I usually dedicate my annual Mother’s Day post to my late Mum because she shaped and continues to inspire my style more than anyone else. This year I’m including two additional incredible Mums. My Oma, who was my Mum’s Mother. And Greg’s delightful Mum, Tuppy.
I didn’t have the pleasure of knowing my Oma for long because she died when I was nine years old. But thankfully I have vivid memories of us together that I cherish. I turned out very blonde and pale, but my Oma on my Mother’s side was Indonesian. This photo is the only one I have of the three of us together. It was taken on my second birthday in 1972, in Hong Kong in our Mid-Levels home on Conduit Road. Oma also lived in Hong Kong for a while, and apparently I spent a lot of time at her apartment. Oma had just been very ill, so she’s not looking her best. But she’s smiling and happy, and so was Mama. She’s wearing batik, which she did quite often as a nod to her Indonesian heritage.
Oma was born and bred in Jakarta, Indonesia. That’s where she had three kids with my Dutch Grandfather, who I called Opa. Mama was the only child who survived the war, which strengthened the bond between her and Oma.
Oma was a professional seamstress and made clothes for clients in the ‘30s and ‘40s. Her favourite colour was a bright happy yellow and everyone knew it. She often wore yellow, and was gifted with items that were yellow. Her home was full of yellow things, and at one stage I think she drove a yellow Citroen car. If you wanted to see her face light up, all you had to do was give her yellow flowers.
Mama didn’t have Oma’s fondness of yellow. As a lover of earth tones, she preferred mustard as her yellow, which she wore to our wedding with a brocade jacket and lots of gold jewellery. Mama looked fab in mustard, and enjoyed wearing it with shades of rust and brown. I, on the other hand, love bright yellow. I especially love citron which is a slightly greener version of bright yellow. And my favourite flowers are big fat yellow roses or tulips. I guess the yellow-loving-gene skipped a generation.
Greg’s Mum Tuppy is South African and one of my favourite people on the planet. In all the time I have known Tuppy her favourite colour has been yellow. Just like my Oma, Tuppy loves to wear yellow, has owned yellow cars, and is instantly drawn to yellow things. People know this about Tuppy, and she also receives fun yellow gifts.
The photo here is of Tuppy holding Greg in about 1970. Greg is wearing a yellow jumper she knitted for him. I adore this lovable photo of mother and son.
Oma and Tuppy share more than a favourite colour. Like Oma, Tuppy is an extremely strong, capable and likable Capricorn. I suspect that if Oma had lived long enough for me to get to know her, we would have had a great relationship. The bond that I lost with Oma, I gained with my Mum in Law. Tuppy is my role model. A person of incredible integrity and character. A shy spirit with lots of spunk, patience and a delicious dry sense of humour. She’s book smart, but also street smart. Lots of fun, but also has impeccable manners. I’m blessed to have her in my life and always enjoy our time together.
The photo below of Oma with her poodle pups Bijoux and Cherie was taken in the early ‘60s, and was the only one that Mama kept out for show. It was in every house as I grew up, and graced Mama’s bedside table when I left home. I once asked Mama why she chose this photo above the others. Apparently Oma’s poodles made her insanely happy, and this photo was the start of a much better time in Oma’s life.
A strong affection for dogs is another thing that runs in our family, and unlike yellow, it did not skip a generation. We used to joke that Mama loved her dogs more than her kids, which of course wasn’t true. But I will say that dogs have enjoyed and will continue to enjoy a royal status in our households. The photo above was taken in 2000, a few days after we brought nine-week-old Jasmine and Rosie to our home in Johannesburg. They were a 30th birthday gift from Greg, and a way for me to cope with the loss of my Mama a few months before that. That’s why I called these precious pups my little angels from heaven. They were my therapy and incomparable creatures. I’m smiling at Mama, Oma and our girls on their big fluffy cloud in the sky, remembering them with a happy and heavy heart.
I’m ending this tribute with a photo of Mama in the early ‘60s. She regularly competed in flower arranging competitions, was an avid gardener, and took great pride in being part of the Flower Club. She probably loved flowers even more than fashion and style, and throughout my life our home was adorned with flowers. I would come from school and regularly find a small bouquet on my desk — just because. Retro fashion, dogs, antique pink roses, batik, Hong Kong, Asian food and Asian furniture make me think so strongly of my precious Mama. I’m grateful to have these memories as a way of keeping her spirit alive in me.
We at YLF wish you a happy Mother’s Day.