A while ago I posted a picture of one of my sculpted characters that bore an uncanny resembance to my mother (although her character was not that of my Mum's). Well last year I travelled back home to New Zealand to visit my folks on the occasion of their 60th wedding anniversary. I decided that I would create characters for both of my parents that would epitomize their personalities as I saw them. This post explains why I depicted my mother as I did.
My Mum was a dairy farmer's wife and the mother of a healthy brood of six kids, and that's mostly how she defined her life - while I was growing up, anyway. But I know now that she would have been better defined by the word, "Diva".
Mum had enjoyed a short singing career prior to marrying my Dad, shortly after the end of WWII. In order to supplement the family income, she taught singing lessons to kids from a nearby town ("Snobby Townies", we called them). Mum would sit at her upright piano, the metronome ticking loudly on top, while an earnest student, hands clasped beneath her breasts, would practice a number of vocal exercises. This student would face outwards, as if performing to an audience, while Mum would listen for any notes that had gone awry. One poor girl (I think her name was Stephanie) would have more than her fair share of off notes. The reason for her ineptitude could possibly have been the terrible faces that my brother and I would aim in her direction from around the edges of a curtain that separated the parlour from the dining room. But I digress...
Mum also directed a choir and produced at least one operetta a year. I loved watching them rehearse and often got recruited to help sew beads on costumes. I had watched Mum teach for years, but never truly heard her sing. She had been a heavy smoker for a long time and it was generally acknowledged that she had "lost" her voice. Many years passed, I had moved overseas and Mum eventually quit smoking due to a health scare. Then my youngest brother was to be married and Mum announced that she would sing at the wedding. We (her children) all shuddered with pre-embarrassment. Well, the big day came (I had flown back to New Zealand for the event) and Mum took her place in front of the congregation. What happened next surprised us all. Mum began to sing "How Great Thou Art" in a voice that had obviously reclaimed its former glory. It was clear and true and robust enough to almost blow the steeple off of that old church! There wasn't a dry eye in the house and it was obvious that Mum revelled in it! I suddenly realised that this was what Mum was born to do.
Fast forward to 15 years later and Mum is planning once again to sing in that same church, only this time it is on the occasion of her own wedding anniversary. By this time Mum is in her early eighties and once again we wondered if we would be cringing in embarrassment. But this was no thin, bird-like performance. Indeed, the old girl's voice is still strong and true. I learned on this trip back home, that Mum had been offered a full scholarship to the Royal Conservatory of Music in London back in the 40's (no small honour for a Kiwi farm girl). She turned it down because she had already promised her hand and heart to a returning soldier. I can't help but wonder how her life would have unfolded if she had taken that opportunity... Funny thing though - when I mentioned that to her, she said she doesn't regret a thing!
I've depicted Mum as she might have been in her later years - as a Grand Diva, gracing the people with her presence, and stunning them with her voice at a fancy soiree. Hmmm, you know, when I think about it, that's kind of the way it turned out after all - it just took her a long time to get there.