My mother was pulled out of school in Year 8 so she could stay home and help on the family farm. It wasn’t unusual. It was the ‘done thing’ amongst many migrant families trying to make a go of it in Australia.
When my mum told me this during my formative years in high school I was horrified. She just shrugged. In her day everyone had to help keep the family afloat. Education was a luxury. Coming from a life of struggle in Italy her family was all about survival, it didn’t occur to them to value their daughter’s education, even though it was mostly free. They were teaching their children to grow food and sell it. What more of an education did they need?
It wasn’t until I’d finished school that my mother taught me one of the most important lessons I’ve ever learned.
I’d finished high school, I’d done okay, I was off to university but I had outlandish dreams to be a radio announcer. My dad was horrified. He always taught me I could do whatever I wanted to do but he’d created a monster. He wanted me to choose a dignified occupation not have some crazy idea like this. During yet another argument I ask what would make him happy. “Be a Financial Journalist,” he said. I almost laughed in his face. Maths was not my strong suit. I was interested in the economy but I didn’t have any interest in learning how it worked, let alone writing about it. It definitely wasn’t my forte.
Mum said nothing. She was in the kitchen where she always was, cooking, cleaning, making coffee, saying nothing.
The following afternoon mum rushed up to me while I was watching TV. I thought someone must have died because it was so dramatic and out of character for her but taking a closer look her eyes were shining.