We always lived in the cheapest houses she could find, moving often.
She slept on a single bed, and her room was mostly empty. She woke up around 5am everyday and read her bible. But sometimes I don’t think she even went to sleep.
She made a lot of vegetable soup.
And we ate caned spaghetti on toast.
Manners and gratitude were a hard rule no matter how basic the meal.
“Thankyou Lord for our food, bless the hands that made this” “can I please be excused from the table”
If there wasn’t enough of a treat to share between everyone she always promptly decided she wasn’t all that hungry anyway.
She sat across the table, staring at the face of blame assigned to our poverty, as she requested food grants, denied without proof of debt.
No amount of budgeting could alleviate our poverty, only her skill and strategy that people living on the breadline know well, was what kept us a float.
She had an ability to dance between having our power or phone cut off, and stretching out $5 worth of petrol over a week -All with the knowledge that it would only take one additional obstacle to throw us out on the street.
There were a few occasions where a supermarket offered their odd/stale bread buns in a large bin to the public. She sent us kids running in and out so fast scooping handfuls for our lunch.
She was embarrassed, now she can laugh at the experience, we call can.
(A blurry photo of me aged 4, my brother aged 7, and my mum taken by my older sister aged 6)
It wasn’t unusual to watch her cop the judgment from a checkout operator and the people standing in line as she put items back because the food grant stamped by WINZ wouldn’t cover it all.
She must have been so tired, but she always sat next to each of our beds sparing twenty minutes of her evening per child as she massaged our legs and arms, rubbed our backs, tickled our feet, fetched us water and prayed for our protection by the angels so that we can rest well.
She loves her children unconditionally.
She always wanted to teach. She’s a teacher now, and I watched her work hard to make that happen. Because she studied. She studied all through my development years.
She’s an artist and she illustrated her own drafts of children’s books as well has writing them. They were witty, and clever. I always wished she would get a chance to publish them one day.
She’s a musician and I watched her stand in front of her church singing and carrying the worship team, and the collection of experiences and circumstances she endured could be drowned out in every strum on her guitar for a moment of time because she was always simply thankful.
She always managed to preserve a feeling of possibility in our house.
I learned not to live in servitude to material things, because they were transient. Sometimes you can have things, and sometimes you can’t.
I learned to be hopeful. I learned to reason, negotiate, survive.
She taught me generosity.
My Mum’s skill and strategy for survival was magical and fierce.
She is my happy Father’s Day message.
I love you.