Today a village will gather for my Mum’s 60th birthday. A group of women who have played a significant role in my life. Only a handful will be there today – one is in Melbourne, one in San Francisco, another in the South East. They’re scattered, but they know who are they are.

Women who have histories of their own, yet still they have stood by my Mum’s side and helped guide her through her darkest moments and cheered her on in her triumphs. I’ve watched these women keenly as I’ve grown and from each of them taken on characteristics I’ve admired. Resilience, adventurousness, compassion, frugality. Mostly I’ve watched their unwavering support of each other, I’ve listened to them champion the strength of women. They’ve taught me the importance of women standing together in solidarity.

They’ve stood there with my Mum at times when she couldn’t stand alone. And she has stood by them when they needed her.

My Mum is a giver. Even faced with raising a child alone at the age of 21, both her parents dead, she gave. She gave to me. She’s supported kids off the street, at times welcoming them into our home to live in a safe environment. She’s worked with long-term unemployed people, helping them regain their dignity and with that, find meaningful employment. She’s been a wealth of knowledge and support for Australia’s newest arrivals, finding them employment and helping them forge their way in a new country. She’s taught new migrants how to speak English, helping give them a voice.

All the while, she has given herself to me, loving unconditionally. Encouraging me to achieve. Holding my hand, stroking the hair from my face. Now, she gives with such joy to her three Grandchildren. Her three girls. She arrives, with craft bag bulging. Mountains of books are read. Ginger bread men are made and decorated; little silver balls scattered among the cracks in the floor. Cuddles are plentiful.

She is always giving. I wish she would give more to herself.

Today, my Mum and her friends will gather for her birthday. They will laugh, they will discuss politics and travel and kids, they will niggle each other. Mum will fuss over their overwhelming generosity, they will tell her to stop being ridiculous. I can hear them.

It Takes A Village to raise a child. I know this because I’ve lived it.

And to you Mum. I love you. Happy Birthday!

bigwords x