The way a mother calls a daughter

The way you said my name

Sounded different to everyone else

The way you combined the first

And the second

Kathryn Anne

Instantly pulling me into line

Like a knot drawn taut in my stomach

The way you would say it tenderly, gently, lulling me to sleep

Hand upon my hair

Or helping me to care less about whatever had happened

Or more

The way you wrote it

Dear Kathryn,

In cards and long newsy letters

That curled alive with your long looping handwriting and the way you said so much, cared so much,

You wrote me reams of paper at boarding school

Three and four sheets at a time

Home come calling in an envelope

I wish that I had kept your writing

Instead, years later, we sat in the sunshine with me trying to get you to recall how to scrawl your own signature

Child turned teacher

How ridiculous

But you would still say my name


Nobody says my name like that

And nobody ever will again

The way a Mother calls her daughter

Dies upon her lips

Lives only on in memory

And slips into dreams

That I wake from

Missing you

*The header photo is the bathroom at Pitherty, one of the two properties where I grew up. As the younger daughter I had less responsibility and because I disappeared out the door and off down the paddock as much as possible, I was not an entirely reliable house work helper. But cleaning the bathroom sinks was one of my regular jobs.

The downstairs bathroom sink (pictured above) was where everyone washed their hands, the men trooping in dusty from being out in the paddock.

It was where Mum ducked in just before, at the sound of their bikes returning, and rubbed on a quick slash of lipstick or “putting on her face” as she called it.

And the bathroom was also where I was sent to “think about things”. When I had done something or other wrong. I would sit on the narrow timber bench, with my back against the warm stone wall and the smell of damp concrete drains in my nostrils. I don’t think I thought about what I was supposed to, but a bit of time out was always good for the soul.

I took this photo a few years ago at a family Christmas at Pitherty the year after Mum and Dad died. I took a lot of photos of little things that triggered emotion. Something to keep. A slice of home in my pocket, no matter where I was.

It was a sad/happy/weird time, the photo popped up in my photo stream (on my phone) and conjured up so many memories of Mum. As I write it is the 24th April but I’ll save this one for Mothers Day.

Mum was very special to all of her children, and will always be greatly missed. She is the only person that called me Kathryn, my full given name. Perhaps because of that when I released my first book of poetry, I called myself Kathryn Duff. Now I’m just Kate again, but beneath it all I am and always will be a Kathryn.

Names are funny things.


9 thoughts on “The way a mother calls a daughter

  1. Lovely Kate. It’s been a long time since I contemplated my mother. A good reminder to do that tomorrow on mothers’ day.

    • Mothers Day is always a little bittersweet. Full of joy with my own children and remembering Mum as well, but memories of her make me a better person. Happy Mother’s Day to you as well Rosaliene.

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