Happy Mothers Day from Ilana Mendels

My mum retired last week, just shy of 70yrs old. She arrived in Australia by boat when she was two as the daughter of a Chinese merchant. Her family lived above a shop in east Sydney and her mother died when my mum was just 15yrs old. She never really got to have a mum as an adult woman, and I never met my grandmother.

My Grandmother was the first woman in Harbin, China to run a modern beauty parlour. She travelled to Paris after WWI to learn beauty techniques from the french. When she arrived in Australia she gave that up to help my Grandfather set up his shop and raise their children.

My mother was the first person in Australia to offer aged and disability care services privately. Until her, the only option was government care services through the department of social services. Her business disrupted an entire sector, and she worked with lawyers to change compensation law to properly account for the life time needs of the injured. I grew up playing at her feet while she started her business at home, offering care services to Sydney’s elderly not wanting to go into nursing homes.

The mothers in my family have always made me feel very proud of my heritage. They are women who are kind, idealistic activists who saw problems as opportunities and drove change into their communities. In doing so, the time they spent with their children was limited. But when it was given it was all encompassing and loving.

I spent a lot of time waiting for my mum but I always knew and I still know when she turns her attention to me it is absolute and what she gives me is the support and strength and hope that I can achieve anything, that everything will work out, that I am safe no matter what happens. Most of all she knows where all my giggle spots are and how to activate them. I love her so much and I wouldn’t be the woman I am without her. I hope I can give those gifts to my children one day too.

I hope you get a moment to enjoy your mothers and your own children today. Even if you have adoptive or surrogate parents or children by circumstance, there is great joy in savoring the time we have with our loved ones. It’s a joy that brings us peace, laughter, ease and safety and it creates the space to make the seemingly impossible very manageable.

Have a happy day!

Ilana

  • Elaine Cebuliak

    your grandmother might have treated my grandmother! my mother was born in Harbin, China in 1920. Her mother was fairly well off there, they were descended from the polish aristocracy, and her husband ran the tranSiberian sleeping car company from the railways.There were many pograms, so they migrated to Chicago when my mum was a small child.