Sun, Fern and Kangaroo

Sun, Fern and Kangaroo: In memory of my Maori mother, Elsa Mary Ristovski

A painted portrait of my mother 
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Of all my life memories I’ve written so far, this one has been the hardest to write. My dear late mother Elsa Mary Ristovski was one heck of a human being. She inspired every single person around her. Kindness and gentleness radiated from her every single day. And most important of all, she was a loyal wife and the best mother I could ever ask for.

When the death sentence of terminal cancer struck her at 28, she grabbed it by the horns and dragged it into a 10 year battle that lasted to 39. So whilst she may not be with us today, you will see why she is my hero and taught me much of what I know today.


Mum and I, at a younger age


Mum had very humble beginnings in New Zealand, and always called it a simple life. She had the simplest of things, strong memories with cousins in the beautiful lush paddocks and greenery of the Manawatu, farm work and just enjoying her time of childhood and youth.

She grew up in the 1980s and early 1990s when a severe economic crisis hit, forced many New Zealanders to migrate across the Tasman Sea to Australia. Mum made the journey by herself at only 17 years of age, to the mysterious city of Melbourne where her Aunty would be waiting for her at a job at Melbourne’s famous Crown Casino.

Independence and bravery was in Mum’s veins from a young age, as she was told by her mother that if Australia was too hard, she could always move back home. Mum never did.


Mum as a young girl


Her first houses in Australia were largely shared with flatmates whom were also recent Māori migrants, in the inner city suburbs of Melbourne. This is where the funny story is written about how Mum stumbled across the mad Victorian religion of Aussie Rules Football. If you live in this city, you’ll know it’s a crime to not have a footy team.

She first went for St Kilda, as she lived in the area right next to the St Kilda cemetery. When moving to Brunswick, she barracked for Carlton as she was now in the area of the mighty Blues. Finally, after meeting my father Sasho at work, she would eventually be converted to the royal blue and white of the North Melbourne Kangaroos.


Mum as a toddler


It was love at first sight between my mother and father. To think that they were married and had me within 2 years of being together is absolutely astonishing and amazing at the same time. People thought they wouldn’t work, because it was too quick and only fools rush in. But as the same Elvis Presley Song says, they couldn’t help falling in love either.


Mum in her youth


Growing up, my mother managed to balance being the most caring, nurturing mother with being the tiger Mum. She would put the right amount of peanut butter on your crumpets, but also throw a wooden spoon at you with scary accuracy if you were naughty.

As I grew older into my adolescence, I tended to become even closer with my mother as we had deep conversations about many aspects of life and it was she whom guided me towards having more confidence with my social life.


Cocktails Hamilton Island Holiday, 2018


It was very hard watching my mother battle cancer. The celebrations when scans were stable. And the dismal lows when her oncologist Dr Cher would draw up the next battle plans for the latest issue. But what people remember Mum for was her attitude. She always said there were people worse off than her, missing limbs or unable to see or hear. She always said that whatever life throws at us, we must learn to live with it. And in regards to a bucket list, we weren’t allowed to call it that. It was the “Fuck It List”.


Another artwork, this one is of my parents wedding


Mum taught me that you must put up a fight to everything in life. That you should be brutally honest to the point that bad people shake in their boots when you enter the room. And to cherish and love every day of life that is given to you. When she passed away that Wednesday night in 2019, my heart was shattered forever. It still is and always will be.


Before her last surgery, 2019


I was lucky enough to enjoy many beautiful, positive memories with my mother. Ones that I will pass on to my own children whom will unfortunately not have their paternal grandmother in their lives. I am confident though that her spirit will watch over them and guide them, just like she did in my life.

I love you Mumma, till we meet again…

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