Sometimes I’m not sure if I really remember my mother. I never got the chance to know her as an adult. Most of my teenage memories are a blur of hospitals and treatments. There were no wild fights, screaming fits and slammed doors – just quiet and uncertainty. The only memories I have revolve around the house where we lived when I was a child.
We lived in a house where the lawn was always green. There was no drought, and there was always enough water for sprinklers and hoses. Before my Dad built a pool we would spend our summers running through them. She had a rose garden in the front yard, but it was Dad who looked after it. He would spend his Sunday afternoons pruning and spraying for aphids. It was one of the ways he showed that he loved her.
She kept her hair short and permed; naturally it was straight like mine. From photos, I know she wore it long in her teens. Her hair was always dyed, either brown or red – naturally she was completely grey. I’ve got grey streaks in my hair too, but I’m not a silver fox like she was.
My mother didn’t work. She took a night course in computers once, but looking after my sister and I was her only job. She would bake and sew while looking after the house. In other words, she was the perfect housewife.
I remember helping her with her sewing machine. It was an old Singer that folded out of a wooden table. She taught me how to turn it on, how to thread a bobbin and needle. I never made anything – I just enjoyed making patterns by testing out the machine’s different stiches. When it was time for her to sew, I would play with the scraps of lace and floral cottons that had been used to make my sister and I matching skirts. We also had matching track pants. (The dogs had coats made from the leftover fleece.)
When I was seven, she taught me how to crochet. Over, in, over and pull through, over and pull through, over. Repeat twice, chain one and start again for the next shell. We would do this together while watching TV in the living room. The room was bland with brown couches, a fake wood panel TV, and cream carpet. The bright acrylic wool blankets we crocheted together made the room colourful and warm.
On cold, grey days, she would make us pikelets after school – the perfect treat before we made a start on our homework. We’d sit around the kitchen bench on stools, listening to the pitter-patter of rain on the roof. We would help mum by getting out the measuring cups and mixing bowl from the shelves below the stove and mixing the ingredients while waiting for the electric fry pan to heat up. I would be warm in the jumper she had made for me, and the pan would be sizzling with butter. Roughly one tablespoon of batter is used to make each pikelet. I learned that it’s time to flip them once the batter begins to bubble. Then best served hot with a little butter, and paired with a glass of chocolate Nesquik. We were only allowed two teaspoons per glass, but I’d always try to sneak more. Mum knew, but she just kept making more pikelets and never said anything. I still crave pikelets on rainy afternoons.
As an adult a lot of who I am comes from her, but I still don’t feel as though I know her. I’d love to sit down and have a glass of wine with her, and tell her about my life. I’d love to have her tell me about hers. I’d tell her that I studied clothing and textiles – that I can sew and make clothes just like she did. That I kept trying to crochet, eventually digging out her old hooks and learning how to read patterns when I was unemployed for a time. I would tell her how I bake cakes for my friends, just like she would bake cakes for our birthdays. I would tell her how I have her Elton John records, and laugh with her about the inscriptions in the gatefold: “Merry Christmas Funky Bum.” I would let her know that I try to be warm and caring like her; that I learned from her example, putting her loved ones first. She could tell me how she learned to do and be all of these things that have become a part of me.
I know snippets of her life, but not the full story. I have the little things I learned to keep her close and to try and know her. These are the things I have learned from my mother.
Peta Tron is currently studying Visual Arts and Creative Writing. She has also been known to dabble in the worlds of music, crafts and cooking. Her favourite colour is hot pink and she has a cat named Lizzy.