“What can we do to make people smile today?” Mum asked on the morning of my parents golden wedding anniversary.
In this one question my mother’s two greatest attributes came together: an untameable creative mind and a selfless relentless care for her fellow humans.
Before I even had a chance to respond she had taken out her half-a-century-old wedding dress. Still hanging beneath the same plastic bag, the bright white fabric had faded to a darker cream, but hadn’t lost any of its style. Elegant with sparkling pearls on the waist band, neck and cuffs, the flowing pleated skirt and long sleeves resurrected a time when wedding dresses revealed less over more.
Being in lockdown, we were all itching for some lightness and a bit of frivolous joy. Plus, we didn’t want to let an occasion that celebrates so much disappear beneath the COVID19 pandemic.
Next she found my father’s black hat, the only remnant of his own wedding outfit.
“Come on Michael, let’s put these on and take photos. Everyone will love it!”
Mum stepped into her dress with ease, although the back didn’t quite zip up so we transformed the tiny beaded belt into a head piece. Dad popped on his hat and a white shirt, coordinating it with casual shorts and runners for a touch of humour and a more accurate reflection of his dress preferences.
My parents were married on Easter weekend so fresh roses weren’t available and my mother had to settle for a paper variety. This time, she managed to have a bouquet of white, delicately scented roses, which had been delivered a day earlier by a friend, unaware they’d later be a key part of our photo shoot.
And how we laughed. Mum and I doubling over in belly fits several times, our mouths aching, our eyes watering and our hearts thumping.
The revealing photos were then shared with friends and family via our sole mode of communication — handheld phones and laptop screens. Tools only imaginable back in 1970. We received countless messages of gratitude for the laughs, realness and sentimentality.
Once our day had passed, I couldn’t help but muse over the threads between our personal experience and the wider experience of humanity right now.
My mother’s zest to make her day special for others is a trait we need in times like these. A human call greater than the individual; exemplifying how one personal endeavour can assist, or hinder, the collective. And the grace in which she undertook the task, perhaps, even more so.
Those of a generation most vulnerable to COVID19 aren’t the forgotten generation. We don’t need to keep them safe because they are weak, we need to keep them safe because they are strong and a much needed contribution to a diverse population.
There is so much to learn from those who have weathered a long life. How often I still yearn for my grandmothers kind words, loving gaze and wise presence. Only the other week I was baking biscuits and talking to her, my eyes searching the sky, desperately wishing for her expert tips when the dough crumbled.
In being forced to stay home at a stage of their life they know is closer to the end than the beginning, our more senior citizens appreciate the days ahead aren’t endless. It’s not all about planning for a post COVID19 world, but living within the COVID19 world. I see this in my mother’s love but also in my father’s angst. This, a valuable lesson for the planners and strategists amongst us, teaching the importance of living in the now, embracing the moment and not disappearing into the future.
On their anniversary, we learnt it takes so little to make a moment memorable. Some fading clothes, a bit of chutzpah, a spark of inspiration and a camera to record the shenanigans. We learnt that magic is made out of the ordinary.
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