I have thought for quite some time that my mum was a very pretty little girl, looking much more like her mum than her dad. I don’t have many photographs of her as a babe, but there is another when she is about 10 or so, and she has her beautiful long hair.
Mum grew into a beautiful and independent young woman and became a dressmaker after having finished her leaving certificate at school. Sadly I know little of this period in her life.
I have always loved this picture of my mother Madeleine Di Salvia nee: Bailey. Mum was approximately 23 or so years old when it was taken (1938 approx.) and she had had her hair cut short only days before. Mum had waist length hair up until that time as her parents had not wanted her to cut it. I really believe the photo of mum as a young woman shows mum’s strength of character, as anyone who knew her, knew she was a strong and motivated woman. Mum had made the dress she is wearing in the photograph. She once described the dress to me as being soft pink in colour and having a silver ribbon trim. Mum also made her wedding gown, the bridesmaids dresses and the flower girls frock.
Mum married Ronald Norman Di Salvia on 13 June 1938 at Parramatta and proceeded to have three children – Noeleen b. 1939, Doug b. 1943 and Gwen b. 1945.
Mum also ran a kind of day care centre, working closely with the Department of Welfare, in the early to late 1950’s and that is how I came to be living with the family – but that is another story. She would look after many children – mostly babies and toddlers, some of whom I can remember the names of to this day. My younger sisters Kim and Kellie also joined the family in this way.
Mum and Dad ran a chook farm so they were acquainted with hard work and long hours. Dad worked for the Sanitarium Health Food Company and mum took in sewing jobs as well.
There are a number of things that I remember about my mum:
- Every now and then she would go to the fridge and dip a teaspoon into the honey jar for a taste – just because she loved it.
- In the evenings after dinner mum would watch television with us and her eyes would slowly close. Someone would say “Mum’s asleep again” and without moving an eyelash she would reply ” I’m just resting my eyes actually!”
- Our kitchen was always blue and grey, whether we were in Sydney or Tamworth. Mum’s favourite colour was blue. She liked bright and happy colours as well, and would wear a particularly nice red/maroon coloured dress in her later years.
- As much as mum loved blue, she absolutely hated the colour black. When I was 10-12 years old I fell in love with a gorgeous black and white dress in a shop window in Pendle Hill, but the answer was a very firm NO!
- Mum loved it when I would pick up a bunch of pretty flowers at Central Station in Sydney on the way home from work. She would happily put them in a vase on the kitchen table. She just loved pretty flowers.
- Mum loved both her parents, but there was definitely a special place in her heart for her father. She often told stories of how he would get her OUT of trouble with her mother.
- When helping to build my brother Doug’s home at Daruka, mum would cook an entire roast meal on an open fire for us all – and it was always yummy!
- Mum loved gardening and always had a pretty show of flowers. When we lived in Tamworth her favourites were roses and aspidistras, and in Sydney she planted sweat peas, salvia and phlox, amongst others
- Mum had open heart surgery at the Sydney Adventist Hospital aged 80 years, to replace a valve in hear heart, and came through with flying colours
She worked tirelessly for the Seventh Day Adventist Dorcas Welfare Society helping the less fortunate with clothes and food, and organised a group of willing women from the church in both Tamworth and Parramatta to help her.
In January 1977 Mum supervised the Dorcas Mobile Soup Kitchen at the Granville Rail Disaster in Granville, Sydney. Leading a team of a half dozen women they worked tirelessly to provide nourishment for the emergency crews working on the line late into the night.
Mum designed and made the first of hundreds of doll cradles for a church stall fund raiser in Parramatta. She would go on shopping expeditions all over Sydney to various material shops buying lawn cotton, laces, ribbons and soft netting in a wide range of colours, in an attempt to make each cradle slightly different. The ladies at the Dorcas meetings helped her sew many of them, and they proved to be a big hit with the public, as well as a great fund raising effort. Orders came from all over Sydney.
Mum and the Dorcas ladies often packed donated clothing for distribution in some of the worlds poorest countries. If items of clothing were to old or in bad repair, but could be used for polishing cloths, they were packed into different bags and sold to car wash companies!
In 1997 Mum was honoured by the Church as one of the recipients of an award for being an Adventist Woman of the Year for her years of effort with the Dorcas movement, but her children didn’t find this out until going through her paperwork after her death.
Mum passed away in much the same way she lived her life – on her own terms. She had always said that she simply wanted to go to sleep. She was only admitted to Westmead Hospital hours before her passing, and simply fell to sleep on 26 November 2000.