Mother’s Day is a time to reflect on and express what our mother means to us. We talk to Cressida Mort, daughter of Rosemary Mort, about her family upbringing, life in Armidale and motherhood.
>How did your return to Armidale come about?
My husband Sean and I, along with our three boys, moved to Armidale from Sydney in December last year. It was part of a long-term plan we made four years ago when we bought a house and 15 hectares on the outskirts of Armidale.
That it all worked so smoothly and according to plan is quite amazing. Both Sean and I managed to get jobs before we arrived which we had not anticipated at all. We were quite prepared to come here and look for work. We just wanted to move out of the congestion and into the country. My taking on the role of Director of Development for the TAS Foundation is fantastic for a couple of reasons. Working at TAS with fabulous, and interesting people makes returning to the work force an easy decision, and it also solves our dilemma about where our two eldest sons, Henry and Nicky would go to school. So easy, it almost seems as if it were pre-ordained.
As inner city dwellers we always knew that as our family grew we would have to move from our smallish house in Annandale. We often visited my parents in Armidale and we were tossing up between buying a bigger house in the Sydney suburbs or moving right out to either Armidale or Canberra.
I was at school in Armidale and lived in the region as a child. The decision to come here was influenced by my familiarity with the area, knowing that there are great schools here and plenty of opportunities for us and the kids to live the sort of life we want. We found a house with lots of space and met fantastic people who encouraged us enough to think we could find work and transplant ourselves successfully. It has all happened and we could not be happier with the decision. After less than six months here, I can honestly say on behalf of the whole family, we wouldn’t go back to Sydney.
> How did your TAS role eventuate?
It happened by chance really. I was making enquiries at all the local schools and at TAS Pip Warrick, the Enrolments and Marketing Director, mentioned that there was a job being advertised which could suit me given my background in marketing. I applied for the position as Director of Development for the TAS Foundation and after some rigorous interviews I was absolutely delighted to be offered the job. My brother went to TAS, so I knew quite a deal about the school and its fine tradition of encouraging the individual potential of its students. This was something I wanted for my boys too.
After three months in the job, I am beginning to find my feet. There are a lot of challenges but I have received fantastic support from all the staff who are generous with their time and patience. My work with the TAS Foundation is really interesting as it is the Foundation that provides the scholarships and bursaries for many students who otherwise might not have the opportunity to come to TAS. It also helps students to stay on at school when their families, particularly on the land, run into temporary financial difficulties. One of our most exciting projects is the new Creative Arts Centre which is currently being built. This building is becoming a reality through the generosity of one former student who has made a significant donation, the TAS Foundation and the whole school community including old boys who have contributed to the fundraising appeal.
> Tell us about your childhood?
How on earth can you do that! What I can say though is that it was pretty brilliant really. I started off in Paddington in Sydney with parents who had moved there as part of the first bohemian push when it was a grotty down-at-heel suburb going nowhere. I still remember the great communal nature of our neighbourhood with the fantastic creative birthday parties, going to school in my many dress-ups – like my dormouse suit with the long tail – because that’s what free expression was all about. It didn’t seem at all odd until we moved to Deepwater which was altogether much more traditional in outlook with the full school uniform and less respect for non-conformity.
At home on the farm at Deepwater though was pretty magic. It felt more like we were living The Good Life (as on the BBC television series) with the whole organic “do it yourself” trip. My mother hurled herself into complete food production. Nothing was bought unless it was deemed essential. We produced our own milk, even butter for a while, wholemeal bread was baked daily (much to my embarrassment at school lunch time when the other kids were all eating bought bread with devon and canned spaghetti). We made our own pasta, ate our own meat, grew fruit and vegetables, made jam and bottled fruit and made all our clothes including jumpers from home spun wool. Although I took it all for granted at the time because that was just how we lived, in retrospect it was surely unique.
> How is your Mother’s Day celebrated?
My kids are a bit too young to do the full celebration but I live in expectation of being able to sleep in just one day a year, perhaps even with breakfast in bed and a book, in total silence. My mother, Rosemary, remembers how we used to give her breakfast in bed accompanied by a variety of home-made cards. The buzz would start very early in the kitchen in discussion with my father about the menu. The menu, limited to the few egg-meals we could cook (home grown of course), would be brought to my mother to select. Then it would be served to her with great pomp and ceremony; all of us with napkins over our arms like waiters and a flower or two from the garden adorning her tray of indeterminate slippery eggs. Instead of leaving her in peace to eat it, we’d then either jump into bed with her and share the meal or sit on the end of the bed chatting vigorously and enjoying the occasion. It was only later when I too had children that I realized that all she really wanted was a bit of peace and quiet and a good read!
> What did you learn from your mother?
Beneath the Good Life experience, the foundation for our wonderfully close and loving relationship was built on all the solid principles that I try to draw on as a mother myself. Freedom of expression, being creative, finding what you are good at, encouraging positive endeavours, having fun and being supported when you have a go at things, are all part of my mother’s legacy. I learned that if you are confident about your own talents and ability you can do almost anything. The important thing is to have a go, make a contribution and grab the opportunities as they arise. I adore my mum because she is so intelligent, talented, generous and kind and I know she is the best mother in the whole wide world! So there you have it!
> Thank you Cressida.