My Mother’s Hands

My Mother’s Hands image

Remembering the stories of your mother is a wonderful Mother’s Day celebration. Here are a few hints to help you recall detail of your childhood and a snippet of a personal memoir. If you would like help writing your childhood memories and putting them into print, Life Story Australia lists professional writers for your convenience. 

Mother’s Day is the one day of the year dedicated to the most important person in your life – your mother.  Mother’s Day is the day that we reflect on how much she means to us, the values and life messages she has given us and how her presence has continually added to our life journey. 

People ask how to do you remember so much detail. It is no great skill and needs just a few little hints to get you focussed.

  • In this excerpt from my memoir I focused on mum’s hands as I sat holding them in her nursing home. I felt their touch and let my mind wander. Equally, I could have used a photo, some memorabilia or an artefact that holds a connection to my mum. 
  • Take the time to sit ‘in’ the moment. This reflection on my mother’s hands took several weeks as detail by detail emerged in my thoughts. It is helpful to write the details down or you may complete a voice recording on your smart phone. 
  • I used historical context to support the story and open it up to a moment in my childhood and insight into my mother’s routine. 

This is a more interesting way to tell a story than a straight narrative of boring historical detail.   Enjoy the journey. Rose Osborne. 



My Mother’s Hands

My mother’s hands are soft and artistically designed by events and challenges of her long life. Her hands are a road map of all that came before. No expensive soft and creamy hand lotion ever touched those hands and yet they remain tender and gentle on her lap in her nursing home. No doubt the endless emersion in water hydrated the tissues and allowed any roughness to dissipate and fade away - washing the kids, washing the dog, washing the car, washing the floor, washing the dishes, washing the clothes - did it ever stop for my mother in the prime of her life as a mother of seven children in a NSW country town during the 1950’s.  


Every day of the week was allocated a category of washing for my mother – Monday was sheets day, Tuesday was towels, Wednesday was kids’ clothes and so on. It was never ending. The sheets day was the most gruesome. My mother would be enslaved over a copper boiler which viciously boiled those white sheets until they relieved themselves of every spot of dirt and grime - and no doubt they needed quite a bit of boiling to rid themselves of the marks and stains of all us kids. 


The boiled sheets were lifted out of the steaming water with a thick wooden stick that was shaped like a baseball stick. The stick directed the cooked sheets to pass through a double wringer, two rollers with spring tension that attempted to squeeze water from the pathetic desperate material. Mum was expert at folding the sheets flat, so the contemptible wringer would accept them into its rotating and suffocating jaws. One slip and I knew, even as a child, Mum’s fingers would have been history. If Mum was distracted just for a second, and those sheets were not folded flat, the aggravated wringer would jump and shake, dancing violently, afraid of no-one, not even the stick. I was terrified for Mum and often thought how she could face this dangerous job. 


I was four years old, but the memory of this sheet washing ritual is deeply ingrained into my mind map of fearful events. It may also have been because of Mum’s reaction to an innocent comment I made about the horrors of the whole washing ritual. 


‘How can you do this?’ came out of my innocent mouth.  


Mum burst into tears, threw the stick against the copper washer and yelled at me ‘Well, you do it’. Her whole body shook and trembled, and the tears were like heavy falling rain from a summer storm. Mum was red-faced, and the sweat was pouring from every pore of her body. 


I vowed there and then at the age of four years of age, that I would never do this dreadful ritual. I was not to know that technology would improve to the extent that I did not have to do it, but the fear I was experiencing at that moment, was horrendous and paralysing. When the terror let go of my little legs, I ran and hid under the bed for what seemed an interminable amount of time.


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