At the age of 53
During Christmas celebrations a few years ago, I took some time to sit and compare notes with my mother – on our different lives at the age of 53.
My mother was 75 at the time, but she’s always looked years younger. I am selfishly hoping that she has passed on her ageing genes to us all. My daughters all feel the same!
Mum turned 53 in mid 1991 and I turned 53 at the end of 2013.
The biggest difference, we decided, is that at 53 mum was a grandmother 9 times over and at the time of writing I didn’t have any grandchildren.
We were both married at roughly the same age, I was 19 & mum was 20.5 and we both had our 3 children at similar ages. Mum had her three children, 2 girls and a boy, within a span of 3 years 9 months while I had my three girls within 5 years. We had both completed our families by the time we were 27.
Another difference is that mum didn’t get to go to university as it wasn’t considered necessary to educate a girl at that time. Mum believes that if you educate a girl you educate a family. Mum wanted my sister Sharon and I to go to university after finishing school but we weren’t interested at the time for various reasons. Both of us left it quite late in life to go to university but it was something we decided we were ready to do at that time of our lives. Warren, our brother, went to the university of hard knocks and has done very well for himself as a result.
The similarities include:
- at 53 we both had our children settled in relationships and spread out all around the country and in my case, the UK.
- Mum was always relatively fit and was active at 53. I am fit and healthy and currently I am learning how to run again; I was a runner in my youth and am enjoying the challenge. I love riding my bike and walking as well as running.
- Mum has always been a lovely stylish dresser and I’d like to think I have taken after her. Nan, mum’s mother was also a very stylish lady so it is maybe something that runs in the family.
- Mum made all our clothes up until we were teenagers and we loved our individuality. I also made most of my girls clothes when they were little and took great pride in seeing them well turned out.
- we both started our working lives as bank clerks, mum with ANZ in Hurstville and me with Commonwealth in Nowra.
1991 Mum at 53
In 1991 mum and dad were living in Palm Beach in Queensland and mum worked as a receptionist/property manager for a real estate agent in Burleigh Heads. Dad had a Travel Agency business in Palm Beach and mum helped out with the book keeping. Their lives were busy with dad involved in Rotary and mum working, looking after the house and garden, sewing, knitting and researching the family history. They rode bikes, walked on the beach regularly and were active in their garden together.
Mum had lost her father earlier that year and her mother (Nan) was living in Bomaderry, with mum’s sister and husband and Nan’s sister living nearby. I am lucky that I have both my parents alive and relatively well. That year, 1991, we all enjoyed a family Christmas in Nowra, where mum and dad had lived and worked for many years, and they all farewelled us as we left for a year’s Teacher exchange in Cheddar, England. Dad had booked our tickets via a stopover in Hawaii and had organised a very cool hire car for us for the day. This was our first overseas trip as a family, but mum had travelled many times.
Mum emigrated from Coventry UK in 1955 aged 16 with her family as a 10 pound Pom and met dad soon after arriving in Sydney. They lived in Gymea Bay then Brighton-Le-Sands after they were married in November 1958.
Dad had joined the Australian Navy in 1957 and went to sea nearly straight away. I was born in Murwillumbah in December 1960 because my father was posted to the Quickmatch sailing to the Far East and was to be away for 9 months, so it made sense for mum to go to Murwillumbah to stay with dad’s parents while waiting for me to arrive.
They moved back to Sydney to a house the Navy had allocated to them in Seven Hills and Sharon was born there in 1962. They moved to Nowra in 1964, where Warren was born later that year. We lived in Nowra Hill in married quarters as dad was based at Albatross, then in East Nowra before they built a house in North Nowra.
Mum’s life was typical of many Navy wives at the time, always waiting for dad to come home and help raise the family. Mum thinks that things are very different in the Navy these days. Mum had a saying that if a sailor was meant to have a wife he would have been issued with one. There was no love lost between mum and the Navy over the years.
Dad left the Navy in 1978 after 20 years 3 months of service, when he was 40 years old. They bought a freight and parcel delivery business in Nowra when dad left the Navy which they ran for nearly 6 years together.
Mum first travelled overseas in 1984 (aged 46) for a year long backpacking adventure with dad. We three kids had all grown up and left home and so off they went. They flew to Hong Kong for a few days then to Tokyo before going to Yokohama to catch the ferry to Vladivostok to start their journey across to London on the Trans Siberian railway. The trip took a month and was mum’s first trip back to the UK since leaving in 1955. During the year away they bought a car in the UK and travelled around England and Scotland with some friends before hiring a caravan and touring around Europe. While they were away we would get snippets of information by postcards and the odd photo with both my parents looking very glamorous and adventurous. These were the days well before the internet. They climbed mountains in Nepal, rode mopeds around Greece and had many stories to tell about the Trans Siberian railway trip. We especially liked the story about the female East German railway official taking offence at dad trying to take photos during a derailment. Mum and dad have travelled many times since this and even joined us on a bike and barge cycle tour from Paris to Bruges in 2011, with both of them cycling over half of the 14 day tour.
Mum and I feel lucky to have had our children early and be able to enjoy making new lives well into our forties and fifties. Mum has always been busy and rarely sits still.
These days she enjoys playing scrabble, doing puzzles and sudokos and gardening. She loves being with her grandchildren and great grandchildren and hearing their news.
She keeps up to date with friends and family by phone, email and Facebook, she has an iPod and a personal trainer she shares with dad and is part of a great Parkinson’s support group for carers. I am a regular use of social media and like to be techno savvy.
Us at age 53
At the age of 53 our lives don’t appear to be so very different, we are both still married to the same husband we married in our youth, our three children have grown up and gone their own ways, we both worked full time and we have both travelled extensively.
The world is a different place in many ways and mum deplores some things – like people not making an effort to dress up to go out these days, the lack of manners and consideration, rudeness, swearing, bad language, and thinks there is far too much emphasis on money, possessions, wealth and acquiring ‘things’. I have more relaxed views on these subjects and am fairly easy going I think.
At 53 mum wasn’t making any real plans to retire but had always thought that they would retire early and travel, which they did in their early to mid sixties. Hers was a generation where credit wasn’t easily available and you had to save up for things which mum believes made you appreciate them more. The world has opened up and is much smaller with the advent of social media and the internet and women are more independent than they’ve ever been (not always a good thing).
Young people living together the way they do is an issue which concerns mum although she admits that they often do seem to have made a commitment to each other, just not formalised in a marriage sense. She finds this hard to understand at times. I think I have grown up in a different time with community expectations very different to mum’s generation.
Mum feels that I have had more freedom and have taken the opportunity to travel on my own which she didn’t have the chance to do. She’s unsure she would have taken the opportunity had it arisen anyway. Earlier this year I travelled on my own to UK, Denmark and Sweden for four weeks, leaving Grant home alone with no meals prepared for him. In mum’s day this just wouldn’t have happened.
Mum is very proud of her family and what we have all achieved – we know that she has our back at all times!
I promise I am related to this fair skinned, blonde, blue eyed beauty in the photo, despite me being so dark – I take after my father in this regard.
I enjoyed talking to mum about our lives and recommend it as a project if you ever find you have time to sit and chat. I did the same exercise with each of my daughters too:
Updated June 2019 – Unfortunately we lost Dad in January 2018 and mum is now finding her way in the world without him by her side. At this very moment in time she is cruising the Cayman Islands on a grand tour having already been to New York, Niagara Falls, Mexico, Cuba and will finish in New Orleans, and a trip on the Mississippi before heading to see relatives in England. She’s also added a few great grandchildren to her list and I’ve become a grandmother! Mum turns 81 this month.
In the years since writing this I have been made redundant from my 22 year career teaching in the State’s prison system at the age of 56 and am now enjoying my retirement.
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A tragic accident at age 17, resulting in a Bravery Award from the Queen, didn’t deter Debbie from travelling the world. A young retiree, after being made redundant from her 22 year career managing education programs in a men’s correctional centre, she now loves reading, blogging, riding her ebike and a good cup of tea! Also known as Granny Debs to her 4 grandchildren.