HelenEdith's Blog

The minutiae of my life, plus website updates and book reviews

Entry for May 07, 2009 – Joyce Edith Stephenson, 11th April 1920 – 4th May 2009

Posted by HelenEdith on May 7, 2009

It is my Mother’s funeral tomorrow (Friday) at 2pm in South Australia, and this is my personal eulogy.

I am not with you today, but I have written a few words to be read out on my behalf.

Mother was always there for me when I was growing up, and I will always be grateful to her for being a good mother. She regularly attended the Primary School Welfare Club meetings and later on, the High School Parents and Citizens meetings. She was on the sidelines when I attended Pony Club; and she made the journey into Mount Barker twice a week just to pick me up from music lessons.

Mother had too much to do between looking after in-laws, husband and family; plus assisting with farm tasks, so she simply didn’t have time to be houseproud. Possibly she didn’t possess the houseproud gene in any case! We always had the important things like plenty of good food on the table and clean clothes to wear – and nobody wanted to eat their dinner off the kitchen floor in any case, so she probably had her priorities about right!

She also never got around to the finer points of bed-making like hospital corners, but in this day and age of fitted sheets and duvets, such skills are largely redundant, so she was actually ahead of her time there.

Being an ex-teacher, she was always ready to help out with homework, although surprisingly for an ex-teacher, she did actually connive with me a few times when I wished to play truant from sport. She definitely felt that the “Three Rs” should have priority at school. We didn’t get away with much when it came to our Maths and English homework; but she used to cut us some slack on the “soft” subjects like Social Studies.

Mother believed in old-fashioned discipline. I have to agree with her rejoinder to my reminders over the course of many years about the time when I was wrongly punished for something that Alison did. She just said that if I could remember one incident so vividly that it must have been an isolated one and that she usually got things right!

Mother imparted a love of classical music in Alison and myself, although it seemed to miss Raymond. Mother was an excellent pianist who was in demand in the district for her skills at the keyboard. Her pianistic skills didn’t rub off on me despite some years of piano lessons, but those early lessons did give me the musical background I needed when I branched out into bassoon playing in my thirties. Mother said that she never expected to have a daughter who played the bassoon.

Mother had perfect pitch. For those of you unfamiliar with this phenomenon, she was able to tell exactly when a note was correctly in tune. I’d always known that she had this ability, but it really came home to me when she visited me in England and tried my digital piano. “It’s out of tune”, she said. Every note on that keyboard was in perfect tune relative to the other notes, but I had been behind it with a screwdriver and turned the tuning screw up a bit. The pitch was only raised a little bit, but she knew. That was an amazing demonstration of her ability to me.

This is possibly Raymond’s story rather than mine, as a friend of his features in it. Mother, despite being more than a decade younger than Daddy was much greyer than he was. I think she was often quite peeved by this, but never sufficiently so to resort to hair colour out of a bottle. She regarded that as a slippery slope, which once embarked upon, was very difficult to leave gracefully. Therefore, she was grey by the time she was fifty, but being grey did not mean that she was in any way slow. One day she was waiting at some traffic lights in Adelaide, and when the lights turned green, she floored the accelerator for a good getaway. The automatic transmission of the Holden we owned at the time responded enthusiastically, and the man in the next lane remarked to his son: “That old duck took off quick!” The son recognised the old duck in question as being the Mother of a school friend and shared the story with Raymond, who was that school friend. He in turn brought the story home and shared it with Mother, who far from being offended, was highly amused and thereafter the act of getting away quickly from a traffic light was known in our household as “doing an old duck”.

I used to consider Mother to be the more serious of my parents, but she did have a fun-loving side. I will never forget the time when she was visiting me in England and she suddenly stopped what she was doing, pointed to the wall behind where I was sitting, and said in urgent tones: “What’s that behind you!” My immediate thought was “spider!” and I jumped up from the sofa and was on the other side of the room before I saw the expression of absolute glee on Mother’s face. I’d been had!

Mother let a few opportunities in her earlier life slip by her and lived to regret them and was insistent in her advice that when an opportunity came along, if you wanted it, you should take it, as that opportunity may not present itself again. In my case, the big opportunity was a job on the other side of the World. I went abroad with the expectation that I would live abroad for two or three years and then return to Australia, but it didn’t work out that way, and almost exactly 30 years later, I am still living in England. Mother never expressed any regrets to me that one of her daughters was so far away. In fact, she visited me in England a couple of times, which may have been an opportunity she wouldn’t have had without a family member to stay with. She loved wandering around London and finding the places in her favourite travel book, H.V.Morton’s London.

That advice to grab opportunities when they are available undoubtedly deprived Mother of my frequent presence, and maybe I should apologise for not being there. However, we carried on a frequent correspondence for many years, and I often felt that I was in better touch with Mother than many children who lived much closer to their parents.

I will remember Mother, particularly when I hear certain piano pieces which she used to play – and also when I make my own rapid getaways from traffic lights!

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4 Responses to “Entry for May 07, 2009 – Joyce Edith Stephenson, 11th April 1920 – 4th May 2009”

  1. Julie Stokes said

    Hi Helen,
    What a moving tribute to your Mother – well done! I am sure that she was and always will be so very proud of you and of Alison & Raymond too. I well remember your mother playing the piano sometimes at school for special occasions, and I think she may have played at the CWA Hall during the old Christmas functions there too. She was an excellent pianist. Take care over there, won’t you. Sometime or other I would love to get over to England for a look-see, but don’t know when that is going to happen.

    • HelenEdith said

      Hello Julie

      Yes, Mother played the piano all over the place! In latter years, she was a regular at Sash Ferguson, but she dropped right out about 10 years ago when she had the TIAs.

      She always regretted not taking the year to finish her MusBac degree, but she was an excellent pianist anyway. We grew up sitting by the piano while she practised her favourite piano concertos and whistled the orchestra part!

  2. Very touching tribute … Its sad to hear about her … I really wish she is doing good in heaven and feeling proud to have you her daughter …. You very much look like her too ….

    • HelenEdith said

      Thankyou Nitin

      It was time for her to go to Heaven. She isn’t feeling any more pain now.

      And yes, I do look like her. I always have.

      I can look at the picture here and see myself in the future.

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