Sewing has been on the back burner this past month, I've been working on something else. When Isobel, my 22 year old daughter, decided last year that her major project at uni this year would be creating a book based on her 83 year old grandmother's stories and family photos I hadn't realised the impact it would have on all of us. I agreed to edit Mum's stories, most of which had been written as snippets of memoir over the past decade. They tell the life of a working class family in Sydney from the Great Depression through to her marriage at the tail end of the 1950s, plus a few extras.
For Isobel it has been a wonderful opportunity to sit down with Granma and pour over her photos and listen to the stories for the first time. I think she's been able to see Granma in a different light. We've been saying for years that they look so similar and she responds by being horrified to be compared to a wrinkly old lady. But now that she's really looked and seen the young woman in the photos she's now realising that maybe we were right. And she seems pretty happy about that. There could also be aspects of shared temperament that she's recognising. Certainly Mum sees some of herself in her eldest granddaughter and a need to offer a guiding light.
For myself, many of the stories have been read before, and of course I've heard them told over the years as well; in fact we've been encouraging Mum to keep on writing them as they're so informative and entertaining. But seeing them all together, and working with her to flesh out key points, or learn more about specific characters or events has been a wonderful experience. She and I are very different and that at times has been a stumbling block in our relationship. You'd have to say she's a whole lot more gregarious than me and she's had a whole lot more fun (well, actually my type of fun is a whole lot quieter than hers). And in turn, she's very different from her Mum and that was most definitely a stumbling block between them. The act of exploring these stories together has helped both of us to understand our mothers and what each mother wanted for her daughter. And to be happy and very appreciative about that. Happy Mother's Day to all the Mum's out there.
Mum and me at Melbourne airport in 1961 on the way to see my Grandmother in Sydney.