Sandra Mitchelson - My Family

When it came to organising this Mother’s Day Campaign, I had sent out a quick questionnaire to all the lovely Mothers with the plan of writing out what they had shared. However, when I read the responses to our questionnaire from the lovely Sandra Mitchelson, I could not help but want to share her responses as they were. Sandra is a Mother to two daughters both in their early twenties. Her character and love for her family just shines through her writing. So, here was our interview with Sandra.


Q: What is your current passion project?

A: I guess my passion project is quite cliché, it's my family. I think about family as the most important thing in my life; both in my position in our family tree as daughter and member of an extended migrant family coming to Australia in search of better opportunities from Italy in the 1950s, as well as with my loving husband beside me and my role as a mother of two wonderful young adult daughters.


Q: What inspired you to take on this passion project?

A: In my case, I didn't 'take on' this passion project as it's my identity and purpose and as such one could say 'it took me on'. It's not an obsession; I just try to help out where I can in the course of the day like so many other Mothers do. In reflection, in every family, it's important and a priority to love and support each other as best we can so that we can all reach our goals and maximise our potential. It's not necessarily an active thing, with family love it's more like osmosis, one almost just gravitates to where help is required; it's a natural reflex.

I grew up watching my Mother doing so much for the family around her so selflessly so I must be mimicking her, though I am definitely not as selfless as she is. At nearly 91 years old, she's been my lifelong inspiration for me to be a better person, supporting everyone around her as best she could literally every wakeful moment of her life. She was orphaned as a baby at 18 months old ( her father died before she was born) along with her 2 older sisters and raised by her loving but strict grandfather and wicked step grandmother. She lived a tough village life being made to behave and embroider for hours rather than play and had to leave school early and just learned to read, write and add up like most - the three sisters had no parents to defend them when there were many injustices and the three of them slept in one double bed till they each got married - they shed many tears in each other's arms - they were young during the war and had to escape occupying Germans who wanted more than 'to talk' hiding in hay lofts. Half of their wheat harvest had to be donated to the Fascist reign whilst villagers went hungry - they would run to the hills with what they could carry to flee American fire which was trying to cut off Germans and as usual, it is the lives of the innocent that suffers most. In the mountains, they slept under tree ferns, scratched relentlessly from lice and dealt with washing newborn nieces soiled nappies in river and risking lives to go to town for supplies. My dad would look for her when the family was hiding out when he had leave from military service and I think this is the most romantic story, to protect mum from the passing plane machine gun fire (I think it's called strafing) he placed my mum between himself and a tree and circled her around the tree when plane attacked and did a pass by them - he was prepared to take a bullet in the back for her - heavy sigh!

Post World War Two, in search of better life, she stayed in Boiano for two years on her own with two toddlers while Dad came out to Australia, worked and set up. She was so disappointed when she arrived in Australia, expecting an easy life but instead finding a decrepit weatherboard house, surrounded by paddocks everywhere in East Oakleigh and the nearest olive oil was miles away in Carlton! But slowly they gained courage in their love and worked so hard. Dad worked day and night, and when my siblings started school, Mum caught the bus, train and tram everyday to work at a Jewish cafe in St Kilda and then came home to wash, cook and clean not only for family but many sponsored cousin migrants and friends. She would sew different coloured cotton thread to match black socks to different men so she could sort them later, all manually, no machines. It was later that she did factory work and retired in her forties when I was born. When I ask her if she ever asked "what about me?", she said "never". And now as I adjust to being a mother of young amazing adult women in their early 20s, I am entering a stage of letting them go to make their own way but still being available if they need me - another challenge to take on. But that's what being human is, isn't it? Entering different phases of this big adventure and learning how to best tackle each little journey along the way.


Q: What has been your “wow” moment with this passion project?

A: There's no single ‘wow’ moment; those little times when someone in your family does or says something insightful is always amazing. They are moments, which make you stop, and they take your breath away. Moments of self-sacrifice I think are the ones that make people pay attention and pause in their busy lives, where most things are taken for granted.


Q: What is your favourite thing about being a Mama?

A: One of my favourite things about being a mother is getting a big hug, when one of my daughters feels it's necessary to stop what they're doing and to reach out and embrace me, when no words are necessary, or won't actually come close to express one's affection. It's no wonder people refer to 'heart to heart' talks - a close prolonged hug is also heart to heart, literally, its like your hearts beat as one in sharing that Mother-Child bond and time seems to stand still.

There are so many other favourite things like unexpected moments that blow you away or make you laugh or simple moments sharing conversations, happy light talks or deep meaningful ones over a cuppa or a walk together or going for a drive in the country. Just experiencing life together and connecting; even texting can bring joy when you're not in the same room.


Q: Can you please share with us your favourite quote and explain why?

A: There's so many inspiring quotes - the first one that comes to mind is 'Beauty is in the eye of the beholder' - I like this one because I grew up with it as there exists an equivalent version in the Italian language too: 'Non e' bello quel ch'e' bello, e' bello quel che piace'.

Its message is deeper than one first thinks, being about so much more than regard for something appealing. It teaches us to value each other's opinions, that we don't all see things in the same way and we should appreciate that we put different degrees of importance on different matters in life.  When we are younger, we try to convince each other that our views are right. The older I get, I realise that there's often no single specific right answer and we each have different versions and I think we need to respect those different perspectives and to let each other 'sit' with those beliefs and 'agree to disagree' ... but that's another quote and so life goes on, ooops another quote.

In Italian, when a mother gives birth to a child, she is said to 'data/o alla luce una/o bambina/o' which translates 'to bring a baby to the light'. I think 'a mother bringing light to her child at birth' out of the womb's darkness is a lovely concept of motherhood beginning to light the path for them until they can see on their own.

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