A Letter to my Darling Mum
by Anna Buckley
I was asked to give a talk. Not so much a speech but to read a letter. It was to be a fundraiser afternoon tea hosted by Maree and Sophie at the gorgeous upstairs atelier of Beautiful Room. I was a bit lost for words, what would I write a letter about and to whom? The charity was in aid of breast cancer research. One woman was going to write a letter to her lost breast. Perhaps I could write a letter to my body and ask if it would forgive me for treating it so harshly over the years…but that just seemed a bit too weird and narcissistic.
And then it hit, Mothers Day was coming up…I would write a letter to my Mum. I needed to put into words what is so often left unsaid.
I was heading back home to the small town where I grew up and wanted to give my mum a copy before the gossipers had their say. Although a conservative woman, my Mum always encouraged her three daughters to explore the world and jump at the opportunities presented to us.
I mistakenly thought she’d look past the strong language and the graphic sex to read about a driven, independent woman who builds an empire and discovers her true self along the way.
Mum came into my bedroom the following morning with that look on her face…(you know the one you got as a teenager….if you stayed out too late, or your dress was too short or you were sleeping in on a Sunday morning when you really should’ve been at church!) She told me she didn’t like some of the language and was worried about what people would think. So I said it was best she didn’t continue and I took the book away.
It hurt, I wanted her approval but should’ve realised this type of book just wasn’t her thing.
Today, with Mother’s Day around the corner, I felt the need to write something to her…to let her know how much I love her, what an inspiring role model she is and try to explain that I now understand why she feels so strongly about what other people might think…
Remember that night? It had been a hectic time, Dad was in hospital. We were sitting at home quietly watching TV. An ad for a charity came on about a little girl who was poor, who worried about being judged and just wanted to fit in.
“That was what it was like for me, always being left out…judged because we were so poor,” you said.
And I didn’t really know how to react…seeing you so vulnerable.
You told me about feeling ashamed when you weren’t invited to a friends party. You overhead the mother saying it was because you could never afford to bring a decent birthday present.
I’m sorry I didn’t understand how much it mattered about ‘what people think’ when you were so harshly judged as a little girl.
You had no choice about being poor.
I loved it when you took us back to the family farm all those years ago. A simple stone house, four rooms. The veranda was collapsing and the cactus was growing up to the front porch, but it looked solid and was still in pretty good condition.
Your father died suddenly. You had to leave, your pregnant mum and your four siblings, couldn’t manage a farm on their own.
You moved to a tiny corrugated iron house on the outskirts of town, the land was cheaper there. I remember you saying you were sent to live with relatives when things got really tough. And when you were able to be together you lived in fear of the welfare authorities sending you to an orphanage if they deemed your mum unfit to care, always being judged. But she managed to survive the scrutiny of these bureaucratic bullies and keep all six of you together.
All your siblings had to work from a young age to help support the family. None of them had the luxury of an education.
I wondered what it was like starting work at fourteen…did you miss out on a carefree childhood?
You worked for the local photographer, hand colouring the prints, styling shots and assisting with weddings. It must have been wonderful to explore beauty and creativity.
The owner’s wife was a refined woman, she took you under her wing and you blossomed. You became a fifties beauty Queen and were now being judged for entirely different reasons.
You taught me how sometimes first impressions count!
You caught the eye of a very charming and persistent suitor and fell in love.
In those days married women didn’t work and so you set about turning your little rented cottage into a home. Planting a garden, painting the rooms, decorating the house with your precious things.
You weren’t quite ready when I decided to come along six weeks early. I can imagine your fear when you overheard the matron and doctor doubting whether the premature baby would live through the night. But you were determined that I would survive and demanded to be allowed to breast feed me even though the matron insisted that bottled milk was far superior. And your stubbornness paid off and I thrived.
And you learnt to stand up for what you believed in.
Two years later my brother was born. But something wasn’t right. The local doctor told you he was just ‘a naughty baby’ and you juggled the guilt of mothering and wondered what you were doing wrong. He got very sick one night and was rushed to the city where it was discovered he had only one kidney that was so badly infected, he might die.
His crying was because of his pain and you knew all along that he was your beautiful boy and not a ‘naughty baby’.
You spent many nights away from us, in that big city hospital, caring for your precious son. And when our sister was born, not long after, you juggled a new baby and a sick child as well.
You did this pretty much alone. Dad worked long hours, taking only one day off each fortnight, working hard so you could afford to build a home of your own.
We moved to that house the year my brother started school. Your love and dedication to him getting better worked miracles. It must have been a joy to see him walking through those gates, into the playground, hanging out with the other little kids.
You made our clothes, cooked from scratch, nurtured a vegetable garden. You gave us an allowance, taught us the value of money and reminded us to save…just in case…
You taught us resourcefulness.
You were strict… but we could be very naughty. We feared the wooden spoon, though you rarely used it, as the threat was usually enough!
You taught us about boundaries…and consequences.
You were proud when we succeeded and deeply loving when we were hurt.
And it wasn’t just family life you were committed to. You worked tirelessly for your community. I distinctly remember hundreds of your famous chocolate cakes being baked as fundraisers for the church, the mothers group and the new kindergarten. We all fought to lick the bowl!
I remember the shitty year I became a teenager and the night things began to change. It was Tuesday. You’d worked in Dad’s shop, were exhausted and tried to put on a cheery face when you broke the news, at dinner, that you were going to have a baby. I think I burst into to tears. We were doing sex ed in school and I was furious that you could embarrass me so much! It didn’t occur to me that you were upset too. You were starting to think about doing something for yourself…not sleepless nights and more dirty nappies.
And you taught me about the reality of sex and that having babies wasn’t like playing with dolls.
Ten months into that year and it was a typical Saturday. Kids were out with friends. Dad was at the shop. You were at home catching up on housework and keeping your eye on that baby who was now becoming a fast moving toddler.
You had taught me to cook and I was at my friend’s house preparing a special dinner. We needed something from home and were walking along the main road when Dad, obviously distracted, drove straight past us.
It was my brother, he’d been riding his bike with his mates and didn’t see the car as he crossed the road. We always knew he was sick and might die, but not this way.
I remember you sitting at the sewing machine, weeping agonising tears, repairing his much worn overalls, something you’d promised him you’d do, so he could wear them one last time. I can barely comprehend your grief.
I wanted my little brother back.
At his funeral the mourners filled the church and spilled out onto the street.
You, our family, weren’t judged…just very much embraced and loved by a community who cared deeply.
I remember going on a winter beach holiday not long after. The owner of the guest house greeted us and made a joke about my ‘poor father living in a house full of women’. I saw the anguish on your face when you tried to explain that it hadn’t always been this way.
I wonder what you were talking to your friend about on that cold day.
Somehow we all got through it. You had a family who needed you and a young baby to care for. I wonder if your baby daughter helped…giving you a temporary distraction from such an unbearable loss.
The months became years and the pain eventually didn’t seem to sting quite so much.
You taught me resilience.
We grew up, left home, went to university, traveled the world.
You taught me the value of education and made me aware of a world full of infinite possibilities.
You became a florist, delighted people with your creativity, surprised us all with your business savvy and worked hard like you’d always done, because now you were finally doing something for yourself.
You taught me that women can have careers as well.
I loved how you and the kids connected at such a deep level when we did get to spend time together. I remember seeing you holding my boy, your grandson, the love was palpable. I had to go to my bedroom and cry my eyes out… thinking about who you had lost, what you had missed.
And just a few months ago, on Christmas morning I saw you with my now grown up son and loved that you hugged him like he was still a little kid and understand why you have such a deep affection for him.
When you eventually retired it was so good to have you around a bit more. Although you didn’t stop. You thought nothing of organizing dinners for eighty women. Women who were single or lonely and needed friendship and community as much as you did.
And you still found time for me.
I will never forget how much you helped at my factory, running the shop during the craziness of Christmas, making it look beautiful, looking after the customers. And when it all fell in heap, and we had to clear out that giant warehouse, you thought nothing of making that 8 hour drive, rolling up your sleeves and coming to help. And as I was consumed with throwing so much stuff into the dumpster, you even thought to save a few precious relics, so that I would have reminders of my success…when I was ready to look.
Having you there, when I was at my lowest, was what got me through that really tough time.
I now get to spend more time with you and Dad. We loved throwing that surprise dinner for your 50th wedding anniversary and Dad said, like he always does, how beautiful you looked…and always have. He still adores you.
You weren’t surprised when I said I was writing a book. You always thought it was something I would do.
And to tell you the honest truth I wasn’t so surprised when you began to read it and said you worried about what people would think…it was never going to be a book you’d enjoy.
But I thought I’d show you a message from a reader that might help you understand…
OK, so I just have to say thank you. Thank you for writing a story about an independent woman who is strong willed and even when she finds love she is true to herself.
After reading your wonderful trilogy we girls at work were keen to find something new. Novel after erotic novel, all the same and so very boring. Why must they all follow a similar path…needy woman meets rich, depressed, hurt, controlling entrepreneur man, who takes over every aspect of these women’s lives.
Pffft…I’m over it!
Again, thanks, your books are the best…a truly brilliant read’
S. W. (a real, independent and strong woman!)
You see Mum, I could never have written these books, with strong female characters, if it wasn’t for you.
You are strong, independent and stand up for the things you believe in.
You value your community and the opinions of others.
You love your husband, your family and have given us a place to return home to.
You are my role model and taught me how to be a grown woman.
You are an affectionate and supportive mother who showed me how to love, how to live and how to follow my dreams.
Thank you my darling, much love this Mothers Day…and always x
Love you to read my books
The Lost Woman series follows the sexy adventures of Christina as she makes her way through a world of new media, design, fashion, travel, and … men.
The complete series is available now at Amazon, Kobo, Google Books, Barnes & Noble and iBooks, both as eBooks and print books. They can also be ordered from any book store, or by mail order on the BOOKS page.