Tags: children and parents, death, depression, growing up, memories, mothers and daughters, regret
Today, the 23rd of May, would have been my mother’s birthday. Sadly, however, Mum lost her battle with illness almost 22 years ago, on the 13th June 1994, at the age of 74, less than seven years older than I am now.
I was close to Mum as a child, though I knew little of her earlier life. The selfish perspective of youth meant that I knew her less as she aged. Then, at the age of just twenty, I married and left home.
For almost all of the next twenty-five years, I lived some distance away, having children, seeing them grow up, getting divorced from their father, entering what was then a forbidden relationship, moving even farther away in both miles and understanding, visiting briefly only once or twice a year. It was only when Mum was on her death bed that I returned home, helped Dad nurse Mum there for two weeks before attending her funeral.
I have always regretted that distance between us. As I grew into my forties, I wanted to know her better, but it was already too late. Illness had made the last years difficult for her.
A few years ago, while Dad was still alive, I wrote a poem called. “What’s your story, Mum?”. Recently, Dad having died in June 2013, I edited the poem and re-named it “I wish you could tell me, Mum”. Here it is, on what would have been her 96th birthday.
I wish you could tell me, Mum
What’s your story, Mum?
I wish you could tell me.
Dad told me his when he was still here,
when I could finally visit from far away
But you had already left us then.
We often talked about you, Mum.
He’d tell me of when you were young.
Like how beautiful you were, how popular,
and how, even before he’d met you,
there was never any other girl for him.
His eyes lit up as he told of how you’d laugh,
And how the joy of it made his heart sing.
Of how you later ‘walked out’ together,
through wet, coal-blackened streets,
and for miles over cold and windy moors.
He’d remember how you both loved to dance,
as if the two of you were one,
Still gliding and twirling when the band
And everyone else was exhausted.
Dad told me, Mum, about the births of your children.
The first, a son, and the paralysis his arrival caused.
He told me how he couldn’t defend you against the pain
whilst flying his plane far away in defence of your country.
He said how wonderful it was later,
to assist in the births of your three daughters,
at home, in the bed where we had been conceived.
He told me what a great home-maker you were,
always making the best out of very little.
But what’s your story, Mum – in your words?
Dad could tell me how much he wanted to migrate
to a country free of class and arrogance,
but he couldn’t tell me how you really felt.
Did you want to go as much as he?
Or did you go simply because you loved him?
It was easy, I think, to leave your selfish father,
but oh, how difficult it must have been
to say good-bye to your gentle, loving mother,
to go to a new country; a strange land.
Heat and drought and wide expanses replaced
the cold and damp of a bustling ancient township.
A tiny caravan, then a little fibro house, replaced
the solid security of your old stone terrace.
Venomous snakes and spiders brought unwelcome danger.
Barbed-wire fences and eucalypt forest replaced
soft green fields bounded by hedge and mossy stone.
Oak and ash, bluebells and buttercups were left behind.
How did you adjust to the changes?
What fears and insecurities did this bring?
Oh, what did you really think, Mum?
Then, in this new land, another traumatic birth:
my baby brother healthy, though his twin sister died.
And you, alone in a hospital bed, not allowed your own,
denied even the comforting presence of your husband,
as you fought, alone, for life.
Is that when the fearfulness began to creep in?
Is that when you began to think you might lose us;
had to always know where we were, so you
could feel some measure of control in your life?
Or did that happen in 1961, when two of your children
and Dad, all contracted the dreaded polio?
Was it when we thought Dad might not even live,
And there was no money to even buy food?
I remember that awful time, Mum.
I was only thirteen and could only guess
at the fears that burdened you.
The responsibility you had to take alone.
Dad, crippled and unable to help,
your father taking away the mother
that you needed then
more than you had ever done.
What I do know is that you kept our family going.
That it was your strength, dredged from
some deep, unknown place within you,
that fed and clothed and housed us.
It took its toll on you, I know,
but I thought of you as strong, Mum
in those desperate times.
But what did you think and feel then?
Dad struggled to overcome the ravages of polio,
to get back on his feet, figuratively and literally.
You were by his side, his partner in all ways,
as he set up a steady business
– concreting, of all things!
And how did it make you feel, Mum,
When, after so many years,
he took you dancing again?
The years that followed were mixed sorrow and joy,
With three daughters and one son married.
I remember the light in your eyes and your smile
as you welcomed my son,
your first grandchild, with more to come.
But as time went on, I realised that something
prevented you taking those little ones to your heart.
Not just because mine were always far away,
and you didn’t like or trust their father.
What was the barrier, Mum?
Did losing your own mother close your heart
against the awful possibility of hurt?
Was there something inside you that said,
‘if I don’t open myself to love, I won’t lose it’?
We grew apart – not only because of miles.
I saw you too seldom and we could not share
the things that mothers share with
daughters who are also mothers.
I missed that, Mum. I still do.
Dad and I nursed you at home,
night and day, until you finally left us.
Was it a relief to go; to give up
the burden that life had become?
Dad missed you so much then, Mum, lonely for you.
He always loved you – there was never another.
He never forgot the day you first spoke to him,
when you asked, ‘how old are you?’
He re-lived the days of your courtship
and listened to the music you’d loved together.
I am sure he felt you once more in his arms,
twirling yet again around the dance floor – until he left us too.
But I want to know more than that, Mum,
because I think that many parts of me –
my insecurities, my fears, my depression –
have come from you.
So I want to know how you felt; how you loved.
I want to know your story, Mum – in your own words.
But you’ve been gone now for many years,
and I must rely on fragments of memory,
and find you in the words of the man
who loved you.
But I wish you could tell me, Mum.
In loving memory of Agnes Mary Thompson;
born 23rd May 1920; died 13th June 1994.
I wish I had known you better, Mum.
Also in loving memory of Ernest Thompson;
born 24th June 1921; died 18th June 2013.
I am proud to have been your daughter, Dad.
(c) Linda Visman, May 2007
Edited 7th May 2016
Tags: Great Ocean Road, memories, Reed Park, scent of pine
It was December 2005, and we were traveling along the Great Ocean Road in southern Victoria in our camper van. [My husband] Dirk and I were in bed at a caravan park in Apollo Bay, when an aroma took me back to my early childhood. As the perfume wafted in through the open window, it affected me so powerfully that I couldn’t sleep until I had written about it.
This is what I wrote then, and added to after we returned home.
11.20 pm 19th December 2005, Apollo Bay Caravan Park, Victoria.
I lie in my bed in the caravan, weary yet content, and listen to the murmur of the waves, ebbing and flowing, muted by a hundred yards of distance from the seashore. Beside my head is the open window. Through it wafts a scent/smell/odour/perfume, carried on the cool night air. It is fresh and clean, and takes me immediately back to my childhood. It is at the same time comforting and exciting, familiar yet strange, bringing me thoughts and feelings from the distant past, whilst still being here in the present.
I take in the smell with each breath and attempt to analyse it. What is there about it that makes such an impression on my both conscious and unconscious mind? I look out of the window. In the diffused glow from the park lights, and against the darkness of the sky, I see the spreading branches of the huge trees beneath which we are parked. They are ancient pine trees, what kind I don’t know, but as soon as I realize that’s what they are, I can put a name to the perfume my subconscious memory has already identified.
It is the clean scent of pine; a perfume that has been added artificially to cleaners for years to give the impression of freshness and purity. But this isn’t that artificial perfume which invades the senses and often becomes cloying. Instead it is a subtle blend of pine needles, bark and resin, damp pine-infused earth, and cool night air. It is light, almost ethereal, more a presence than an odour.
It brings to my mind cool and shady woods, feelings of peace and tranquility overlaid with the tang of adventure. I can almost believe there are elves or fairies present – that is how strong the impact is on my senses and my feelings. It stimulates me to such an extent that I can’t sleep until I have put these impressions and feelings onto paper. I wish I could capture in words the strong sense of how I am somehow transported back more than fifty years into the past and to the feelings I had as a young child.
What power has the sense of smell on the mind! I want to drink in this perfume as if it is the elixir of life, and to be conscious of every draught of it.
I am sure it was at Reed Park, where we lived in a caravan for an extended time during 1954-55 when I first encountered this aroma. We had arrived in Australia from England in March 1954, and somehow, the scent makes me think of good times, the stimulation and excitement of the new, but also of security and contentment.
I talked about this with then, and later with [my brother] Peter and Dad over Christmas. They all agree that there definitely were huge pine trees around where we camped in the caravan at Reed Park. Peter can’t remember there being pine trees anywhere else we’ve lived. So I am confident that the smell that night – which I have not thought about since I was about six or seven – was from that park. I must have been happy there, I think.
© Linda Visman
Tags: acrostic, memories
I have written just a few memories here in the form of an acrostic, using the above title. They are from my first thirteen years, and are limited by the letters I had available to me. They are also very brief, though I have already, or will in the future expand on some of them in other posts. It actually wasn’t that easy to do this self-imposed exercise!
School days at St Mary’s, St John’s, St Paul’s, St Mary’s & Dapto High
Oswaldtwistle, where I was born, and left when I was five
Making my own bows and arrows to play Indians
Entertaining ourselves with simple toys and games
Mowing the lawn at twelve
Easter rituals at Church and school
Mum’s green leather belt when we were naughty
Ordinary – that is how I saw my life; nothing special at all
Reading to find worlds of adventure
Ironing before heat controls or steam and burning my white school shirt
Earning a few pennies by opening & closing the railway gates for motorists
Singing old songs from England with my parents, uncle & Granddad
Odd one out – the middle child of five who didn’t fit anywhere else either
Finances always strained, with no money for extras
Milk – our milkman came around with a horse and cart
Yearning for I knew not what, but something more than I had
Yelling at my sisters & brother when I was angry – too often!
Eating Mum’s trifle at Xmas & New Year with Grandma, Uncle Fred & our families
Sitting at the kitchen table on stools that Dad had made
Taking Peter’s canoe onto the lake when I was forbidden to
Eating tough mutton chops & being unable to swallow the over-chewed meat
Radio serials like Superman and Tarzan that we listened to after school
Dad, David & Pauline hospitalised with polio
Accident, where I fell onto a joist when Dad was building an addition to the house
Yearly tests and trying to beat the two boys who were my main rivals
Songs from the 1940s, 50s and 60s that we listened to on the radio
What memories would you write if you did this acrostic exercise?
(c) Linda Visman
Tags: blogging, communication, Reflection
I have completed my second A to Z Blogging Challenge!
I have posted 26 entries through April with one of my poems for each A to Z entry, and I have enjoyed the experience a great deal.
I cannot think of a negative regarding the Challenge itself, but I have a lot of positives to report on my own participation:
- The day before the Challenge began, I had intended to pull out. I thought it was too much for me to handle, and that the stress would be too much. Then I had a great idea – I would use my poetry for the entries.
- I finally learned how to schedule my posts so that I could get them up on my blog a few days ahead of time and thus have some days in reserve in case I couldn’t make it on the day the post was due.
- I strengthened ties with some blogs I follow and who already follow mine. Some did not do the A to Z Challenge, but they faithfully followed my posts. Among them are:
- QueasyPeasy – QP and Eye, who writes on several different themes, and in this year’s A to Z, wrote posts mostly on her travels;
- Frederick Anderson – Author, who writes a great blog and tells wonderful stories;
- Our Rumbling Ocean, where I am finding out a great deal about South African bird and animal life and flora;
- Baz – the Landy, who is a mountaineer who also loves travelling inland Australia and posts some great photos of the country.
- I made some wonderful new blogging friends along the way, and have found great new blogs to read and to share. Among these are:
- Even though many of my regular followers didn’t join the Challenge, they were quite engaged with my A to Z posts, and commented onthem regularly.
- The number of my blog followers increased, and so did the number of visitors each post received. Views on my blog numbered 1,509 in April, where the usual monthly views are around 700-800 – so, a nice increase. The best week saw 485 views. These stats are small compared with many other A to Z-ers, but for me they are very satisfying.
- My poetry had more exposure than it ever has before.
- I completed the Challenge!
One problem I have had is nothing to do with the Challenge, but with my Gravatar. Somehow, about the start of the Challenge, the link from it changed from my wangiwriter wordpress blog to an old website I used to have years ago. I have still not been able to correct this.
I’d like to say thanks to those on the A to Z Challenge Team who dropped in on my blog and commented. It was lovely to see you and know that I was seen as one of the Challengers.
Thanks also to the organisers, who must be delighted with the steady increase in participant numbers each year.
I will certainly be taking the Challenge again in 2016, but I will start getting ready for it earlier than I did this year.
Here are all my posts for the 2015 Challenge:
Linda Visman – wangiwriter