Saturday, 17 April 2010

sepia saturday

this is my mum at her twenty first in the early sixties.
when i looked at this photo i was struck with the contrast to today's coming of age birthdays. eighteen is of course the legal age of majority and twenty one still has a cultural significance. for both of them the gift of choice seems to be alcohol and it seems such a shame. alcohol is a consumable, drunk and forgotten. even worse, it is an intoxicating consumable so in celebration of their own or their friends' adulthood kids have some drinks, behave badly, put themselves in danger of accident or assault and vomit.
by contrast, mum's gifts had a place in our lives for years to come. i remember the lamp being used as a bedside light, the wire magazine rack on the right was eventually painted black and used for a pot plant, the rug at the back is still in service, the books would have been enjoyed and might still be around, towels used to establish my parents' household, eventually to be the family home,then there are the porcelain vases, not greatly admired by mum, they were icons of beauty and glamour to a little girl growing up in the seventies.
gifts like the ones mum received might these days be regarded as overly domestic, maybe even as symbolising the domestic servitude of women but in giving these things mum's friends and family were wishing for her a life rich in small pleasures, a good book, a picnic with family, bedtime stories by a soft light, even the smallish vases compared to today's grander versions might have encouraged an appreciation of the beauty in a single stem or small posy of flowers. i like to think that the gifts given to my mum were representative of a life made rich through gratitude, experience and love.


  1. Lovely post. The subject has been treated with incredible sensitivity, with a command of English that describes the philosophy that determined the type of gift and celebratory style. I felt a surge of emotion as I read about an earlier age in the lives of Mum's generation and mine and generations prior to that.
    18th birthdays are now trivialised as is Christmas and Easter celebrations.

    In some ways sadly, many of the people who were the gift givers are not with us now. The gifts are trigger memories of great people.

  2. I love this so much. Kylie. I do. I want to cry, but I won't. I remember my very British grandmother with a hanky in her watch band. I see your Mum has one too. I love all the tea cups. You know how I love beautiful tea cups. I wish life was still that gentle, but my darling friend, it isn't. I love this post very much. XO

  3. I do agree that a 21st with little gifts you could cherish for years was so much better than a mindless drinking spree. I had a modest 21st party with little alcohol and no gifts. If I was expected to celebrate my 21st today with a booze-binge I think I'd pretend it was my 22nd.

  4. And your mum looks genuinely happy on her 'coming of age'. Happiness being the sum total of the event and the gifts to mark it.

    Very nice post that will strike a chord with many, I'm sure.

  5. Hi there
    I enjoyed your post and couldn't help think how much things have changed not just from then to now but in the years of the 60s there was such colossal change. I was a teenager in the 60s and things were very different for me. I rode a small motorbike, wore a leather coat to university, became a bohemian and then a hippie...

    thanks for your story

    Happy days

  6. Gentler but more relaxed times.
    What A Lovely Smile your Mum has!

  7. Ah yes, times have changed, haven't they. For the best in some ways, but in others we have lost a lot.

    Your mother looks both joyful and a little overwhelmed by the generosity of family and friends.

  8. What a superb photo. Indeed what a difference in celebrations there is today. I don't think a drunken 21 year old celebrating today considers leaving photos as memprabilia for the next generations...

  9. I love the sweetness of this photo, her lovely shy smile, posed with all her little gifts and cards.

  10. I also love the warm and gentle expression on your mother's face. She is simply glowing.

  11. What a great picture. Wouldn't it be nice to have a photo of all your birthdays and the gifts you received?
    She looks so pretty and happy.

  12. Such an interesting post, Kylie. I really love your analysis of this fascinating photo. I wish I'd gotten such domestic treasures on my 21st!

  13. Kia ora Kylie,
    Well put and very good points. These little treasures gaon value with each passing day. We are losing this in our lives, much to our detriment. Kia kaha.

  14. A sweet picture! When I was about eighteen, I began to receive household items for my hope chest -- I was delighted!

  15. It is such a nice post. I like how the picture reveals the time and the history of it.

  16. This is such a gift to read. Your mother looks so gentle and graceful. How much better to mark our rites of passage with meaningful celebrations rather than occasions which dull the senses and ultimately become vapid and empty. I wish the young women of today could know the joy of a Hope chest.

  17. There is a lot of truth in what you say. I seem to remember that I got a pen for my 18th birthday. I would like to say that I still have it now, but I don't. Great post.

  18. Very nice outlook on the "domestic" quality of many of the gifts.

  19. HELLO!
    if any faithful soul is still interested in my responses here, i finally made it :)

    thank you to everyone for your interest & your thoughtful comments. i am sure mum enjoyed the compliments to her young self, too

    have a grand weekend

  20. Kylie, just wanted to tell you how incredibly beautiful this post was - omg - i loved it!!!

    Bless Beverly!

    What i noticed is how her tissue or 'hanky' is tucked in beside her watch.


    Love everything about this post, the words, the picture and the contrast to modern society!!!

    PS: Always love reading your blogs Kylie!!!

  21. hey tinks!
    wonderful to see you here!

    thanks for that, i'm pretty proud of this post.

    how's the world without the old crackbook??


go on, leave a comment or four.