Today is my mother’s birthday. Happy Birthday Mum! I know I can say that here because unlike some other family members, Mum actually reads all my blogs. (And laments on my foolish grammar and spelling errors.) She is that type of Mum. The type of Mum that is involved and/or interested in all that I (and my siblings) do.
Mum has been the one cheering us on at all the sports carnivals, even though that may have been one of her least favourite jobs, she draws the line at attending grandkids sports days! Although being the hands on Grandma that she is, the children will happily report their progress to her and she will respond enthusiastically. It’s funny how a mother’s advice never leaves you. I can remember her telling us at sports day to always stay the course, to run as hard as we can, to push ourselves forward and use the last bit of energy we had to finish as strong as possible. Even when finishing last. Which is normally where I finished in sports carnivals. Mum knew that placing didn’t matter, because there is something about sports carnivals that build character, whichever place you finish.
Mum has been the school tuckshop mother and the help in the classroom Mum. When I was much younger, I used to love it when Mum came in to help. Then as I got older I used to cringe on those days. Mum is not a pushover, so she would be strict when necessary, so there was a healthy dose of
fear respect for her when she was on classroom duty. Especially naughty boys. They were her speciality. Now I have four naughty boys of my own. Grandma can still instil fear in them, and get them to do her bidding. Although they do not fear her. They love her unconditionally because her love is active and proven towards them.
She was the tuck you in at night Mum, clean the vomit Mum as well as the clean your room Mum. (She had limited success in that area.) Mum is a tidy person. As you know, I am not. Oh the despair the state of my bedroom brought her over the years. For all her triumphs, teaching tidiness was not one of her crowning glories. She hasn’t given up trying though. Which I’m glad of. Because as much as my messy tendencies bring her grief, I am not comfortable with them either and it’s a constant battle to improve. When Mum has been in my house for any length of time, you can always tell, it’s so much tidier. And as she tidies she gives little tips. Gently and not forcefully. And I continue to work on this bane of mine convinced that one day I’m going to be able to pull all my mother’s advice and become just as tidy as her. It’s a worthy ambition!
Mum used to always make us novelty cakes on our birthdays. A tradition that I now proudly continue for my children. Oh the joys of looking through the Woman’s Weekly Cookbook and choosing the cake. And always the complete confidence that my Mum could do anything. We also got to choose our own meals for our birthday. I can remember looking through a recipe book as a teen, wanting to choose a ‘fancy’ meal and asking Mum if she was able to cook something that I thought was very complex. Mum just glanced at it and said, “Caitlin, I can learn anything if there is a recipe or instructions.”
Mum self taught herself how to make fruitcakes for wedding and special celebration occasions, decorated in royal icing and delicate lace work and edible flowers. She learned this with the ambition of one day making a cake for her 4 children on our wedding day. Unfortunately I neglected to tell this to my husband and once we were engaged he came in and saw me looking at a cake book and asked what I was doing. I of course responded that I was choosing a wedding cake and he remarked incredulously that whyever would we have a fruitcake (the word was said with such disdain) when we could have chocolate cake at our wedding. Even more unfortunate was that my mother was in the room. She said something to him very angrily and flounced out of the room. It was then I told my shell shocked husband that we were most certainly having a fruit cake because my mother had been training for this occasion for about 14 years. To his credit he very quickly abandoned the chocolate cake idea and went cap in hand to Mum and said he didn’t realize that fruit cake was a family tradition and he would be honoured for her to make the cake.
Unfortunately again it didn’t go smooth sailing from there. I decided that the delicate flowers and lace work she was accustomed to creating wasn’t modern enough for my taste and assumed my mother could do anything so chose a cake with no pillars in between the layers, icing in the form of patchwork on the bottom layer, hearts drawn onto the middle layer and an intricate bow tied on the top. I realized my error when I walked into the kitchen one afternoon and there was my mother stabbing the cake viciously, hacking it to bits. I yelped and yelled at her to stop but she kept stabbing muttering, “This is not good enough for my daughter.” Upon realizing that I had chosen a design that required different techniques to her skill set, I begged her to make a traditional design, but she stubbornly maintained, with all the love of a mother that he daughter needed the cake she ‘had her heart set on’ and wouldn’t believe that my heart was quite willing to change at that point. Of course my wedding cake looked wonderful, and I loved it. My sister got married later in the same year, and my big sister advice to her was to choose a traditional wedding cake. (Which she was planning to do anyway. My sister is more traditional than I.)
Mum loved dabbling in all types of crafts. More recently she has been a mad keen into scrapbooking all our family photos. Right from when I was a baby she used to do Artex in the 70’s – does anyone know what this is? (A
primitive form of fabric painting.) I still have my artex Christmas stocking Mum made me for my first Christmas and then filled every year after that until I left home and was married. I can remember her doing a lot of macramé also in the 70’s and early 80’s. We had an enormous ceiling to floor hanging plant holder with glass shelves that Mum made that use to hang in our house for years. Even with four babies in the house. We were all trained to not touch the macrame or the delicate glass swans that used to sit on it. Definitely before the days that everything was locked down tight with child safety locks.
Perhaps the craft I most associate with Mum is crocheting. For years and years Mum would crochet granny square after granny square making blankets for every bed in the house and then blankets for the beds of close friends and family. Most nights she would be crocheting away in front of the TV. Whenever she had a spare moment or if she was waiting to pick us up from all the functions that teenagers do she would normally have her crochet hook working busily while she sat in the car. Once grandkids came on the scene she even started learning how to read patterns and would crochet beautiful babies blankets for each of them.
My eldest son’s blanket was made by my mother about three years before my son was even conceived. Alex and I had been trying to have children for about two years. We decided to fast and pray over a week, just asking our Father God for the blessing of children. During that week, my mother prayed for us while she made his blanket. Every stitch is soaked in prayer, and considering she made four more blankets after this for subsequent children of mine, I think the investment of her work and prayers paid off.
Mum has been a wonderful grandmother also. She has continued to be an active part of their life. My children adore Grandma days where they get to spend precious one on one time with Grandma. They will come back with little craft activities they did with Grandma and lots of stories of how Grandma spoiled them. Mum is unashamedly invoking her right to spoil her grandkids. And oh my, don’t they love her for it! There is something so special with seeing kids faces flush with the delight of being spoiled and indulged and knowing that it is because they are so very loved. Little sweets and treats are always being passed their way. And presents, did I mention presents?
Mum has always been exceedingly generous and thoughtful when it comes to presents. Christmas and birthdays are always special for every member of the family and Mum buys the most wonderful gifts. Of course they are from Dad too, but we all know that it Mum who goes to the effort of thinking and planning the gifts and then buying and wrapping.
All the grandchildren have been taught a rule since they were babies that when they first see Grandma they must always first give her a Grandma cuddle. Sometimes the little ones pretend to run away and she hunts down her cuddle. As the children get older, sometimes they will look bashful as they give the expected cuddle, but at the same time they do it with a security that they are loved by her.
There is no deeper contribution you can add to someone’s life than giving them the knowledge that they are unconditionally and deeply loved. This is Mum’s greatest legacy that she has inputted into my own life and the life of my siblings, and children. And my Dad’s. I’m so proud of how deep and rich the love of my parents is.
So Mum, Happy 60th Birthday. I love you forever from the bottom of my heart. It is you that first made my heart happy in those first moments we shared together that I cannot remember, but you always will, and those memories have only woven a richer tapestry of love into my life.
Every moment after that, every fun thing you did with us, every selfless act you have done and continue to do, it makes me who I am and is always who you are. You are the woman I most aspire to be. I love you.
Because I am extremely thankful for my mother, I’m joining Sarah at Creating Contentment and linking up with Thankful Thursday.