Learning From Mumma Bear

My mum is very sweet, I have to say. Believe me…it is not just me that thinks so. People love my mum! In the town we grew up in, everyone knew my mum and people loved her. They thought she had a gorgeous personality. She was always smiling, always chatting, always showing kindness.

Just over ten years ago, once we had all left home, my parents moved closer to my grandfather so they could help him as his health was starting to decline. In the village they now live in, people have come to know and love my mum. She has the same gorgeous personality. People say exactly the same things as they did in my home town – your mum is always smiling, so friendly, so kind.

Yup that’s my mumma! I have so many stories about the people whose lives she has touched, I could easily fill a book about Mumma Bear. We could not have asked for a better example of how to be a gorgeous human being than our Mumma Bear!

Teddy Bear, Teddy, Bear, Stuffed Animal

Besides all the work at home, caring for a huge family, Mum did not work for money when we were younger. She wanted to be around for us during our early years. She felt starting work before we were at school would disrupt our development…or something like that. But once my youngest sister Milly had started school, Mumma then decided to go back to nursing. For several years she worked on an endoscopy unit in the nearby hospital.

I remember the very first time she received wages. After years of gratefully accepting hand-me-downs from other kind families, Mumma wanted to go out and buy us something new. There was a new shop in the local shopping centre and they had some beautiful teddy bears. Mum bought one for the three of us “little ones”. I must have been ten years old at this time, because Milly was now at school. Mine was a slightly ginger brown. I called my teddy “Max”. Milly had a white bear which she named “Snowy”. Mandy, her more beige brown bear she named “Honey”.

Three bears for three little girls. We were so grateful to Mumma Bear. We all treasured those bears. I still had Max when I left home in my mid-twenties!

That was not the only treat. Mumma Bear really wanted to treat us. She took us to a local restaurant which was famous for their naughty puddings and desserts. I ordered a Banana Split. Milly ordered a knickerbocker-glory. Mandy ordered a salad! A salad…just about the farthest thing from a naughty dessert!

Aaaaah! It’s nice to reminisce over the pages and pages of special memories of those you love. Mumma Bear was the perfect mother to the three little girls, who still think she is one of the sweetest people on the planet.

My Lovely Mum Used To Buy Us Iced-Fingers

When I was a little one…(that was the 1980s, in case you were wondering) before mum learnt to drive…I remember our shopping trips for the weekly family food supply. Mum would often make a whole day trip out of it. I remember our trips vividly.

We would walk down the hill into town heading for the local indoor shopping centre. I remember my baby sister Milly was in the Victorian pram, which mum hardly had to push on the trip downhill, more hold onto so it didn’t run away.  Meanwhile, me and my other younger sister Mandy would skip along running in and out of bushes and balancing along kerbstones all along the way.

Whenever we entered the ground floor of the shopping center, I remember an almost blue layer of smoke that hung above us…so many people used to smoke cigarettes inside the shopping center leaving a lingering stench and smog. Whenever we passed too near people puffing on their cigarettes, my sister and I would deliberately explode into hysterical coughing fits to try to make the smokers feel guilty.  We would be marched by mum right through to the opposite side of the shopping centre and back out into fresh air.

The first venue we would visit was the town library. We possibly stayed there for hours. It was a great idea for my mum to take us. A quiet place for mum and baby Milly…and endless entertainment in the form of colourful books and other children for me and Mandy.  When it was time to leave, we were allowed to borrow up to 6 books each to take home.

Food, Fish, Chips, Fish And Chips, Plate

If it was a long day out mum would sometimes buy a bag of chips from the local chippy (fish and chip shop) …which was beside the public swimming baths. Then we would sit on the rocks……I don’t know how to explain this public monument to nothing which was an incredible playground for us to challenge our agility – dangerous when I think about it.  Oh, we had so much fun climbing and playing hide and seek there while mum looked after Milly. There were usually plenty of other mums and children.

The main purpose of the trip was of course to buy food for the family. Mum had to take us back into the smoky shopping centre and up to a supermarket named Presto or Prestos. It has long since disappeared.  Mum would load up the trolley with the basics for feeding two adults and 7 children. We tried to help. There was a food trolley and a Victorian pram to safely steer around the store. I do remember some mishaps…I was not quite tall enough to be in charge of either pram or trolley, but I had to take one of them.  I often bashed into other shoppers or clipped their feet.  It seemed to take all my might to control either. Sometimes mum would just have to park up the Victorian pram near the cashiers with me in charge while she whizzed round loading up the food trolley.

Anyway…once the shopping was paid for, it was time to head home.

Mum would tie the shopping bags to all parts of the Victorian pram. The hard part of the trip out was going to be getting all of us back up the hill. The Victorian pram was now very heavy and mum had to push it up hill all the way home. But it would be more difficult to motivate Mandy and I to trudge back up the hill…I do remember us both sulking and pleading to be allowed to squeeze into the pram with our baby sister.

To motivate us, my lovely mum would buy us a treat from a bakery named Duncans. The treat was an iced finger. We would munch our iced finger and normally it would last us all the way to the top of the hill. Those iced fingers were such a welcome treat.

Iced-Fingers

One day, a wasp landed on the other end of my iced-finger.  I dropped it onto an area of the pavement with leaves and rubbish and dirt.  Mum would not let me pick it up to continue eating.  I cried all the way home.

One day, Mandy and I had been squabbling and had been misbehaving in in the shopping centre.  Mum was close to becoming impatient.  I know my mum was a bit of a softy on the whole, but that day she tried to be tough.  She warned us that because we had been naughty we would not have a treat from Duncan’s bakery.  Well, Mandy and I were rather cheeky and threatened mum that if we did not have a treat we would refuse to leave the shopping centre.  Mum told us she would have to leave us then as she had to take the shopping and baby Milly back home.  She told us she would have to send Dad down when he came home from work to take us home.  Mandy and I grew quiet as we knew Daddy would be cross to learn we had misbehaved.  We walked along quietly.

Police, Lego, Policeman, Law

Suddenly we looked around and Mum had vanished!  I immediately concluded she had been true to her word and left us on our own.  My little head was full of panic.  However, I also recall trying to work out what was the most logical thing to do next.  There was a police-man nearby.  I told Mandy that we should approach him.  There we were, a five-year old with her three year old sister telling him that our mother had abandoned us because we had been naughty.  He told us to stay with him.

A few minutes later mum came rushing over with the pram.  She was full of anxiety.  We had not noticed she had turned into Duncan’s bakery to buy us iced-fingers.  It had shocked her when we were not in our normal waiting place which was just outside the bakery window pressing our noses to the glass as we eyed up all of the colourful cakes and fruit tarts.

Poor mum!

What a lovely mum I have.

Park, Mother, Girl, Mama, Child, Toddler

If you are reading this Mum…I love you. I have so many wonderful memories of my childhood with you! I am deeply grateful you and dad gave us life and taught us wonderful things about life.  You showed us how to be happy and healthy.  Thank you for all of your hard work caring for so many children.  Sorry for all the hard times we gave you, all our squabbling and being naughty and coming home covered in mud.  You and dad have set an incredible example for us in countless ways.  Thank you for all the iced-fingers Mum.  I love you Mum!

First Day Of School

This another post from the archives. I just could not resist thinking back to my school days again!

Yesterday was the first day of school for one of our household… there was so much excitement.  For the little one here it seems as if it was a great success.  But of course, it led to all of us who have survived the school experience to reminisce over our own first day of school.

First Day Of School

I remember that when my mum dropped me off that morning her hair was long as it seemed to have always been. When she came to collect me it was short, above her shoulders, a little bob.  I was balling my eyes out insisting that she was not my mother, that I didn’t know who she was.  Poor mum!  She must have wondered what to do when I claimed I had never seen her before.

I was alarmed by the suggestion I had to attend school. Mum clearly needed my help at home with my two younger sisters. I enjoyed our walks to the library to read and go shopping.  Everyone seemed to know my mum so we chatted with many town folk.  We had a very contented routine. Leaving Mum to go off to be with other children was not my idea of a happy state of affairs.  Mum and Dad could see how perplexed I was about this arrangement. One of them put the idea into my head that the headmaster had made a special request to have me at the school so that I could teach the other children how to behave.  When I asked questions about this, the reply was “you could teach the other children to use a knife and fork” (the correct use of cutlery had been a major challenge for me, but I had recently conquered it and was very proud indeed of my newfound skills).

So at my first lunch-time, I sat down and started with my task.  I announced “children, listen to me, I am going to teach you about knifes and fooooorkes” (I was terrified of mispronouncing the work “fork” so took pains to make sure I lengthened the vowels)….the other kids were staring at me. The girl opposite me, whose name I remember very well (and years later we played netball together), took the flask cup of orange juice she held and threw it at me.  At that moment, I realized I had my work cut out!

Person, Human, Child, Girl, BlondI had unanswered questions about why I was being sent to school and great difficulties understanding the whole concept of leaving my parents and being with a group of odd children who did not seem to be as switched on as I was. I saw no value in being forced to spend time there and I found it quite tiring at times. When it was all getting too much, I would go and hide in the “wendy house” and burrow underneath the pile of playclothes. There I would often fall fast asleep until the end of the school day.

I had already decided before ever starting school that I wanted to grow up to be just like Maria Von Trapp. I was under the impression from the books I had grown up reading that we would all grow up to be farmers and farmer’s wives. School screwed up that notion. Nothing made sense anymore. I concluded within myself that some of my teachers were very much mistaken about life and the world. I began to take what they told me with rather a large “pinch of salt”.

I didn’t like school.  But I was told that if I didn’t go to school my parents would be put into prison.  This I found very distressing indeed.  I felt as if it was a bit of a nightmare situation.  I contented myself with the thought that I had already worked out how to get to the swimming baths if my mum and dad were ever killed in a car accident (I know this thought sounds very morbid for a little one only it had happened to some good friends, so I was very practical and realistic that anything might happen to us).  So I resolved to keep going to school until I could no longer cope. After giving it an effort, then if mum and dad had to go to prison, at least I knew how to get down to the swimming baths on my own.  (Never crossed my mind that me and my sisters wouldn’t be allowed to stay at home on our own and who would pay for my swimming lessons?)

girl dressThe only way I settled in my mind this separation from home was feeling I had an important role to fill.  I was always tidying up after the other children, helping them put their coats on, putting straws in milk cartons at “milk time”.  I also had issues about the uniform – well it was grey…as some school uniforms are.  I said to Mrs Richardson, “Yes, I know all the other children have to wear a uniform, but what I don’t understand is, why do I have to wear a uniform?”  I didn’t see myself as one of them but that I was being forced against my will to be at this school.  Well….whatever I said to the teachers, I was allowed to attend school throughout the infants and wear my choice of clothes rather than the uniform.  What did I wear?  I had so many pretty little girl dresses that had been given to my mum by my dad’s customers and friends.  Quite an impressive wardrobe.  I remember some of them vividly.  Although I also loved wearing shorts and T-shirts at home, I was too proud to wear shorts for school, I did want to be smart.  It sometimes strikes me as odd that although I was such a tomboy in so many ways – I always loved my dresses.

What would the other kids think of me?  Bright blonde hair.  Pretty dresses in white, pale pink, peach, lemon, baby blue (I had some that were darker coloured but I preferred to use them as play clothes as when I was climbing trees or playing football I would get quite muddy).  I was helping every child I cross paths with, breaking up fights, sharing my crisps with everyone, doing all these jobs to help the teachers and tidying up. The other children became very curious about me. I remember sobbing to my parents that the children were bullying me. When my parents looked into it this is what was happening.

AngelThe children were following me home and asking me if I was an angel.  I was very upset by this. Why? In our classroom, there was a golden book about the Bible the teacher used to read stories from at story time.  The angels in the pictures were all men with beards and big muscles and huge wings. I thought the kids were being unkind calling me an angel. Mum and Dad tried to explain that some of the children were just fascinated by me. 

They were not trying to be unkind at all.  Later I realized those poor children thought angels were like little fairies.  I had been reading books like “The Famous Five”, “The Secret Seven” and “Mallory Towers” before I even started school – they didn’t have little fairy angels in them, but I discovered that some children’s books had misleading pictures of cute little angels, which clearly jarred with my enlightened understanding of angels resembling big burly men with bulging muscle. Before I understood that the other children were simply misled, I found it an insult they were asking me if I was an angel.

Sometimes I was overwhelmed with the challenges of spending time with these odd children. I am one of seven siblings – the fifth in order. Number four – my brother is eight years older and number three, one of my sisters is nine years older than I am. Due to the age gap, my parents played with us more than my older siblings did. My Dad had unwittingly treated us like little boys. Under his influence we were climbing trees and running around playing sports.  He had not taught us girly games.  As a family, we frequently went to the park or the beach, and at least three times a week to the to the swimming baths. At weekends we often had picnics with other families, most of whom had sons. I remember huge games of hide & seek in the woods and building dens with them. So I had not had many contacts with girls of my own age. At last here was a reason to be at school! GIRLS.

Daisy Chains.pngI learnt so much from them about what girls where supposed to be interested in. The girls taught me two things I never had experienced elsewhere. They all seemed to know how to do handstands. This was truly wonderful to me. I threw myself into copying them and they tried to help me. Nonetheless, it took me a long time to master the art of handstands.  They also knew how to make daisy chains.  Can you comprehend how marvellous it was to me to be able to produce something as beautiful as a daisy chain? You wouldn’t believe how much patience and effort I put in to trying to make them. I went missing from the school several times, and rather than being asleep in the wendy house, I was frequently found on the cricket pitch behind the school – which was not allowed. I thought that rule must apply to the odd little children who seemed rather backward. I often played on that cricket pitch with my Dad and siblings, so I felt comfortable up there. I know why I went there. The grass around the cricket pitch was a little longer than our school field and the daisies had longer stalks. The longer the stalks the more chance I had of being able to make a decent daisy chain. As I look back at primary school, I have to confess one of the deepest gifts it imparted to me was learning things like how to make daisy chains from other children. Everything else I was content to learn from books, books my parents bought for me. I was discontent at hearing the teachers express their own opinions.

Girl, Cute, Child, Flower, Blond, NatureThen there was the wetting myself issue.  It happened twice that I can remember.  It happens to a lot of children, doesn’t it? But it was the way it happened to me that seems memorable. Both times it was a fear thing.  On one occasion, a very annoyed teacher (I have no idea why she was upset that morning) was marching everyone through the school and she turned around and said to me to stand still and not to leave that spot until she returned.  Now, she just happened to have parked me right next to the large container containing sand and toys – so I occasionally let my fingers play with the sand. But out of obedient fear….I did not move from that spot. I have no idea why she left me there for so long (I think it was the other children that were in trouble), but by the time she came back to find me in the same spot, I was standing in a yellow puddle. She asked why I had not gone to the toilet and all I could do was repeat her words to me. Off to the headmaster’s secretary for some replacement underwear from the “lost and found” box.

The second time I remember it happening, I was in Mrs Russell’s class. She could blow the whistle so loudly and sometimes when she was cross her voice would screech and it made me think of that whistle.  Well one day, lots of children kept asking to go to use the toilet.  Her patience wore thin and she said that the next child to ask to go to the toilet would be in trouble. A few minutes later…I was sitting working at my table and another little girl pointed at me and the yellow puddle under my chair.  When the teacher asked why I had not asked if I could go to the toilet all I could do was to repeat her words. Off to the headmaster’s secretary for some replacement underwear from the “lost and found” box.

swimmingAaaaah schooooooool!!!!  Life at school became a bit more interesting when I was in the first year of juniors (I think that would be Year 3) and was asked to leave the rest of my class one morning each week and join the children in their last year of primary school (Year 6) who had weekly swimming lessons. My sisters and I were part of our town swimming club so the headmaster wanted to see whether I could keep up with the children three years older than me. Sure enough they entered me into a couple of the races in the county swimming gala. I was swimming for the school competitively with kids who were three years older than me  Our school won so many races in the county swimming gala and I remember winning mine also. The headmaster was delighted with me. We had a number of awards on display in the school lobby after that swimming gala. Ours was a small school, so it seemed quite a victory that we had won so much.

Fire, Explosion, Danger, Hot, FlameDuring the six-week school holiday between Year 3 and Year 4, I had been allowed to borrow a book from the school library.  It was Johanna Spyri’s “Heidi“. The headmaster had told me that I must be careful not to lose it, I must bring it back at the end of the holidays or else I would not be allowed to borrow a book again. Can you imagine how devastated I was when my Dad broke the news one morning that our school (which by now I had grown to love) had been burnt down by three boys? Two were fourteen years of age and the other had just finished year 6 – he must have been eleven.  I still remember his name, but not the other two boys.

So for the next three years, while they were re-building our school (which I never had a chance to be at but my younger sisters did) we were picked up by double-decker buses and taken to a high school on the other side of town where they had some spare classrooms. They were well known for their brilliant sports facilities, especially the huge cross-country track they had.  It was a centre of lots of sporting tournaments. Later, when my parents had managed to get me into a school for clever clogs in a neighbouring town – we often came back here to play sports competitions.  It was always nice to be back at a school that was so familiar to us.

Well….I feel my waffling is becoming rather boring now….I think there is a definite limit to how much you can cope with another person reminiscing hey!!!  But I would love to know what you can remember of schooling life.

Crushed Caramel

Caramel…She has had many lessons to learn in life.  Now more than ever she is grateful for all of those lessons along with the love and support of her family and friends. 

Caramel was crushed by an event that has overturned her life.  Caramel is now rebuilding her life.  She is not just surviving, but is thriving and making life wonderful again.

In her own time, Caramel might be able to communicate a little about the catastrophe that hit her almost three years ago.  For now though, the focus of this site is on Caramel loving life and using the lessons she has learnt.

Two Bees

 

 

 

Life…I don’t really think this is what mum and dad had in mind for me…