Memories are stories your heart tells your mind. Their accuracy depends on what the heart is trying to convey, and how much you are willing to know.
I’ve been asked to share some of my memories today, and I’m also going to share some of yours.
Joy Edith Marie Hunt was born on the 7th of January, 1933 in Maryborough Victoria – the only child of Jean Riley and Frank Stanley Hunt.
She married Walter Joseph Jones and in accordance with tradition took his surname as her own. Joy Jones gave birth to four children; my brothers Robert and Baden, my sister Helen and me.
Joy Jones was our Mum and now we’ve lost her.
I don’t know much about Mum’s early years — ahh, where was Facebook when we needed it.
I remember someone saying once that Mum was always a disappointment to Mama because Mama wanted a boy.
Somehow I think that might have been the case.
Mama was one of those supremely capable women who could hold her own in the company of men, she could speak their language, and men liked and respected her too.
She would have loved a son.
What I remember most from our visits to Maryborough is Mama’s garden, toast sliced thicker than two fingers plastered with butter and Golden Syrup, the dart board on the veranda, Hunty’s shed and pit where he worked on cars, the pipe band, the chooks and how you could make their toes move after their feet were cut from their legs, tall trees, pipes made out of gum-nuts, blue, blue skies, drives in the Rugby with Mama smoking rollies and drives to “see a man about a dog” with Hunty.
We never, ever saw a dog.
Of course, mine and my sibling’s experiences were those of beloved grandchildren, not a daughter.
I think it was different for Mum, living with the knowledge that she could never be the child her mother wanted. I think a large part of who Mum was was formed in that house in Maryborough.
While we’ll never know what it was really like for her, it’s fair to say that life as an only child in a regional town was perhaps not the best preparation for what was to come—marriage to dad (and the RAAF) and one by one, us kids.
For much of our early lives Mum was a lone parent. I remember even when dad came home on weekends he would be sleeping during the day and Mum would have the impossible task of keeping us quiet, while attending to all the other household chores, and also keeping an eye on out for snakes. Yes, snakes.
I don’t think it was easy for Mum whether dad was home or not, in fact I’m sure sometimes it was pretty terrible but I also know that she loved us to bits—even when we weren’t all that loveable.
Joy Jones was born with – or developed out of necessity – an indomitable spirit. And whether it was out of love, a sense of duty or the simple stubborn refusal to give up, she made and she mended and she made do and she saw to it that we were clothed and fed and schooled and cared for.
I know Mum thought the world of dad, and I think she believed in, “For better or for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health,” and I believe she just stuck to her guns and kept us together and made it work because that’s what a wife and mother did.
That’s what Joy Jones did.
Actually I know what I just said is true because some years ago dad said these words to me, and I quote – because I wrote them down; “We wouldn’t have had anything without your mother, not a bloody thing.”
Thank you dad.
My main memories from those times – when I was just a little kid – are idolising my big brother and sister (they could do ANYTHING!), seeing how much my Mum adored my younger brother when she brought him home; the coal briquet box; not having to go back to kindergarten because I hated it — thank you Mum; Mums lovely cheeky smile appearing from between billowing white sheets hanging from the clothes line on a hot summer day… oh, and the black snake on the step, and jumping when Mum said jump. Thanks again Mum.
I think it’s fair to say Joy Jones was a romantic. I spent enough days at home (taking sickies from school) to notice the pace of Mum’s ironing would slow down during particular moments in particular midday movies.
Elvis movies were always viewed in almost complete silence (but for the clinking of tea cups and rattle of the biscuit tin). Obviously I was an Elvis fan too.
But there were others that Mum obviously admired too, older actors from what they call Hollywood’s golden years that I can’t recall. Gregory Peck, Spencer Tracy maybe, I’m not sure.
After dad retired from the RAAF and we were living in Kenthurst I remember Mum developed a liking for Mills and Boon novels. Bags of the things. Mills and Boon were all about romance—the old-fashioned kind where the story ends as she sinks into his arms. Before her arms end up in his sink.
Mum was keen on Tom Jones, but she loved Englebert Humperdink, known to his fans simply as Englebert. For those of you who don’t know Englebert, he was kind of the Julio Iglesias of the late sixties and early seventies. For those of you who don’t know Julio Iglesias… I’m at a loss, I’m sorry.
Mum particularly liked a song called “The Last Waltz”. I know because I used to hear her singing the chorus to herself around the house.
Here’s the chorus:
“I had the last waltz with you,
Two lonely people together.
I fell in love with you,
The last waltz should last forever.”
Yes, Mum loved the romance.
And she loved kids, and she adored her grandkids, and great-grandkids.
I don’t mind that my personal memories of Mum and our early lives together as a family are tinged with some sadness because they serve to remind me what a wonderful mother she was.
And I don’t mean to suggest there weren’t times all through our lives that were filled with fun and uproarious laughter, games and silliness – often instigated by our father, who really should have gone into show business.
But just as I spoke before about my relationship with Mama and Hunty being different to Mum’s, as their daughter, I sometimes wish I could see Mum through the eyes of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren who I know she cherished—each and every one.
A single generation can mean a world of difference as you’re about to hear.
“Granny was always so gentle and loving. I remember going there as a kid and baking with her and grandpa making things with us and I can never remember her raising her voice. She had the most beautiful smile with so much warmth! When I went to the home to cut her hair she was always so happy to see me and would love relaxing and have a little kip while I was cutting.
I loved that every nurse that came in that had cared for Granny said how she was so sweet and gentle. She had a special place in each of their hearts as she does ours and that just shows the beautiful person that she was and still is while she is watching down on us all.”
“I remember that we used to love going down to stay with Granny and Grandpa when we were on school holidays, and Granny used to have us up early and going for a big walk every morning, if Grandpa came he would be trailing behind us chatting away to himself or us. I also loved the way Granny used to laugh at Grandpa when he said something silly or funny.
Over the years Granny would always listen to my stories or what I was up too with work and always had some sensible advice for me, which I always took onboard.
She adored Ella and they had a special relationship, in the last couple of years when Ella and I would go visit her at the nursing home, Ella would say something funny and granny would laugh and laugh with her.
We will miss her very much.”
“I remember one time we were at granny and grandpa’s house, and she must have noticed that I would always stop and stand in the hallway to look at all the dolls and teddy bears she had in the cabinet. So she took me over to the cabinet and let me pick my favourite bear and ceramic figure and she told me a little story about both of them. She was always so kind and smily, but quiet and I would wonder what she was thinking about.”
“Granny was such a beautiful person and such a lovely Granny it’s hard to just say a couple of things about her. I still remember going down to Granny and Grandpa’s in the school holidays to their house at Kenthurst. We went on lots of adventures with granny and Grandpa.
I loved how Grandpa always made her laugh by saying something silly or doing something silly and Granny would laugh and say, “Oh Wal”, especially the time they took Kelly and I to Maccas and Grandpa thought it would be funny to stick 2 straws up his nose and pretend to be a walrus, Granny was laughing so hard but also trying to rouse on him at the same time.
I love how her smile would light up a room when she saw us especially seeing the kids. Will and Stella talk about her all the time. When Mum would have them each week while I was at work she would take them on special weekly trips to visit Granny and Grandpa at home and then to the nursing home once they moved there.
They always got excited telling me that they went to visit Granny and couldn’t wait to go back next time. The one thing I love about the memories of Granny is I always remember her smiling. Every time I saw her she would be smiling. Granny was always such a kind and caring person.”
“The nurses that looked after Mum, if they were having a bad day they would go and sit and hold Mum’s hand. They said it calmed them down.”
“Some of the nurses used to say to me that my Mum was their Mum too, that she was such a beautiful soul that they thought of her as their own.”
I said a little while ago that Helen, Robert, Baden an I have lost our Mum; dad has lost his wife, and each of you too are missing this wonderful person who is irreplaceable and so dear to us all.
But we haven’t really lost her.
We haven’t lost her because this daughter, this mother, this wife and mother-in-law, this grand and great-grandmother, this shy, funny, cheeky, stubborn, tenacious, gentle and indescribably lovely woman – this most aptly named of human beings… Joy, lives today, and forever, in our hearts.
I would like to share one last memory:
We were, as a family, driving back from Mama and Hunty’s. We had moved to Sydney by this time and the drive back then was a long and arduous one.
I’d somehow managed to wriggle my way into the front seat between dad (who was driving) and Mum, but couldn’t sleep.
I was tired, my head kept bobbing, my eyelids were heavy, but there was always another bump or sharp curve in the road that would jar me into wakefulness again. I was always scared that if I went to sleep something terrible would happen. As a passenger in automobiles, I still am.
I remember Mum’s hand touching the side of my head, gentle, warm and soft. I remember feeling safe and comforted. I remember leaning my head against her and her arm around my shoulders. My head gradually drifted down until it rested in her lap and from there, looking up through the sloping front windscreen, I saw a trillion stars, the Milky Way, shining more brightly than I’d ever seen.
For a few moments I was overwhelmed, completely lost in the warmth of my mother’s being and the majesty of the universe stretched out before me. bouncing and rattling along the Hume Highway in the middle of the night, in the middle of nowhere, I felt safe and loved and I never wanted it to end.
I can’t remember when I closed my eyes.
Thank you Mum.