In 1961, a young Calabrian girl married her sweetheart.
They had met many years earlier during WW11 when his family, in Northern Italy, hosted hers.
Soon after their marriage, this young bride left her big, loving family to embark on a life adventure, joining her new husband in the far off foreign land of Australia.
Life in tropical, northern Australia was a stark contrast to her home in Reggio di Calabria. Strange foods, different cultures and a foreign language in a harsh, oppressively hot country. At first intense homesickness and the loss of their first child took it’s toll. However, she soon found herself being embraced by the small farming community and friendship were cemented. Alongside her husband she worked and toiled the land and kept neat the little home her husband had prepared.
The young couples’ joy was increased as their first daughter was born followed a few years later by a second daughter.
She revelled in making her girls’ birthdays special with cake and spumante.
Life was simple but good.
With her captivating smile and vivacious personality, she soon befriended many, enjoying the multi cultural aspect of the community. Teaching a friend a traditional Italian recipe, sharing a joke, days at the beach were her pleasures.
She showered her growing daughters with love and attention.
But within 15 years of arriving in Australia, her life was cut short.
This was my mother.
I was nine at the time and my sister, thirteen.
My mother didn’t grace the front cover of a magazine.
My mother wasn’t a famous public figure.
My mother wasn’t a Pulitzer prize winner in fact, I don’t think she ever won anything in her short life.
But, as many young Italian brides who left their family and friends behind to immigrate to Australia for a better life, she had courage and fortitude to overcome what was presented to her.
She made the most of her life and as many people who die young, she seemed to live life to the fullest.
My father never quite recovered and lost the joie de vivre that he had in her company.
My sister and I also lost much.
We lost the unconditional love,
and the traditions a mother passes on.
Our mother was a great cook and baker but as with all women who arrive in this foreign land of Australia, often she reworked the traditional recipes with the ingredients she had on hand.
And so, unwittingly, new recipes were created.
Mum’s speciality was her crostoli and you can find my very popular recipe for crostoli here.
Every day, I celebrate the gift of my kind, brave mother.
Take time today to turn to your mother and tell her how much you love and respect her.
If you can’t be with her, call your mother and remember to telephone regularly.
If you have lost her like me, keep her memory alive, by talking to your family and friends about her, cook her recipes, keep in contact with her friends.
My mother wrote in my childhood autograph book:-
Tanti amici, fratelli e sorelli
Ma sempre solo una mamma.
In other words,
You can have many friends, brothers and sisters
But only ever one mother.