My mother is a combination of Julie Andrews, Debbie Reynolds and Sally Field. She’s a woman with her own story, but her impact on me is something I’d like to tell about.

Mum has a knack for enchantment. As a kid, I watched her demonstrate with her cigarette lighter how a plane taxis down the runway and then takes off, up into the sky, as she smiled, green eyes sparkling.

Growing up, there were lots of amazing things to learn from her. There were dancing competitions in the lounge room with her and my two sisters, there were lessons on whipping up a tea cake, watching her apply heavy amounts of blue eyeshadow for a big night out with Dad, dancing with the vacuum and singing a line from any song when the appropriate life moment occurred.

There were dinners with Barry Manilow, lazy afternoon siestas with Frank Sinatra, parties with Blondie and quiet days with Chicago. Mother would pick up her long skirt at the hem, float through the kitchen and find some way to make someone smile or laugh.

She wore a habit in the ’60s. When everyone else was tripping out, Mum spent the bulk of her youth as a Daughter of Charity. She couldn’t just opt for a nondescript habit — she had to wear the cornet with wings (aka The Flying Nun). It’s an amazing sight. I have a little shrine in my head with that image alone.

I told my mother about ‘the truth’ several years before I had kids. She was shocked perhaps at first, then she simply said, “Whatever you choose to be, just be happy and I’ll always be proud of you”. It didn’t help my venture by shutting her out after telling her my secret, hence two smiling babies.

She does ask me how I am now with far more intensity than ever before, but I think that is just so she doesn’t miss any more tricks from me. I’ve aged her a little, I think.

My little sister and I grew up on a staple of The Sound of Music, Hello Dolly, Thoroughly Modern Millie and any movie with a swinging tune. We used to joke around and say, “Fraulein Maria, I mean Mother…” — to the point where that now is our mother’s nickname.

Recently retired, Fraulein is finding her feet with silence as her company. It’s a big change, however, I’m sure the coffee-swilling, feisty Irish ex-Catholic nun from Queensland with a penchant for show tunes can get herself into mischief.

She did it once, she will surely do it again.

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