Things my mother taught me

She taught us so much more than simply how to tie our laces and eat with a knife and fork. Writer Claire Halliday reflects on what she learned from her mother. Both of them.

Claire_ProfilePicBy Claire Halliday

I’m an adopted person so when I think about the lessons my mother taught me, I think of two women…two mothers…multiple stories.

One thing my birth mother has taught me is the difference between nature versus nurture. I think nurture has a power that is hard to beat.

Yes, I am genetically related to someone who was not my every day ‘mum’ – and I thank her for bringing me into this world – but it was the woman who raised me who really helped shape the person I am today.

That mum provided me with a safe place to eat, sleep, grow – and a home I could always come back to when I was out exploring the world.

The weird timing of releasing my new book this month (Things My Mother Taught Me, Echo Publishing, $29.95) is that it has coincided with saying goodbye to that home from my childhood – it was a place I thought would always be there.

When I returned to my childhood home in Adelaide to do some book launch events there, it was the final week of our family actually owning that little two-bedroom brick home in Plympton. The settlement date for the new owner was just a few days away.

Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 2.12.05 pmWe swept leaves, pulled weeds from garden beds, peered into drawers to make sure nothing was left behind and I remembered the faded mauve paint on the inside of the built-in-wardrobes that my mum’s bedroom had once been painted in.

My two youngest girls cried. They ran from room to room, from front yard to back yard, talking out loud about the time they played hide-and-seek here or squirted each other with the hose there.

It took them half an hour and some crappy take-away food on the highway back to Melbourne to make them stop.

Mum’s been moved into a nursing home now because the hints of dementia were becoming too strong for her to keep looking after herself safely in that house alone. It’s been strange but we know it’s for the best.

Things My Mother Taught Me? That places are important…but people matter more. The house won’t be ours next time we visit Adelaide but it’s okay.

What can’t be taken away is all the times – both happy and sad – that were lived there. Those memories will live on in the stories we’ll keep telling, even when Mum herself starts forgetting them…

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