Like most Mums, she has had a profound and defining influence on us. She let us be our own people, within carefully defined boundaries. She celebrated our successes and comforted us or forgave us when we came up short.
Mum taught me a lot, not in the academic how to add, spell and punctuate kind of way, but in those people-focused ways that should be what define us as humans. I was not a good student but did my best and Mum forgave me my short-comings. If anybody ever wanted to see what unconditional love looked like, then observing Mum around her husband, children, grandchildren, other family and close friends would have provided some good insights.
Excellence drove Mum. She set high standards for herself and was understanding and forgiving of others not quite so talented or driven. Given different circumstances where she didn’t have to leave school at age 15 because her father transferred to a location far from a high school, she would have excelled at university and any related career she decided to pursue. But she was part of a generation of women who are now known as “at home mums”, a generation of skilled carers perhaps we are today the poorer for losing.
Mum was an innovative and creative cook who could turn her hand to produce tasty and nutritious spreads for family, farm workers, neighbours, community events and fund-raisers, as well as those in need. Only the very best exited our back door. As kids we used to joke about living on “dud pavlovas”. Sometimes even we couldn’t cope and visitors have been surprised to see what appeared to be a good quality pav sitting on the bird table.
Her housekeeping was legend. Vacuum cleaners were driven to certain death. Nothing was ever out of place or unclean.
She taught me a lot about sustainability, based on a desire to leave the world in a better state than it was when we found it. To say that Mum was a gardener is a bit like saying that Frank Lloyd-Wright built houses. Her gardens in Taranaki and in Waikanae are testament to her vision and skill and have been enjoyed by thousands of people. Her legacy will be the love and fond memories that those who knew her take with them.
I love you Mum.