Date of death: 29-02-2008
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This is a page for family and friends to share their memories of Tina. Please feel free to celebrate her life by leaving your tribute and memories. You're also more than welcome to add photos of Tina should you wish.
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My quirky mum
by Belinda Richardson
My Mum had many quirky eccentricities. Often they were very funny and endearing, and occasionally a little frustrating. As with all of us, Mum wasn’t perfect—if she were writing this remembrance piece I think she would be more than willing to point out her eccentricities and have a good laugh at them. Because they are not “faults”: from my perspective Mum’s eccentricities, even the annoying ones, were unique and interesting parts of her personality that made her stand out from the crowd and be remembered in only good ways. As well as Mum’s love and generosity, I will miss her quirky eccentricities dearly—I don’t know anyone who even comes a distant 2nd to matching them.
I wish to remember my mother with all of her “glorious” eccentricities, because they are part of what she was and helped to make her different, interesting and unique. Yes: I will remember a beautiful well-dressed lady who was always nice to everyone and who everyone admired, who was a brilliant mother and grandmother and who I loved dearly. The “caring” side of my mother I will discuss in another story. But I will also remember dearly the Mum who:
- daily for most of her life almost suffocated under a halo of hairspray, tolerated tight rollers and eyebrow pluckers and spent in total probably thousands of hours and tens-of-thousands of dollars preparing to face the world every day.
- stocked the kitchen cupboards in preparation for riding out World Wars III, IV and V. Of course we would have to wait until she was away before we could go through the supplies and secretly toss out 25 year old tins of treacle and spices older than I am (and I am in my 40’s).
- could talk to the animals in their own language (even though language probably only makes sense to cats in my opinion!) and I think actually believed that her horses were smarter in terms of racing tactics than the jockeys who rode them.
- took nearly everything everywhere, and took forever to get ready to go anywhere. And then once we were there, took forever to get from A to B to C.
Mum’s eccentricities were sometimes very frustrating to live with. But now that Mum has gone (in body at least), I have to say I really miss them. Mum did lots of interesting things in her life: she was married twice; raised four of her own children and assisted with raising three stepchildren; she had 7 grandchildren and played a very significant role in raising two of them to adulthood; she built two houses from scratch and decorated and landscaped another; she had a teaching career and has made significant contributions to the futures of countless numbers of children; and she incorporated many hobbies and interests into her life (her well-known obsessions with opera and race-horses are but two of many interests and hobbies that were a part of her life). My experiences of Mum as my mother, and my son’s grandmother, and her quirky little eccentricities are the memories that will stay with me most strongly.
Don’t forget the kitchen sink!
Whether it was a trip to a Raiders match or the races, a family picnic, a week at the beach or a major overseas holiday, Mum always won the blue ribbon for over-packing!
Mum, Malcolm Alex and I were Raiders season ticket holders for many years. I only remember being wet and cold on one occasion in all of those years despite Canberra Stadium’s famous freezing weather (and that was only because I was selected to be on field for half time entertainment: in torrential rain). Alex and I were always frustrated waiting for Mum and Malcolm to pack the car for the footy: it was always packed to the rafters with blankets, plastic sheets, scarves, hats, gloves, thermos’ full of hot drinks and food, umbrellas, etc. Then of course we were all loaded up like mules to get all of the stuff into the stadium: security must have thought we were moving in permanently! Recently Alex and I went to a Raiders-Titans match at the Gold Coast. We travelled very light indeed and of course it was cold and it rained and it was miserable (especially as the Raiders were also soundly beaten). I don’t know that Mum would have been able to cheer the Raiders into a win, but I do know that if she were there we would at least have been well fed, warm and dry (though I don’t know that there would have been any room for other passengers on the train)!
Events such as a family picnic (Tidbinbilla in particular comes to mind) were also very well-catered for by Mum. If left to me we would have had a simple sandwich each, maybe an apple and a bottle or two of water. I don’t own a picnic rug or chairs and would never be able to remember where our Frisbee or football is hidden. Of course on a Mum-organised family picnic we always had a home away from home and a magnificent feast. Even a quick Tidbinbilla trip for a bushwalk and afternoon tea would be catered with hot drinks, cakes, chocolate, cheese and biscuits etc. Our Tidbinbilla trips always attracted plenty of emus and other birds as there were always leftovers galore for them. And again, if Alex or I had neglected a jacket or gloves there were always spare sets in the car!
I heard this week that due to rising aviation fuel costs some airlines are thinking about introducing a luggage tax: possibly charging passengers by the kilo. If Mum were still around still they would make an absolute fortune out of her! I’ve been on three overseas holidays with Mum, two to Thailand and one to NZ. Not for Mum the philosophy of pack what you need and then leave two-thirds behind!! If she could fit in the kitchen sink she would take it. She used to ask me to come over a week or so before a trip so that I could help her to select coordinating outfits and try to keep her load down. I was never very successful about convincing her to leave something behind. Typically we would end up with her bedroom covered from one end to the other with outfits: she would need light colours, dark colours, matching scarves/shoes/handbags, day wear, evening wear, pool wear, stuff for when it is really hot and really cold, etc, etc. Somehow, magically, it always managed to fit into her suitcases and never arrived at the other end wrinkled. I really don’t know how she managed that. She always bought a lot while away too and somehow, again magically (though maybe the magic part was keeping Malc’s bag half-empty!), it managed to fit in somewhere to come home. Anyway, Mum’s magical packing ability always allowed her to look magnificent wherever she went. That in turn would attract comments and favourable treatment from hotel, restaurant and tour staff. And again, Mum often came to our rescue with extra woollies, linaments, Immodium, sewing kits, and whatever for any emergency that arose.
Shop till you drop!
A love of shopping is something my Mum and I did not really have in common. I usually know exactly what I want and all I want to do is jump in and get it over-and-done-with quickly. I prefer to shop for clothes alone. I think Mum loved the activity as much as what she’d bring home with her at the end of the day. She also loved to have company when she shopped and she loved to strike up conversation with shop workers. I would often spend a day shopping with Mum and I suspect she probably became as frustrated with me as I did with her. She would want to dig around in a shop looking at absolutely everything and I had typically made my mind up that there was nothing we would want to buy within a minute and would want out. I would fidget and she would dawdle. She would get into conversation with a shop manager and over the next half hour they would become old friends; I just wanted my cappuccino! She loved op-shops and I despised them. At the [very] end of the day I would eventually get my cappuccino. Mum was always very relaxed and talkative during our after-shopping cuppa chats and I loved that time of the day dearly: it made the “shopping” part of a trip well-worth tolerating.
While I inherited my Dad’s anti-shopping gene, my son Alex has Mum’s shopping gene. He spent the better part of many school holidays hitting the malls with Mum and I think he gets very frustrated with me these days because I just don’t fill the “shopping buddy” hole that is now left in his life.
Always look your best!
Many of my earliest memories of Mum are of her morning ritual of doing her hair and make-up in front of her bathroom mirror and choosing what she would wear for the day. I still have a phobia about hairspray: can’t stand the stuff and have vivid memories of nearly choking on it on entry to my Mum’s bathroom. Everyone who knew Mum admired her looks and how she always managed to look magnificent whatever, wherever, however she was feeling. Until fairly recently she would even do hair and makeup before starting on the housework: even if she wasn’t expecting company.
While Mum always looked magnificent, it took a lot of time and product to get made up to her standards. As a child in particular I never understood why she wanted to spend so much time “getting ready”: I just wanted to get out and have some fun so I often found the wait frustrating. Besides, she was beautiful without all of the gunk and hairspray—she didn’t even need it! To her horror I was a tomboy too and had no interest in the intricacies of learning how to do hair and makeup. While our cat Inky loved to up-tease her hair in bed, in preparation for her daily bee-hive do in the early 70’s, and later our cat Booticia would sit on the vanity and copy her every makeup application move in the mirror, I had no interest at all.
Now that I’m older I understand that, like the shopping, for Mum it was the process she enjoyed and not just the finished result. We all have our personal rituals we’d feel lost without and hair and make-up were Mum’s. I’m sorry now that I’d often pay her out for wasting time when really all of us waste more time in other ways (usually sitting on the couch doing nothing, which she almost never did). And of course it wasn’t only Mum who felt the pride from admiration and comments about her looks and presentation: as a child and since it was always a wonderful feeling to have someone make a comment about how beautiful and well-dressed my mother was. Even when she was very sick in hospital, unable to put her usual effort into her looks, numerous nurses commented (in a nice way) about how Mum was the most glamorous patient who had ever graced their ward. I spent a night in hospital as her carer and the nurses were constantly drawn to Mum not to pay attention to her, but because they wanted to spend time with her as her beauty and friendliness and caring nature shone out at them even in her very sick condition.
From Mum’s perspective “good looks” were not just about make-up, hair and clothes. Her polished presentation came from the inside too, and involved ensuring that she was polite and friendly to everyone she had to deal with, even if they didn’t deserve it or if she really didn’t feel up to it! To Mum beauty was far more than skin deep. Mum wasn’t vain towards others either: she always found everyone else’s beauty too, even where it was far from obvious, and made sure that they would know that she’d recognised it.
I’m sure Mum’s true best friends were her pets and wild animal friends. Her love for all animals did border on the eccentric at times but only in a very good way. Alex and I are eccentric ourselves when it comes to our cats so this trait of Mum’s has definitely found its way down the gene pool. Most of our friends and family understood and embraced Mum’s relationships with animals, but I’m sure some eyebrows have been secretly raised by a few less understanding people over the years. Even I would occasionally scratch my head over Mum’s handfeeding Cindy dog, and her obsessive feeding of local native birds even though that resulted in a huge amount of work in washing copious amounts of bird poo off of the back deck. Having personally always thought that horses are quite stupid animals, I also thought it quite odd at times that she disagreed and was convinced that she could talk tactics to her charges before they raced (and that they actually listened and won on occasion). I am more understanding (having been there myself) of her spending many thousands of dollars on vet bills for sick animals when others would have opted for a needle. And of course my family really does have the special ability to talk in and understand cat language despite what non-believing readers may think!
I’m sure that was Tom Cruise on the train in Sydney!
One of Mum’s more amusing quirks was that she often “spotted” celebrities or the infamous in the most unlikely of places. Famous movie stars on suburban Sydney trains, members of the royal family in a public loo in outback Scotland, serial killers at the supermarket, etc. She always insisted they were the real deal even if we subsequently produced evidence that Tom Cruise was actually shooting a film in Hollywood at the time so couldn’t possibly have been on the train in Sydney.
She had a habit of spotting wanted criminals after seeing photofit pictures on TV or in the newspaper. Occasionally, she would come up with and deeply believe in a theory for solving a real mystery murder or other serious crime. She was always convinced that she and I had just escaped the Beaumont children murderer when I was a tot and she’d taken me to the beach. On another occasion one of my brother’s friend’s mother’s was murdered and Mum had a very convincing theory about the kid’s father being guilty, even though to this day he has never been charged with the crime.
This quirk seems a bit silly to most, but I have to admit I always enjoyed the stories and would often go to school or work after hearing one of mum’s stories and tell everyone “guess what, Mum saw so and so star on the weekend”: I would even embellish the stories on occasion and have Mum talking to them and having her photo taken with them. Unfortunately when I really see a star no-one believes me because they think I have inherited this trait from my Mum (e.g. Alex really did escape into the foyer of Madonna’s NY apartment block and into her arms when we were holidaying there but no-one believes me: not even Alex!).
What I will always remember about Tina was the way she always made guests feel welcome and special. It didn't matter what she was up to, she always made time to get you a drink, ask about your day and tell you a story about what she had been up to.
Tina would always seem to be at her happiest when around children, she must have been a great teacher. I've heard stories of children growing up and seeing her in the supermarket and commenting to her that she was their favorite teacher. With my children, Tina always had a song or a story to tell, complete with funny voices and over the top actions to entertain and snap Triana out of her shyness and into hysterics. In the last few months Triana had just started to learn the classic preschool songs and we would visit Tina and perform them for her. Tina would stop everything and perform with full gusto all the actions and sing along, in her beautiful voice, with Triana having a great time. I was glad that we could still put a smile on Tina's face and help her forget her worries and pains for a few minutes. I will never be able to sing "Dingle Dangle Scarecrow" without thinking about her in those last months.
So I will dearly miss you, and for my children's sake now not having such a positive and fun light in their lives as Grandma Tina.
As I was saying......Everyone loves their mother. My two brothers, Martin and Duncan and I have been blessed to have had two mothers for a large part of our lives. Being cared for twice over was magical to say the least.
If asked about Tina by someone who had not had the fortune to have known her, the first thing I would relate was her absolute and utter selflessness. The comfort and happiness of every living thing she came into contact with thing always came before her own needs. You soon got used to being halfway through an always memorable meal at Rosebrae before Tina would sit down and start to eat something herself. Whenever you visited, before you knew it, you were sitting down with a cup of tea and biscuits. Her pets were always supremely loved as were a large variety of birds that called daily for their dose of affection and nourishment.
When it came to someone's birthday or at Christmas time, Tina was always generous and thoughtful with her gifts, making everyone feel special. Personally, I remember fondly the incredibly creative and intelligent limericks and poems she used to write on my cards. Thankfully, I've saved a selection of them.
I fondly remember a Raiders game I went to. There was a spare seat next to Dad and Tina so that's where I sat. Now, as is the nature of the game, Rugby League matches can be pretty macho affairs. So there I was with my Raiders jersey and cap on feeling that little bit macho. Within 15 seconds of sitting down I had a lovely floral cushion under my bum, a cosy tartan rug over my legs (grandma style) and a steaming hot cup of tea in my hand. That blew the illusion of being macho but I didnt care...it felt good. That was Tina's way.
I'm extremely grateful that Tina provided my Dad with such happiness and joy during their life together. No doubt he will struggle with her loss the most and will continue to live his life with her forever in his heart. Hopefully we, his family, can fill a small part of that void that Tina has left in his life.
And no, it still doesn't seem real. I expect to be greeted by the beautiful smiling Tina whenever I visit Rosebrae. We'll all just have to be content knowing that she's gone to a better place.
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