Art and Creative Writing Group Therapy – Early 2016 “Altered Book Project” by Karen Robinson

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No.75 'Altered Book' by Karen Robinson created during Art Therapy Sessions 2016 - Facilitated by Art Therapist Vicky Nickolls NB: All images are protected by copyright laws

No.75 Karen Robinson (me) holding my ‘Altered Book’ created during Art Therapy Sessions 2016 with Mind Australia – Facilitated by Art Therapist Vicky Nicholls NB: All images are protected by copyright laws

 

 

INTRODUCTION

Earlier this year, I participated once again in art therapy and creative writing therapy sessions with Mind Australia as a participant.  Our art therapist facilitator – Vicky Nicholls had us work on a project which required us to create our own special ‘altered book’.  During the process of creating my ‘altered book’, I decided to add pockets that would hold a small selection of my creative writing pieces, that I particularly liked and also that held special meaning for me.  These creative writing pieces I had written throughout 2015 and early 2016 during my creative writing sessions, and sometimes as part of homework we were given by our Creative Writing Facilitator – Judy Bird.  These particular pieces I have included within this blog and can be found towards the end of this page.

 

No.77 ' Step 8 - Group photo taken at our Art Therapy Session - last day! - Altered Book' by Karen Robinson created during Art Therapy Sessions 2016 NB All images are protected by copyright laws

No.77 ‘ Step 8 – Group photo taken at our Art Therapy Session – last day!  We stand holding our precious ‘Altered Books’ created during our Art Therapy Sessions 2016.   NB All images are protected by copyright laws

 

MY ALTERED BOOK!

This is my ‘altered book’ as seen here below, which I had created during my art therapy sessions with Mind Australia 2016.  I discovered during my research on ‘altered books’ that they are a form of mixed media artwork, where a book is changed from its original state – to an altered state.  This can entail cuts, tears, burns, folds, paints, adds to, collages, rebinds, gold-leafs, created pop-ups, rubber-stamps, drills, bolts, and/or be ribbons.  It can have pockets and niches added to hold tags, rocks, ephemera, or other three-dimensional objects.  I decided to create a ‘altered book’ that was made up of materials that I had used on a painting titled Heart of Treasured Memories that I had painted during Art Therapy 2015 sessions.  I wanted to achieve a marriage between these two items – as they signified to me the end of one journey and a commencement of another!

 

No. 15 Completed 'Altered Book' by Karen Robinson created during Art Therapy Sessions 2016 NB All images are protected by copyright

No. 15 Completed ‘Altered Book’ by Karen Robinson created during Art Therapy Sessions 2016 NB All images are protected by copyright

 

PROCESS USED TO CREATE MY ‘ALTERED BOOK’

I stripped back the book’s first layer of paper on each page and cover.  Then I painted it with a creamy iridescent paint and then painted the book’s spine and page edges – in gold paint.  Then I added decorated ribbons at one end of the book’s spine which I had added little wooden flowers and butterflies too, also I glued onto these items, sequins that I had left over from my Heart of Treasured Memories painting. During one of the art therapy session, I found a set of patterned decorative paper sheets which I further decorated with the wooden flowers, butterflies and sequins.  I then folded these paper sheets in half and inserted then into the back of the book’s spine.  When the book was closed and the book’s spine was fanned outwards, these folded paper sheets offered another visual dimension to the ‘altered book’.  I then created ink drawings onto sheets of luminous creamy coloured paper that I had especially purchased for its paper weight, colour and look; and made little insert folders out of them that once glued into the ‘altered book’ itself, held my especially chosen creative writing pieces.  I then purchased a cardboard box that was big enough to hold my ‘altered book’ creation in, as I wanted something that would safely store the art work itself.  Like my ‘altered book’ I also altered the cardboard box and used a similar process and materials for its re-creation.

 

PERSONAL REFLECTION

It occurred to me after completing my ‘altered book’ during a time of reflection, that the whole procedure of creating a personal ‘altered book’ through re-invention, or it could also be said, transforming it into something that represented a piece of ourselves to share with others and/or keep as a private thought book to mull over when needed – was a very therapeutic process. It proved to be a deeply personal endeavour; a quite and studious creative journey that helped us work towards a better sense of well-being. It wasn’t until I had finished my ‘altered book’ and read through my selection of creative writing pieces, that it became apparent to me that this whole process of creating a ‘altered book’ was a way of re-assessing ones self; and helped me understand just how much I had gained from having been part of these wonderful art therapy and creative writing therapy sessions since 2014 to now being early 2016.  It showed me just how far I had travelled within my own personal post-traumatic growth journey.

 

 

 

MY ALTERED BOOK CREATIVE PROCESS SLIDESHOW

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ALTERED BOOK PROJECT PROCESS – STEP BY STEP!

  • Step No. 1 – “Stripping back the original book”
No. 4 - Stage No. 1 - The stripping back of the original book to make way to make the 'Altered Book' by Karen Robinson created during Art Therapy Sessions 2016 NB All images are protected by copyright laws

No. 4 – Stage One – The stripping back of the original book to make way to make the ‘Altered Book’ by Karen Robinson created during Art Therapy Sessions 2016 NB All images are protected by copyright laws

 

  • Step No. 2 – “Painting the whole stripped back book cover and pages”
No. 7 Stage two - Painting whole of the stripped back book with Matisse Pearlized Structure Paint - 'Altered Book' by Karen Robinson created during Art Therapy Sessions 2016 NB All images are protected by copyright laws

No. 7 Stage two – Painting whole of the stripped back book with Matisse Pearl like Structure Paint – ‘Altered Book’ by Karen Robinson created during Art Therapy Sessions 2016 NB All images are protected by copyright laws

 

  • Step No. 3 – “Decorating the outside cover of the altered book”
No. 18 Step Three - Decorating the outside cover with personally chosen materials - 'Altered Book' by Karen Robinson created during Art Therapy Sessions 2016 NB All images are protected by copyright laws

No. 18 Step Three – Decorating the outside cover with personally chosen materials – ‘Altered Book’ by Karen Robinson created during Art Therapy Sessions 2016 NB All images are protected by copyright laws

 

  • Step No. 4 – “Decorative paper panel spinal book inserts”
No. 25 Step Four - Decorated paper panel spinal inserts - 'Altered Book' by Karen Robinson created during Art Therapy Sessions 2016 NB All images are protected by copyright laws

No. 25 Step Four – Decorated paper panel spinal inserts – ‘Altered Book’ by Karen Robinson created during Art Therapy Sessions 2016 NB All images are protected by copyright laws

 

  • Step No. 5 – “Ink painted pocket inserts to hold the short creative writing stories”
No. 36 Step 5 - Hand ink painted pocket inserts to hold my short creative writing stories 'Altered Book' by Karen Robinson created during Art Therapy Sessions 2016 NB All images are protected by copyright laws

No. 36 Step 5 – Hand ink painted pocket inserts to hold my short creative writing stories ‘Altered Book’ by Karen Robinson created during Art Therapy Sessions 2016 NB All images are protected by copyright laws

 

  • Step No. 6 – “Altered book keepsake box”
No. 43 Step Six - The painting and decorating of a keepsake box for the book - 'Altered Book' by Karen Robinson created during Art Therapy Sessions 2016 NB All images are protected by copyright laws

No. 43 Step Six – The painting and decorating of a keepsake box for the book – ‘Altered Book’ by Karen Robinson created during Art Therapy Sessions 2016 NB All images are protected by copyright laws

 

  • Step No. 7 – “Completed altered book and keepsake altered book box”
No.51 Step 7 - Completed Altered Book and Keepsake Box for book - 'Altered Book' by Karen Robinson created during Art Therapy Sessions 2016 NB All images are protected by copyright laws

No.51 Step 7 – Completed Altered Book and Keepsake Box for book – ‘Altered Book’ by Karen Robinson created during Art Therapy Sessions 2016 NB All images are protected by copyright laws

 

MY ALERTED BOOK CREATIVE WRITING STORIES

No.65 Creative Writing Stories inserted into ink painted insert pockets of the 'Altered Book' by Karen Robinson created during Art Therapy Sessions 2016 NB All images are protected by copyright

No.65 Creative Writing Stories inserted into ink painted insert pockets of the ‘Altered Book’ by Karen Robinson created during Art Therapy Sessions 2016 NB All images are protected by copyright

  • Title:  “Destination – Old Age…”

My life has not been boring that is for certain!  At times it has been a sweet and delicate pathway where my soul has strive to ascend to a place of beauty and peace.  And at other times, my life has been painfully difficult.  But now, I am at a mature age, where my youthful adventurers are in the past and I feel like the moon that is quietly shining within the lives of those nearest and dearest to me, hoping that my presence brings beauty – a presence that causes no harm.  I do seek to gain knowledge of the outer world – the good, the bad, the ugly, to delve into the mysteries of others, to seek out the natural beauty of the human soul and treasure the best of us.  Old age has made me become a very practical person and it has also allowed me to arrive at a place where I find myself enjoying this part of my life.  It’s a time where I can also be strong and direct, where I can now share a lifetime of memories, in the hope that some good can be achieved. I am a sentimental deep thinker and determine to leave behind me, memories worthy of retelling to future generations.

Written by © Karen Robinson – April 2016

 

  • Title:  “Taking a Look Back…”

It takes me back – so far into the past as I look at the nicely framed photo of my two children when they were very little.  Ben would have been about five years old, I would say, and Kelly would have been 14 months younger, making her four years old.  They were both dressed in clothes that I had skilfully made for them.  Ben in a grey corduroy, long sleeve jacket with three bright gold buttons at its front, and matching knee-length shorts and a white shirt with a bright aqua blue tie.  Kelly dressed in a lollie pink corduroy long sleeve jacket, with three gold buttons at its front, and a matching three-quarter length skirt and a white shirt with a frilled edged collar and satin ribbon tie around the shirt collar.  Both children wore long white knee-high socks and brand new shoes.  Ben’s were polished leather and Kelly’s were patent leather.  Both had freshly scrubbed faces and sweet-smelling clean hair.  Ben’s hair was cut and groomed according to young boys of the day and Kelly’s hair had a mind of its own, as always – blond and curly!  They are holding hands which would have been under my instructions for sure, knowing I would have wanted a wonderful brother/sister photo of the two of them for memory’s sake.  I can see by looking at this photo that the sun was in Ben’s eyes so his face is slightly titled to the side, with his eyes squinting and a look I grew to see over many years and Kelly’s expression reflects a warm shyness.  They were dressed to attend a wedding with both Mark their father and myself – their mother. 

It was a country wedding of the daughter of a man I used to work for – Alf John was his name.  Alf John owned a substantial company in South Melbourne and an important mentor for me.  This now reminds me that Alf John was the man who had lent Mark and I the deposit for our very first home in Essendon, Melbourne.  He demanded that we paid back the money with no interest and we dutifully do so with much gratitude for having given us both the opportunity to buy a home.  The house was a very old Californian bungalow styled home, needed everything done to it which we did get to do over time.  We spent our first 13 years of family life in this home.

I so much love this photo of the both of my children.  It brings back memories of a very good time in our family’s life.  Whilst bringing up a young family wasn’t always easy, it was one of the most important roles I have had in my life.  I didn’t always do the best job of being a mother, but I always loved both my children with every bit of my heart and soul and still do today.  Kelly has grown into just an amazing young woman, a fine human being and my son sadly…well Ben is not with us in this world but is always in my heart…my beautiful boy Ben.

Written by ©Karen Robinson – March 2016

 

  • Title:  “When I was 10…”

When I was 10 – life was difficult, but let me think more about my childhood adventures instead.  I was the oldest of three children. I had a younger sister by 3 years and a young brother by 4 years. It was my job, most days, to look after us all, whilst mum worked and dad … well he would work sometimes, and mostly drink other times, and sometimes – both at the same time, but enough about dad.

The three of us children, would take ourselves off into the tropical rain forests and along the Bay’s esplanade for walkabouts.  These times became the sum of our childhood adventures!  We would swim in the crystal clear creeks that were refreshed daily by out bursts of torrential rain. When the creeks were still and quite, we would study the clear water and search for small fishes, tadpoles and look for tiny specks of sparkling gold dust at the bottom of creek beds. We would stalk blue mountain butterflies, as they fed on showy tropical flowers, within the neighbourhoods’ green lush gardens.

Sometimes, we would look for mango trees to climb and retrieve Mangos to help satisfy our hunger and other times, we would search for the freshest coconuts that lay at random beneath the numerous coconut palm trees within the region.  It would take us hours and hours to remove the outer hard dark-brown hairy husk casing of a coconut, but all seemed to be worth the effort, once we had reached its inner sanctum of creamy white coconut flesh and opaque coconut water.

We would walk along the Bay’s esplanade and collect the sour-sweet fruit pods that had fallen from the shore line Tamarind trees, onto the ground – then sit on the wall, looking out over the bay, whilst we suck on the sour-sweet fruit seeds.  At low tide, we would venture out onto the Bay’s shore edge, which did not consist of sands, but of a mud flat. Each step we would take – would have our feet and legs sinking into squishy, soft and sometimes smelly mud. Many small soldier crabs lived on these mudflats, and would run for cover, upon the sight of us three small children.

There were other times, where we would take retreat from the burning hot sun, under the shade of Frangipani trees where we cooled down and rested our tired little legs.  We would collect the fallen perfumed scented Frangipani flowers that lay beneath these trees and string them together and hang them around our necks or my sister and I would place them in our long hair. 

Stray dogs always seemed to become our friends and we would often have to tell them, to go back home and stop following us – perhaps they too were looking for adventures. We were always on the hunt for fresh water to drink and over time we grew to know where every fresh water tap was within our walkabout region, where every fruit tree was with available fruits to pick as needed, whether on public land or in private gardens, to us there was no difference, all land was our playground, awaiting for our arrival to explore.

These days would end in the inevitable journey back home, where our tired bodies found baths to wash away a day’s play; and with sleep ahead to prepare us for the next day’s walkabout adventures. This is how it should have been, but many times, the thought of returning home was full of trepidation, as we would never know, in what condition, we would find our father. Would he be there, better if he was not! If he was there, would he be drunk and angry; fearsome and scary? Would we be able to avoid – his tirade of imposing drunken rampage?…

As I said at the beginning of this little story, our lives as children was difficult but I do remember my childhood walkabout adventures with my younger sister and brother with much fondness. I know that these times for sure, were the birthplace of my love and respect for nature …”

Written by ©Karen Robinson – June 2015

 

  • Title:  “Laughing At Mother – A Teenager’s View Of Humour!

I remember a particular time as a teenager when my mother was having a very serious argument with me. We were screaming at each other – it was full on verbal abuse towards one another at its worst. I cannot remember the details of this tirade of back and forth abusive communication we were engaging in, but I can remember what brought it to an end. My mother was screaming furiously when all of a sudden her top false teeth came flying out of her mouth! At first we were both astonished and wondered what had just happened. Then when I realised that my mother’s false teeth had flown out of her mouth whilst she had been berating me – I just burst out laughing as it was the funniest thing I had ever seen. As a teenager this was a wonderful end to what had been a very serious encounter with my mother. My mother did not see the funny side of this event and collected her false teeth from where they had landed, but for me, as a teenager, this too just seemed to be even funnier. It was one of the very rare times when my mother seemed defeated and in some way sorrowful but my teenage sense of humour just enjoyed the event too much. One for daughter and nil for mother – a teenager’s view!

Written by © Karen Robinson – August 2015

 

  • Title:  “My Very First Memory Of Art…”

Art was a part of my childhood life and it was my father whom painted in oils.  There were numerous paintings throughout our home of a nude woman whom I came to learn many years on – was my mother.  These art works were never on walls, as we as a family moved many, many times up and down the eastern coast of Australia.  My father used to also have a subscription to an art magazine which I enjoyed going through and examining all the difference paintings and creative works; I remember being fascinated by these art journals. There were times my mother would round us three children up and with my father, we would visit art galleries, usually not the large imposing national and state galleries but the smaller and intimate ones featuring ambitious and creative artists, hoping to make a name for themselves, hoping to pay the rent for the next month – I would think.  Art represented in our lives, in my life as a child, the struggles of my father, his alcoholism, his frightening inner tumultuous self that in turn was used as a weapon upon his family.  I remember a night, in a fierce rage, my father smashed all of his paintings – I don’t remember him returning back to painting after that episode.  As a child, I enjoyed art and was always doodling great patterns in class and drawing whenever I had a chance.  I didn’t take up art in my early adulthood but I have now found myself returning back to a joy I had experienced as a small child, art for therapy I feel…

Written by ©Karen Robinson _ August 2015

 

  • Title:  “Not A Game But A Real Necessity…”

Solitaire – it’s a card game you play alone!  It’s when you have decided to be alone, the sometimes most enjoyable times when being alone can be just blissful.  When there is no need to satisfy someone else’s needs or wants.  When there is a silence that brings a sense of peacefulness within… and the chatter in the brain winds down to a quiet hum.  It can be a time to recharge the inner child so that the adult can function properly instead of being an out of control beast.  Yes, Solitaire…not a game but a real necessity!  And when this Solitaire, this game of being alone comes to an end, it presents a time to reunite with daily life – refreshed, renewed and enabling oneself to throw one’s arms around life once again… with gusto!

Written by © Karen Robinson – October 2015

 

  • Title:  “Beautiful Other…”

You are long and sleek and there’s a fine wick running through your centre, holding together a delicate array of very fine feathers.  You stare back at me, in a sophisticated way, dressed in blacks, dark midnight navies and soft sky blue colours.  At your very tip, there is a white colour which looks like you have stopped short of being finished.  I image you, in your wing, in flight, soaring up into fluffy white clouds and then gliding down, down, down towards the open field looking for pray.

I now image you heading back towards your shelter, as the dark thunderous clouds trample across the sky, in readiness to open up and let free winter rains from its pregnant clouds.  It’s now midnight, and I know the darkness has caused you to rest in one of your caves of choice.  Where you are safe and secure, where you rest your tired and weary wings and dream of the next day’s flying adventures.

Night has past and the sun is now raising and there is a column of sunlight reaching into your cave and alerting your awareness that it’s time to awake.  You open and stretch out your wings with a vigor that signals that you are strong and ready for what is ahead in your day.  A gentle breeze enters the cave, and you give flight and drift towards the cave opening and out into a chilly but beautiful dawn.

In your sight there comes another, just like you and you head towards this beautiful other with a sense of anticipation, a sense that this is the one. With little acknowledgment you fly off together out into the breathtakingly blue skies and up, up, up towards the heavens…

Written by © Karen Robinson – October 2015

 

  • Title:  “Listening To His Voice…”

As I listened to my husband’s voice over the telephone, I could sense how he was feeling.  The ability to do this comes from being married to this man for over 35 years, which has given me a knowing that can only be achieved by sharing one’s life with another, in an intimate and personal way.

There is a sign of tiredness, a slow tempo in his voice that tells me, things are not good with his brother.  I listen with care, waiting for the right moment to ask “and how is he” and my husband’s response is “not good”.  “He got back his blood results today and it is not hopeful” he adds.  My husband’s voice then trails off into a silence.  It means that the chemotherapy tablets his brother was taking as a last resort, in an attempt to live – are now not working.  This means that his brother, partner and doctors will need to look, to see if there is anything else his brother can take instead, that may extend his time – here in our world.  Without hearing my husband say anything else, I know it means there will be little else that can be done.  The cancer is at a point, where it will slowly grasp the last bit of life from his brother’s body and soul.

We tried to finish up our telephone call on a cheery note.  My husband’s voice still sounding sorrowful and sad as he proceeded to tell me that – they’re off now to see his brother’s neighbours, so that they could share the lady-finger bananas that he and his brother had just the day before, cut down from the banana tree that stand tall within his brother’s beautiful tropical garden paradise.  I let him go back to being with his brother, back to sharing precious moments, back to creating memories that will survive past his brother’s living presence and that would be stored away in my husband’s memory of his brother, to be hopefully shared with future generations of family to come.

I hang up the phone and are now left with the thoughts about my own journey that I had during my husband’s cancer fight.  My mind meanders through memories of how hard it was during my husband’s time of chemotherapy, during his recovery – painful and distressing.  I am so thankful that he survived, that he is still here with me now – my dear sweet husband.

Written by © Karen Robinson – April 2016

 

  • Title:  “Crying Roses…”

It’s raining and the roses look like they are crying,

Perhaps they know we are here amongst the ones, who were once dying,

Both my husband and I stop and sit in silence,

Thinking about our loss and leaning on one another with great reliance,

It’s been 6 years now since the passing of our son,

We often think why, why did he have to be the one,

It’s now time to stand and walk a little amongst the rain drenched roses,

And I seek my dear husband’s guide to do some poses,

For each year we make this pilgrimage to remember,

And always on the 5th of November,

A coffee and cake we share,

Where conversation is mostly spare,

Then it’s back home and a chat with our daughter,

The one we now look towards, in our family, to be the mortar…

How precious she is to us,

And our endless love will always be a must…

Written by © Karen Robinson – November 2015

 

  • Title:  “Something I Am Proud About…”

Proud – meaning ‘feeling pleased and satisfied about having done something or about owning something’!

I think one of the things in my life, that I have personally done, which makes me feel that I should be very proud of, is my volunteering with Road Trauma Support Services Victoria.  Being a RTSSV volunteer speaker has helped give meaning and purpose in my life after the death of my 25-year-old son Ben, who was killed in a single vehicle car crash in 2009.  Telling my family’s road trauma story to Road Trauma Awareness Seminar participants, helps to give these young and not so young people an opportunity to rethink their risky driver behaviour.  It is remarkable, the impact this has on participants.  And as a volunteer speaker, you know that what you have told them is going to save lives, help reduce serious injury and lessen the ripple effect of road trauma on family, friends and the wider community.  It’s something I don’t do for me, but I have definitely benefited from, in ways I wouldn’t have anticipated when I first started volunteer speaking back in March 2011.  It’s important, it has helped me reconnect with the wider world, it has added value to my daily life and it has made me a better person.  It is also an act of courage, it is humbling, it is sometimes very sad and sometimes difficult, but most of all, it’s the most, worthy task that I do right now in my life.

Written by ©Karen Robinson – November 2015

 

CONCLUSION

Looking back from where I began in 2014 to now, I am so grateful for all that I have been able to learn about myself and learn about how to take care of me, so in turn I can take care of those whom are nearest and dearest to me…

My Art Therapy and Creative Writing Therapy Sessions have now come to an end with Mind Australia.  I have been so fortunate to have had this opportunity to be part of these two therapy groups and have been able to meet an amazing group of people whom I have grown to admire and respect. But is time for me now to leave the security of this group to take on new adventures. Thank you Gillian Scaduto for extending to me the invitation to do art therapy and creative writing with Mind Australia and thank you to our two facilitators Vicky Nicholls and Judy Bird whom have been just so supportive within their facilitation roles. I will not forget my time with you all…

 

Karen Robinson (me) & Judy Bird - Mind Australia Creative Writing Facilitator during Creative Writing Session Northcote Townhall 2015 NB All images are protected by copyright laws

Karen Robinson (me) & Judy Bird – Mind Australia Creative Writing Facilitator during Creative Writing Session Northcote Townhall 2015 NB All images are protected by copyright laws

No.76 'Altered Book' by Karen Robinson created during Art Therapy Sessions 2016 NB All images are protected by copyright laws

No.76 Karen Robinson (me) as a participant and Gillian Scaduto as Mind Australia Art Therapy & Creative Writing co-facilitator featuring our ‘Altered Books’ which we had created during Art Therapy Sessions 2016 NB All images are protected by copyright laws

 

© Karen Robinson – May 2016

Whilst you are here – please check out my home page!  Post-traumatic Growth – My Art Therapy JourneyA window into the soul of an Abstract Artist through art therapy and storytellingby Karen Robinson

Creative Writing – “Thinking of Mother” written by Karen Robinson

While you are here – please check out my home page!

 

2 of 2 Creative Writing by Karen Robinson Titled 'Thinking of Mother' NB All images are protected by copyright laws

2 of 2 Creative Writing by Karen Robinson Titled ‘Thinking of Mother’.  This is a photo of my mother when she was a very young woman and the baby is me – Karen Robinson.  NB All images are protected by copyright laws

 

 

INTRODUCTION

Whilst my creative writing group has been disbanded for now, I am still keeping up with my creative writing efforts – my creative writing facilitator would be pleased!  Upon thinking about what mother’s day is all about, about how I am as a mother myself and about how my mother was as a mother for me, I wrote this creative writing piece title “Thinking Of Mother”.

 

MY CREATIVE WRITING PIECE

 

Title:  “Thinking Of Mother”

It’s hard to think about my mother in a totally positive way, when on Mothers’ Day this is exactly what a child is meant to do!  My sister, brother and I grew up in a sadly dysfunctional family.  But for the purposes of thinking about the fact that it is mothers’ day, I really want to just consider some of the best of my mother, and it will be hard to do this without looking at some of the worst of my childhood life.

Mother was born in a rural country town NSW Australia, one of three girls.  My understanding of my mother’s life is regretfully poorly formulated.  We were estranged for many years during my adult life; during a time when I had started my own family and became a mother myself.  We only got to reunite for a 6-month period before she died of cancer on March 2, 1998. It was a dreadfully sad and painful time, with much left unsaid; and a parting of ways through her death that left many of my childhood questions unanswered.

During my mother’s childhood, I believe my mother was raised by nuns, as her own mother died when she was a very small child and her father was a soldier in World War II.  This meant there was no one willing and/or able to care for my mother and her two older sisters, hence being raised by nuns.  This upbringing left wounds that never seemed to heal and I remember my mother saying to me on different occasions during my childhood, that at times the nuns were cruel, that she had never learned how to be a mother, that she had to teach herself.  On reflection, this seemed to be some sort of excuse my mother would utter, when she felt she had got the act of mothering all wrong.  In her defense, I always remember her as being a very hard worker and she ended up being the main ‘bread winner’ for our family for most of our childhood.  Our father, the man she married and stayed married to for all of our childhood lives, and literally for ‘better or worse’ was a man who was deeply troubled.  He developed into an alcoholic, very early in their marriage and became a brutal man to both my mother and to each of us as children, with my brother experiencing the worst of what he had to offer.  I remember many times being terrified during my father’s drunken outbursts and furious rage.

But back to the memory of my mother, she was a beautiful, attractive woman and I remember her mostly – as a kind person.  During my very early childhood, mum would make our clothes and I remember wearing very pretty dresses on special occasions with pride, she was very creative and most resourceful.  On one occasion, I remember she had made my sister and I a new dress each out of the old curtains that had once hang from the lounge room window.  I also remember her being a very good cook, although I don’t believe she started off being able to cook, this skill was developed out of necessity and it ended up being one of her professions during her later working years.  Life was not easy for my mother for sure, as it was a time in history, during the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s when family domestic violence was considered a family matter, and a wife in those days, was required to ‘put up and shut up’ about any such matters.  A time, when if a woman went to the police seeking protection from their brutal husband, they would be turned away being told that it was a family matter and go and sort it out with your husband – the very person serving out the domestic violence.  It was also a time where there was little to no support for a woman with small children and particularly if they decided to leave their husband.  My mother did leave my father on one occasion.  She packed up the little Volkswagen car one afternoon with as much worldly possessions as she could, along with us three small children and off we went.  On that particular night, I remember as a small child and the eldest of the three of us – we stopped and stayed in a rental caravan which leaked as it rained on that night. For dinner we had bread and jam and I remember thinking at the time that things must be really bad if that’s all we got for tea.  Mum was sad and desperate and brave. As I said before, it was a time in history when it was a very socially unacceptable thing to do – leave your husband, it was considered almost shameful, no matter what was happening in the home.

As time went on during this part of our lives, it became too difficult for my mother on her own rearing us three small children, trying to put a roof over our heads, cloths on our backs, food in our bellies, send us to school, keep us healthy and paid all the bills.   And then the breaking point came, I remember, my mother read out a letter from my father to me, perhaps not the whole letter, I cannot remember, but a letter that begged us to all return with many promises to change his ways and so it was – we set back to my father after he had tracked her down and persuaded my mother to return.  Sadly – this was a dreadful mistake, but I try to remind myself, that she was a woman on her own, with three small children, no family support, no government support, low wages – it must have been very hard for her; it was for us three small children as I remember it.  Perhaps, if it was in today’s time, where women can gain some sort of support, things may have hopefully been different, she could have made better choices for herself, for her children.  This I have told myself throughout my adulthood life, so as to help me understand why my mother went back knowing that he, my father was an alcoholic brutal man.

So when thinking of mother on Mothers’ day, I can’t help thinking about what it means to be a mother.  It’s a hard job, and there is plenty of room for mistakes – poor judgements but there is also an opportunity to take these things learned and try to make good with the next generation of children; to hopefully be a better mother than one’s own.  To raise children that will love and remember us as mothers in a kindly way, to remember the best of us….

 

© Karen Robinson, May 2016

1 of 2 Creative Writing by Karen Robinson Titled 'Thinking of Mother' NB All images are protected by copyright laws

1 of 2 Creative Writing by Karen Robinson Titled ‘Thinking of Mother’.  This was my mother in her forties I believe.  A photo taken when she was on a holiday overseas and after separating from her husband, my father.  She looks happy in this photo. NB All images are protected by copyright laws

 

CONCLUSION

This Mothers’ Day for me, was spent with my dear sweet daughter, my husband, my daughter’s husband and his parents and his brother.  We had a lovely lunch and time together.  My daughter gave me a Mothers’ Day card with words she had particularly written herself and was keen to make sure I knew that as she knows that words are important to me.  This is what she wrote:

Thanks for everything you are…

Thanks for everything you do…

Thanks for always being there…

Love always and forever…

Thank you beautiful daughter for your loving words!  It was also a little difficult on this day and any given Mothers’ Day since 2009 – because my son, my daughter’s brother – is not with us anymore, so Mothers’ Day can be happy and sad, both at the same time.

 

Written by © Karen Robinson, May 2016

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