Friday, August 20, 2010

So many years

The best photo I have of my mother...she's smiling! OMG

Uncle Alf made good and returned to the family farm with his flash new seconhand car.

I don’t want you to feel bad, it’s not sad, it’s just the way it was, the way it is, and the way…well, who really knows!

My dear old mum has been dead and buried a full year now… I’ve had time to reflect on the person she was.
Actually when I was a kid she was one mean old bitch. Things that would be considered child abuse in today’s liberal society were common place back then. Not just in our house but every kid I knew had it pretty much the same at home, many of my school mates had it way worse than we did.
As a kid during the 1920’s Great Depression my grandfather made the family to walk 100 miles from the coast, inland to virgin bushland they then had to clear and plough by hand. They ate what they caught or grew and they wore clothes made of wheat sacks. She never talked about it much but the one line comments she occasionally made painted a picture of hardships I could not imagine. Boiling Nettles for food, going months without meat, walking ten miles to school…uphill both ways.
Because of these things she could never bring herself to throw anything away…just in case we might need it sometime.
..and what do I mean by her not throwing ‘anything’? ..well, anything and everything.
Every jar we ever emptied, every ice-cream pail and lid, every butter container, every newspaper, book, greeting card, plastic bag…everything.
It all found its place in a saved cardboard box under every bed and on top of every cupboard, until every nook in every room was filled.

God help you if you broke so much as a jam jar and just because something was broken did not mean it could be thrown out, oh no! Plants in leaky kettles or saucepans, buckets or bowls, precariously balanced on that in which a plant could not be grown.
I remember when I was about 10 and doing the dishes, I very nearly severed a finger on the chipped rim of a glass, I nearly got a slap for being clumsy but she decided the pain and blood loss were probably enough. It needed stitches which it never got, a week later bits of it were going white and dead looking with other bits going green and bubbly. Rather than have mum ‘fix’ it, I cut the rotting flesh off with nail clippers each day and doused it in peroxide until the specter of gangrene faded… not something a ten year old should ever have to do. But still that glass could not be thrown out. I later broke it…deliberately! (There! I said it!...)
As a kid none of this was the least bit funny and I never understood what the hell it was all about....but now, knowing her past I see why she did what she did and why she was so damn hard.
I’ve always had a sick since of humour, I find funny in the smallest of things. I once laughed until I had tears in my eyes when the Ant I was watching tripped over… I didn’t inherit a sense of humour from mum, but rather in spite of her.

Mums house was so full of things and trinkets that… now completely honestly here folks.. you could walk into her house with a coffee cup and not be able to put it down anywhere…anywhere!
I know what you're thinking.. Yeah, yeah, very funny! Overstating the truth… No really.
You might be able to find space for a matchbox.. but that’s about it.

When she died we waited a few weeks then started throwing things out with abandon. I felt guilty every time I threw a box of crap out, it was like I could feel her breath on my neck. We recycled almost all of it. Tons and tons of it, as paper, glass, steel, plastic etc.
1940’s Womens Weeklies, canned food with shillings and pence handwritten on the labels, (Australia went to dollars and cents in 1965. anyone want to eat that?) The plastic ice cream and butter containers were so old they were crumbling to dust…and just who keeps sackfulls of hay string*. I laughed loudest of all when I found wheat sacks full of…wheat sacks! “For the love of god!... Aggh!”

I’d like to say that it never affected me at all…but that would be a lie.
There's 7 of us kids. (Apparently she ‘saved’ the condoms too) Several of us are what you would call Minimalist.
I truly don’t own a single statuette, framed picture or anything like that. If I don’t have a real use for something, I give it away. My girls give me nice things, so I have to keep them, but everything else…
Yeah, so maybe that’s a bit weird but I feel claustrophobic when I'm in a cluttered place, to feel relaxed I need space...lots of space.

My three beautiful daughters are pretty much normal, they live in normal houses with normal husbands and normal largely delightful kids. How that happened I just don’t know…but I’m grateful.
You see I have much to be grateful for, life’s pretty bloody good after all.

* The string hay bales have around them



Pearl said...

In high school a friend's mother was like that. Had lived throught the Depression and could not throw anything out. The house was a maze of newspapers stacked to the ceiling, thousands of plastic bags, hundreds and hundreds of empty bleach bottles...

You were a smart kid, doing what had to be done.

I'm going to go back now, and take another look at the picture of your mother. Let's hope her next time around is a bit easier on her.


Adorabibble said...

hey Tempo!
feels good to get it out, huh?
I find it makes sense of things, even if they don't. you are a great person and had a really awful time.
you broke the cycle and now instead of doing what your family always did it is better for future generations.
You are amazing.
it is s tough thing you have done.
I am glad that you see the rewards of all of that pain.
hang in there buddy!

Tempo said...

Hi Pearl,
It seems a common story for people who survived the depression, I guess we cant really judge someone until we walk a mile in their shoes.
Afternoon Shan,
I started trying to make it a funny story..really tried hard. But there really wasnt much funny about mum... OK! there wasnt anything funny about mum. LOL

Adorabibble said...

Tempo, it is what makes it the human experience.
My mother is a train wreck, nothing funny there, she is a product of her environment. Ones that kill the weak.
we as their children are their survivors. Now in that lies a choice, do as has been done or make it better for us and ours.
that is the difference between survivors, and flourisher's(the ones that break the cycle) You my friend are a flourisher, as am I, it is not an easy thing.
In the hardest times I remember what I am grateful for.
hang in and get well soon!