Monday Memories: Maternal Inheritance

Joan Kunkel young woman crop and low
A beautiful photo of Mum – perhaps for her 21st?

The past few days my mind has been occupied with planning my mother’s 90th birthday later in the year: a trip to Sydney and the theatre. Then to top it off, last night, after watching DNA Nation, I was trying to make sense of my mitochondrial inheritance (once again!).  I’m still very confused about that and have lots to learn but I’m very grateful that Mum was willing to provide a sample, or my results would be even more ambiguous.

Unsurprisingly, these thoughts led me to reflect on which of my interests came down from her.

However, it’s not only our mother’s mtDNA that we inherit, it’s often their characteristics and interests. Is that nature or nurture I wonder? I’m far too close to judge which personal characteristics we share and don’t share, so I’m not even going down that path.

From Mum I inherited:

joan and pauleenPhotography – I’m fortunate to have quite a lot of family photos thanks to mum’s interest in it, especially impressive since money was often tight. She was a self-avowed head or legs-lopper in the days of the old Kodak cameras. Mum and Dad also gave me my first camera (birthday or Christmas?) and this engendered my life-long love of photography.

A love of cut flowers – though mum loved to arrange them whereas mine just get plonked in the vase. We both share a love of pansies and roses. I love frangipani, she hates it.

Baking – every Saturday was baking day in our house and Mum inherited her grandfather’s and mother’s baking expertise. There were always cakes and biscuits made weekly. My sweet tooth won’t let me give them up.

Sewing skills – but a limited amount of patience for it so that I’ve long since given up sewing clothes. She was a very skilled dressmaker and the finish on her sewing left nothing to be desired.

Joan Kunkel poss Sth Brisbane
At South Brisbane?

The wonders of nature – through bushwalks on Magnetic Island with her and dad during our holidays.

Theatre, dancing, tennis and other useful social skills: as I mentioned last week my mother was the prime mover in these areas. No doubt she was determined I’d have advantages she hadn’t had.

Craft – Mum has always enjoyed new craft activities from flower arranging to decoupage. Like most women of her era she could also crochet though knitting was never her thing.  I thoroughly enjoy learning new creative skills but then there’s family history….a time-absorber.

Beautiful decorative items – we have completely different taste, but we both like those special-to-us touches in our homes.

joan Pauleen theatre
At the theatre.

Commitment – from persisting with giving me the best education and in a myriad small ways, I’ve learnt commitment to tasks.

Eveready batteries – this used to be one of my abilities in emulation of Mum’s busy days but sadly my family history has helped me to slow down – plus a somewhat better understanding of what’s good for my health.

Typing – Mum used to type my uni assignments for me at all hours and when she was no longer around after we moved to PNG I had to learn to type myself – the air was “blue”.

We don’t share:

pauleen norm at picnic bay
One of my favourite photos – Dad and me on holidays at Magnetic with the local kittens.

A love of cats and dogs, though we always had cats around the house…Dad’s inheritance.

A love of reading – Mum was always one of those busy women who never stopped to read much so this is another inheritance from Dad.

A love of painting and wall-papering: wall painting drives me mad – give me growing grass any day.

The ability to sing – Mum has this, I don’t!

Fashion style – Mum has always been interested in the latest styles whereas for me it’s rather ho-hum. Like many of her generation she’s probably also more formal.

Religion – although this was a huge part of my life until my 40s I’ve sworn off it since then, to mum’s great disappointment.

Curly hair – to mum’s minor envy my hair is thick and wavy. Not sure where the waves came from.

When I was a young girl, people would say to me “gee you look like your mother” and then when they saw me with Dad “No, you look like your dad”. Obviously a mix of both in many regards.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned since having children in my early 20s, it is how difficult it can be to do all the right things as a mother…my quote is “I’ve learned lots about myself I’d rather not have known”. For all these things, and others, I’m grateful to my mother for what she’s done and the enthusiasms she shared with me.





14 thoughts on “Monday Memories: Maternal Inheritance

  1. A beautiful summation of your life with your mother. We are such a mixture of all of those around of us, some of one parent or another, or perhaps our grandparents, or cousins… I think your Mum would be pleased to see how much you have recognised as having in common. May all go well with your plans to celebrate her 90th birthday… what a privilege it is to have our parents for so long.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Such a lovely (and loving) post.
    I am the same, people who know my Mom better say I look like her, but those who know my Dad better say I look like him. I have a mix of both characteristics, not as quiet as DAd and not as outgoing as Mom. My Mom loved to organize and cook for get-togethers from a dinner for 4 to a feast for 200. My daughter wanted to have a pool party her first year of college but didn’t quite know how to go about it. I said just mention it to Nanny! And sure enough it was all organized within minutes… the food, the games, the music, etc. She had one every year after that! And of course my mother organized her own 90th Birthday Bash last summer herself. Caterers, DJ, venue, decorations… the DJ sent her an email after about how it as the best party he’d ever done he had such a good time with Mom. That was her last birthday.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your mum sounds fantastic…such a ball of energy and enthusiasm. I’m sorry to hear she’s no longer with you but what a legacy she’s left. Our family is not gregarious like that at all…big parties aren’t our thing.


  3. It’s wonderful that you still have your mother and that you can share this with her too! My mother is 81 in a few weeks. This post has made me really think about what I’ve inherited from her! (DNA results ARE confusing) Thanks for posting.


  4. Wonderful portrait of you mother through the many interests and talents she passed on to you. My mother also just turned 90, one of the longest lifetimes on her side of the family. So longevity appears to be another of your mother’s gifts to you, along with all those years you’ve been able to spend time with her.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Molly. Congrats to your mum as well on her 90th. There have been three 90+ on my tree, lots of 80s and some near-90s. In fact younger deaths are rarer. Not sure I am really aiming to be 90 but that’s beyond my jurisdiction 😉


  5. A lovely tribute to your mother, Pauleen. We have quite a bit in common. My own mother has featured in a number of my blog posts. I think of her motto as “Happiness is Stitching”, but although I have inherited her interest in crafts, I lack her talent. I have my mother to thank for introducing me to music, especially. Gilbert & Sullivan, opera, ballet and choral singing. She also taught me to be a “joiner” and I continue to get much out if my life by being part of local organisations. One trait I have not inherited – like so many of her generation, Mum was a great baker, and that comes low down on my list of interests!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Sue. I got the baking gene more than the sewing one. While I made lots of of clothes years ago, I can’t say it was my favourite relaxation 😉


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