Appreciate the extraordinary in mothers’ everyday lives
I RECEIVED a Facebook message out of the blue yesterday from a first cousin I’d never met.
In the few messages back and forth over 30 minutes or so, one of the things we both realised and regretted as adults was that we hadn’t appreciated our mothers more when it counted. I told her how my mum and I never understood each other during my teen years and we had terrible arguments.
She gave birth to me at age 42 — what they used to call “a change of life” baby — after three sons, and I considered her over-protective and homely (more like a grandmother), still stuck in parenting akin to the Great Depression and World War II she’d grown up in. I used to throw tantrums, screaming that we never went anywhere and never did anything.
Meanwhile, in 47 years of marriage and motherhood, day after day, she did the usual: the grocery shopping at the New World Supermarket, butchers, bakers and greengrocers (without a car, it was more than a kilometre hike with heavy bags and trolley each way), cooked dinner, made lunches, baked for school fundraising stalls, cleaned the house, tendered the garden, washed and ironed my clothes, made my bed (!), babysat grandchildren and checked in on her dad — my ‘Poppa’, other relatives and neighbours. I never heard her complain (though she did nag a lot to get things done!). She rarely swore and then only ever something like “the bloody heat”.
Absence makes the heart grow fonder and I believe our relationship changed for the better once I moved away from home for work as a young journalist. I had ‘grown up’ and now understood she simply looked at the world differently to me due to her own experiences and upbringing.
One of the happiest days of her life was when she walked me down the aisle on my wedding day. My dad had died when I was 16 and the brother I was closest to had to have a knee operation and was unable to attend. So I asked her.
As the great doors opened to St Andrew’s Anglican Church in Lutwyche, both our legs went to jelly and we had to hold each other up down that never-ending aisle. When it came to the part where the minister says, “Who gives this woman?”, mum gave up my hand to my husband-to-be, turned, tripped over my long veil ‘train’ and the velcro ripped right off my headpiece, on to the floor.
Those who saw it gave out a collective gasp. Those who didn’t were none the wiser: my bridesmaid bent down, bundled it up under her arm and it was velcroed back on later as we signed the registry away from the congregation. It certainly made the day memorable.
Mum was very superstitious and hated the number 13, but Mother’s Day was one of her favourite days of the year.
She died in 1989 in the early hours of May 13, the day before Mother’s Day that year.
It was 10 years and one month after she buried her Vince — the dashing young RAAF airman she’d married in 1942. Yes, Dulcie Sinclair (nee Bonney) was an ordinary woman content to lead an ordinary life with her family as the centre of her universe. And that makes her and millions of other mums extraordinary.