I have been privileged to know many inspiring women during my life. But the first of these influential women was my mother.
Lan grew up in a large and rambunctious Irish (Greek) Australian family in Sydney’s inner west. It was a time when ladies wore hats, gloves & a nice frock to go to town. Lan also grew up as a child of depression era parents, and knew frugal living first hand. Not a wealthy family, but one with a love of books, words, talking and reading.
She also came to adulthood in the days of rock ‘n roll and jazz, and of dances at the old Sydney stadium.
In her youth access to education was largely the preserve of wealthy women. For Lan and most of her contemporaries (pre-women’s lib) a girl worked until she married and then made a home and raised a family. And, in some ways, her acceptance of those old conventional ways used to annoy me.
But, it was at her side that I learned important things – like the value of education and restorative power of a good laugh. On travels with her I saw economic inequity and its results first hand, and learned how one person can make a difference. She was personally active in helping people via the local St Vincent de Paul Society and had strong opinions about social justice to go with that personal activism.
She taught me how to make my own lollies and soap & did not mind when I made a huge mess.
During my terrible teen years we had stand-up fights, of the kind that only mothers and daughters can understand. But after all of that we became friends. She provided insight, support and an example to which I aspire in many ways.
Her sayings resonate in my head even today, in a kind of wise counsel. And her words in my memory resonate with a feeling of love, trust in my abilities and a can-do attitude.
Things like social justice, reconciliation, working to the best of my ability, helping others, and standing up for principles – these are all things I learned from Mum. As her brother Brian always said of her, she was always wearing rose coloured glasses.
As a result of her influence it rarely occurred to me that there were things I could not achieve. Even though her own acceptance of a woman’s role from a different era annoyed me, she never imposed that on me.
Mum passed away when she was only in her forties, too young to leave a husband and five children. I miss her still and it’s her birthday today.