers and sisters, all of us, with mum and dad, in a 3 bedroom, 1 bathroom (and 1 toilet!) home! All the kids shared a bedroom, sleeping in bunk beds until baby number 5 came along and mum and dad eventually built an extension, giving us 1 extra bedroom – but still 1 bathroom! We had 1 living area and a tiny meals area.
My memories of spending time with my mum growing up are all related to the home. Perhaps because most of our memories were created there. Being a large family, going away was way too difficult and there weren’t play centres or the other types of recreational facilities kids have now. We made our own tree houses in the paddock across the road. Our ‘bike track’ was around and through building sites! We had a swing set and an above ground swimming pool in our own back yard.
All our spare time was spent outside playing in the back yard or riding on our bikes around the neighbourhood. Mum always made sure that we ‘checked in’ from our bike rides, every 30 minutes. And when we came home, we all spent that time together.
I remember how it felt to come home to her after a long day and long walk home from school. On a rainy day, I would be dragging my wet, heavy schoolbag and younger siblings in tow. She would have a warm smile and a hot bowl of vegetable soup ready, or even some hot buttery raisin toast. We’d all be lined up, huddled in front of the single gas wall heater – these were the days of course, before ducted heating was popular. On that note, I remember how my mum improvised with air conditioning when we were very small, positioning a fan to blow through a towel soaked in cold water which was hung over a clothes rack!
I also remember our crowded little lounge room on grand final day, where on this rare occasion we would be allowed chips and soft drink! I recall birthday parties in the back yard, sometimes it was a pool party, with loads of screaming kids having fun, playing ‘pass the parcel’ (back in the day when there was only one prize!), eating frankfurts and birthday cake.
Even with a husband and six children to give time and attention to, Mum also took time to care for others, taking in other children from the area, giving them a place to stay when their own families weren’t doing so well.
But time alone with her – that was the best. I remember when she would plait my long hair, exclaiming how lucky I was to have such long, straight, dark hair. I think she knew even then that I would cut it all off as soon as I could! I was always very self conscious of my skin colour, being an olive brown, thanks to my English/Irish heritage, but she always made me feel like I was special for being the way I was. I wanted to be like her. I would sneak into the bathroom and use her make-up, paint my nails, go through her things because it made me feel closer to her.
I still remember the warm spring days when Mum took her ironing outside on the back deck where she had a view of the Dandenong Ranges. She would turn on the record player, usually to listen to Connie Francis while she hummed and ironed. We all joined her in a song whilst doing our chores… sometimes it was Abba, other times Elvis or some other old Country and Western music.
Home is the house that we live in and the lifestyle that it affords us to have with enough space to grow and enjoy time as a family together, but without those we love in it, a house is surely just that. A house. To me, my Mum made it home.
This powerful feeling is one I hope I also inspire in my own children – that wherever life takes them, wherever in the world they might travel one day, whoever they make company with, that when they think of me, that they will feel that warm sense of home. What I realise now as a mother is that I too feel it in them.
I look around my house early in the morning enjoying that first cuppa, and in the quietness I have a chance to look around and think to myself. The first things I see are those little gifts they have bought me or made for me over the years for Mother’s Day and other special occasions. Then there are the photos and the memories of when they were taken. Such as Christmas time when they were four and two years old, getting their first trampoline. Long, hot, summer days enjoying time together in our pool.
Until they have their own children one day, mine will probably never know how much those little treasures mean to me.
But ultimately, it’s not about the things we have, but how we make our loved ones feel.
So I too try to recreate some of those wonderful memories I have of my own mother. We have our own Grand Final Day celebrations, and I love to spoil my children on their birthdays. I may not always be home waiting for them when they get home from school – but I know what baking together on the weekend means to us all. Fighting over who will lick the cake mix from the bowl – priceless.
Times have changed, as have the roles of women – in the home and outside of it. So let’s take this time to celebrate all mothers – young and old, step mothers, grandmothers, aunties, godmothers, teachers, colleagues, friends and many other women (and men also) who have become mother figures in our lives.
Let’s be inspired by those great people, and remember that every day there are little eyes watching us, wanting to be like us, every day creating their own special memories of home.
Happy Mother’s Day to you all.
Karen Chernishov 0408 991 855