Launceston, Tasmania, Childhood
Mum has always loved gardens. She used to stop and knock on our neighbours’ doors when their gardens had plants with brilliant potential cuttings. Then she would ask, ‘Do you mind if I take a cutting?’
She came equipped with her own garden gloves, shears and buckets. I wonder what the neighbours thought of her as she harvested their gardens. I remember being embarrassed, but she did do it with everyone’s blessing. I don’t remember anyone ever saying no to her.
Mum loved to try and grow tropical plants in Tasmania to remind her of her original home in Papua New Guinea. She had immense pride when she had success with her hibiscus. She has always been a determined lady in both her garden and other parts of her life.
When we were little Mum clearly told us to stay away from her garden flowers – ‘Look, don’t touch.’
We had to water and weed the vegetable patch. Our vegetable garden was vital to our family’s survival as we didn’t have a large income. Our Dad was often away working as a labourer so the garden gave my Mum many hours of happiness.
She tried to make us follow the rules of her garden – things like, ‘you are not allowed to pick the flowers or pick the fruit and vegetables before they are ripe.’ But the problem was I loved the delicious scent of Mum’s garden flowers and was keen to make perfumes just like the ones on her dressing table.
There was one plant in particular with a yellow mushy part that you could crush easily into a yellow powder and it made a vibrant paste for not only perfume but for making your own paint.
One day I found myself with this glorious plant busy making my perfume – how I loved the feel of the soft yellow part of the plant – when my Mum stepped out of the back door and began to yell out and run for me – ‘No, how could you….’ I was sure I turned the bright pink of my Mum’s hibiscus.
I looked up from my perfume making efforts at my Mum’s anguished face, and glanced briefly at the very empty flower bed. Had I really used that many flowers?
Holding my bowl of flowers forward as if it was now the best treasure of all I managed to squeeze out the words, ‘I made it just for you.’