In 2013 during a cuppa and a catch up, my friend Lauren mentioned her personal project, a completed interview with her mother now languishing on her computer. The interview with her mum Trudy had been a three year labor of love, starting soon after her mum’s diagnosis of Lewy Body Dementia. She wanted to turn it into a book but felt overwhelmed of where to start. I offered to help, so she gave me the text files and scanned images of her mum’s life. I set about arranging the interview into a timeline. The interview covered the main passages in life, birth, marriage and also questions about lullaby’s sung when she was a child, first love, favourite music and books. It gave a sense of who she is, what her childhood was like and raising her children.
The finished book is such an amazing sentimental keepsake for all of Trudy’s children and grandchildren. When someone passes a lot of those stories are lost. But they are now forever at their fingertips. This is a project I wish I had done with my grandparents. I was pleased to be part of this project and help bring Lauren’s vision to life. I’m just about to embark on an interview with my own mum.
While thinking of what to write about the book I feel that Lauren has said it best in the foreword of the book. I hope it inspires you to write your own book, interview someone you love and preserve their story:
In 2007 mum was diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia. It was a time that looking back shook me to the core, devastated myself, Mum, Dad and the family as a whole. Overnight hopes and dreams appeared to be shattered. Life as we knew it would never be the same again. Struggling to come to terms with what had become a new reality- uncertainty and unwanted change, an in-flight magazine on a plane to Gold Coast in 2008 advertised Mother's day gift ideas. Of these ideas was "The Mother's Book."
On realising that her mother was seriously ill, Elma Van Vliet sat down and wrote The Mother's Book, a collection of questions that would allow her to find out who her mother really was. She wanted to learn what she had been like as a girl, her childhood memories, what her dreams had been at 18, who she had fallen in love with first, how she had felt about the birth of her child based on an Old Dutch tradition of personalised memoirs.
The description of this book resonated so strongly with me and felt like the answer to one of my biggest fears that had come with this diagnosis. A fear that my Mother's story would not be told to me in years to come, that my children will not hear the stories as I had from my own grandmother sitting in the lounge room growing up as a child. I was fearful- What if I forget all that Mum has ever told me? In a world that was suddenly so out of my control, the one thing that I could change was to ensure that many of the questions I had for mum would be documented and available for me to treasure forever.
During this time away in the Gold Coast I made it my priority to return home with this book, and a new project; to spend uninterrupted time with Mum on a regular basis to have these questions answered. Of course this was to be no easy feat! Sessions needed to be kept short to ensure that Mum was able to concentrate and not become exhausted in the process. Quite often a bribe of Pandora charm shopping or a coffee down the street was the inspiration to complete each section. During the writing time of this other significant changes occurred which also slowed us down, the family home of 35 years was sold and a subsequent move took place. I too discovered I was pregnant which also shifted the focus of some of the content of the book. Overall many jokes were had about this Book. Mum would dread me asking her to lock in a time for our next "Mother's Book Day" no doubt due to the exhaustive, ongoing nature of the task. But we did it. Mum did it.
Over approximately 18 months from commencing the book, it was completed. Undertaking the book would be fittingly described as a "journey" without a doubt and is how I imagined it to be. There were times when we laughed together, times when we cried together. Times where we would stop because the overwhelming reality of why we were doing this became all too much. I think mum summed up the experience in her final comment documented in the book when I asked her if she had anything to say overall about the experience; "Mothers book... I think it's a damn good idea, it's important, but it does pick your brain!"
I hope that you enjoy reading parts of this book as much as I enjoyed sitting with Mum and putting it all together. Take from it what you will, a memory or a life lesson. Parts are funny, parts are sad. Overall it is wholly Mum as she said it.
Does this story resonate with you? Is this something you would love to have, your mother’s story and photos in a beautiful keepsake book to pass down to the next generations? Or it might be your Father or Grandparents story you would like to record instead. I’d love to make one for you!
A great way to remember moments spent with your mum is also through a Family photography session at home. I am currently offering sessions at home and some of the suburbs serviced are: Belmont, Newtown, Armstrong Creek, Charlemont, Barwon Heads, Ocean Grove, Jan Juc, Torquay, Moriac and Ceres. Get in touch if you have any questions!