Mum, I’m Not Your Mother
A memoir of when mum moved in
A brief background of the family
Growing up as a child and teenager, I didn’t feel that close to mum and dad. They were busy working hard and partying hard. But I do have some fond memories of my life with them. I always loved their compulsory dancing and dress up parties, and hanging out with all their friends who I felt very close to.
From the 1960s, once mum and dad started making money, they travelled overseas a lot, especially mum, and I would stay with the ‘Youngs’. The twins, Robyn and Kerrie Young, were my best friends.
I started to value mum and dad only in my late teens. I started to like them as people, not just as my parents, but how positive they were and how they really did squeeze the best out of their life. I saw their many talents and interests, and I loved to be in their company.
I was an artist, and definitely inspired by them. Our house was like an art gallery, full of striking contemporary pieces, African tribal artefacts (many with large penises) from mum's travels to Africa, and huge weavings with golden threads.
Mum was the queen of entertaining. Her table settings were so tasteful and an art piece in themselves. Dad used to film and edit all their parties, outings and general fun times at home. I don’t remember a time when there wasn’t a tripod standing there recording the event. Once dad retired he continued to film, edit, photograph, sculpt…
I married Ronny when I was 21, and had Yasha the next year and Sunny 2 years later. Ronny wanted to live in Israel, which sounded like an exciting adventure at the time. In march 1982, when I was 27, we left Oz for Israel. I was sad to leave mum and dad and uproot my life, and I wasn’t sure anymore why I was going. I felt I was being dragged along by indecision and uncertainty. I was so young and not evolved, and unable to express my thoughts and concerns.
I missed not having mum and dad near me over those 18 years, and then one day, early in 1998, after Saba Israel (Ronny's dad) and Leslie told me they were returning to Oz, it became clear that I also wanted to return ‘home’. I wanted to spend the last good years with mum and dad, before they got too old and sick.
1998 was a very tough year. I drove myself crazy trying to decide whether I was making a mistake to leave Israel, my family and friends, or not. The dice somehow dropped on the ‘to leave’ option. It was an upheaval for the whole family. We left Yasha (21) and Sunny (19) in Israel and returned with Yasmin (14 1/2) and Gil (12 1/2). Ronny and I hadn’t been getting on for years, but he was prepared to go back, maybe it was a way of saving our marriage or keeping the family together or both.
We returned in December 1998. It was depressing, even though it was what I had wanted.
We all adjusted somehow and the years passed.
In a nutshell, each member's life unfolded in its own way.
Yasha returned to Oz a year after we arrived because he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
Sunny remained in Israel, possibly feeling abandoned by us. She became a midwife, and married Amir in 2008. Mia was born ion 2010, the twins in 2012 and Eitan in 2017
Yasmin returned to Israel in 2010 to help Sunny with baby Mia. She married Liad in 2012 and Alma arrived in 2014. Yasmin stayed in Israel, preferring the vibe over that of Oz.
Ronny returned to live in Israel in 2013 and lives with Michael Harari and his son, Meir.Michael lives downstairs and Ronny lives upstairs.
Gil finished school, travelled, and after a few years began to study medicine. He chose to specialise in psychiatry.
And mum and dad grew older and were happy that I was around.
A brief description of my household
Mum moved into my house in June 2017. It was her choice - one morning she told me that she’s packed my car and is going home with me. I was surprised and pleased.
My house is a melting pot of people of different religions, races and ages. At the moment seven people live in the house. They include mum, my eldest son, his girlfriend, my younger son, and two tenants. And there’s myself.
We come from a variety of countries. My 96 year old mother, a Holocaust survivor, was born in Poland, lived in Germany and France, and migrated to Australia in 1949. My eldest son (41) was born in Australia, but lived in Israel for twenty years. His girlfriend (31) is from Vietnam and has been here for two years. I have one tenants (31) from Iran and the second tenant (18) is from Indonesia/Italy. My youngest son (32) was born in Israel and was 12 when we moved back to Oz.
I (Jane) am an artist and teacher. I am 64 years old, born in Melbourne, a mother of four, and grandmother of five. I moved to Israel in 1982 with my husband and two young children. We returned to Australia eighteen years later because I wanted to spend time with my ageing parents.
My house consists of five bedrooms and a converted garage. We have a large front and back garden full of small fruit trees as well as a vegetable garden, bee hives, and many cosy areas to relax in.
It has always been my wish, from a young age, that my parents stay with me once they are too old to live by themselves. I am pleased that my mother now lives with me and I can care for her in a heart-felt way. I can greet her first thing in the morning with a smile. I can check whether she's had her medication. I can ask her how she slept, and then leave her peacefully to eat her porridge. I remind her to wash the dishes and put them away. I find small jobs for her when she asks ‘What should I do now?’. There is washing to fold, the floor to sweep, and clothes to mend.
She is thrilled to be of use in anyway, and is always looking for more jobs to do around the house so that she can lighten my load. In her mind, as long as she feels useful, life is worth living.
As for caring for the aged, I think my household set-up is humane and normalising. Mum is surrounded by a diverse group of young people who all watch out for her in some way or another.
Living in a share-house makes my life easier, less stressed and more fulfilled. My ageing mother has an instant community, which takes a lot of the pressure off me.
My son's girlfriend is always kind, thoughtful and helpful, as she understands how it works in her own country, when a parent or grandparent is old and needs sensitive and loving care. I feel that today, in Australia, we are no longer expected to look after our old. Instead, old people are looked upon as a burden and are more often than not sent to an Aged Care facility.
The housemates are from traditional cultures and love the fact that my mother lives with us. They say it reminds them of their own home which they miss, where their own grandparents live with their family. Mum’s presence adds a sense of belonging and warmth to their lives. The housemates treat her kindly, and it is a common sight to see her hanging around, waiting for some tasty tidbits while they cook. There are those who are intrigued by the fact that she is a Holocaust survivor, something they barely had heard of before joining the household. And vice-versa, my mother is never alone. She feels safe with everyone, and treats them like her own family.
My house is a microcosm of what I’d like to see in the world; people of diverse backgrounds, religions, ideologies and ages living together and helping to create a shared environment where harmony, connection and warmth prevail.