Being the second youngest of a large clan has it’s advantages and being surrounded by the usually absent tribe at a time of vulnerability brings new information to light. Ironically it was in the tender conversations about our ailing dad that the topic of mum came up.
I have very quiet memories of mum, because unlike this Cathie, she was not the chatty variety. Especially to a busy teenager then working, gap yearing, getting the hell out of the home town, adventuring young lady. I would call her frequently but I think I would just babble on about my life and her wisdom would hold her silence on the telephone line .
Dad seemed to be the talking one, or more often, the nagging one. He would nag at her as she silently poked holes in her Benson &Hedges cigarette and hid behind her smokescreen. His nagging would change to drunken playful flirting with her most Saturday nights when he had some time off from his back breaking factory life. Mum remained quiet, except for a loud ‘Alfie’ if he was playing too rough with us young ones who were enjoying his tickling and antics.
In her absence, her character is growing larger and larger as my older siblings shared her stories and a different mum is being born for me. Mum controlled the purse strings, that I always knew. Dad’s weekly wages would be put on the mantelpiece mid-Friday afternoon and the envelope would vanish when I next glanced. I never saw mum actually move it, but she seemed to work miracles with the pittance and the tribe of 9.
She started working when I was about 9 or 10 and I remember thinking when had she learned to type. But her skills were highly respected and she quietly kept working away at her job.
Two things I learned this time around? The first was that Dad hated her working out of the house . But she kept at it. The second thing was that she didn’t use her wage towards the household budget. This dumbfounded me in ways that I am still discovering. I vaguely recall the story of mum asking her accountant son what to do with some savings. He wisely told her to pay off the bond which she duly did. I remember being flabbergasted at how expensive the house was at R17500-. I did not know where or how these savings came about – until now. Pieces of the puzzle-which I didn’t even know where missing- continue to fall in place.
Then she also bought shares in coffee…that is more vague in my memory. I remember her complaining that coffee prices shot up and I kind of moaned that she ‘owned’ some of the land so why doesn’t she get coffee beans for cheap. She was my first introduction to ‘shares ‘ yet I didn’t know it.
My admiration for her has increased a gazillionfold. Not only did she cycle to work on a hellish road in brutal Vaal Triangle winters, but she somehow stuck at it, being nagged at by dad and complained to by us hungry kids late afternoons. Somewhere over her brood of seven ( beautiful-I must add) kids, she had a broader vision. A vision of more than merely survival, she planned and saved and sorted in her quiet unassuming way. She made provision for the long term which she never got the honour of living but she did it anyway.
This information has changed me, my life, my love for her and my future. I am looking forward to discovering more about this remarkable, beautiful woman that I share the honour with my six siblings, to call mum.
Cheers mum. Love you x