Real stories from Australia's craziest family.
THE FIRST MOTHER'S DAY
SUNDAY, 12TH MAY 2019
I was thinking about Snow White. I was wondering if she was brought a breakfast tray when she was finally woken up from her long slumber in the glass case...
But then I remembered she was just a nubile virgin, innocent still of all the wonder and horror of life yet to come – and so she only got the kiss, no breakfast tray for her. No flower in a vase, no burnt toast and luke-warm cup of tea, just a kiss.
And why doesn't that surprise me – that the fairy tale ended there at the kiss?
Why doesn't that surprise me that the story was edited to include only youth and romance, that our culture eschewed and spat out the rest – the ebbs and flows of marriage, the pain of childbirth, the grit and determination, exhaustion and chaos and grief... all the complicated beauty of life, simply gone.
They'd done it to the popular holidays too – they'd sugar-coated Halloween, chocolate-coated Valentine's Day, turned Christmas into a parade of elves and effluence... and I realised, they'd attempted to simplify and sanitise Mother's Day as well. The commercial opportunists had chosen white chrysanthemums and the magazines presented ideas of gifts for Mother's Day for weeks in advance.
But at the heart of Mother's Day something homemade remained – the breakfast tray, and that most precious gift of all – sleep, and maybe time to wake up. Time possibly, to reflect...
Mother's Day is rarely simple. Love is so much more than romance.
And Mother's Day is more special that all the other days because it changes and evolves over time...
When I was a little girl Mother's Day had only one meaning.
Mother's Day back then was simple and pure and was extra special in our house too, because my mother's birthday often fell on the same weekend. It was a day of giving back – and giving back to my mother always felt so good because she was always so generous!
And it was good too, because she was always so busy, but on Mother's Day she had to sit still, that was part of her duty and Dad would enforce it – she had to just to sit and be loved.
She was easy to love.
My grandmother on my father's side, Dor Dor was a trickier person... It may have been my mother's birthday that weekend, but even if her birthday fell on Mother's Day as sometimes occurred, my grandmother made sure she was not forgotten.
Looking back now I realise how incredibly fortunate I was to have a grandmother like Dor Dor. An elderly woman who absolutely adored me and had all the time in the world to give me, who spoilt me rotten, as only a grandparent can. Thinking of her now brings tears to my eyes, and it's slightly embarrassing to have cheeks wet with tears in a busy cafe as I write this, but I'm not afraid to show emotion. It's a joy to remember the love my grandmother had for me, and I for her...
One of my favourite memories is of staying at her little Kirribilli unit for sleepovers, she often ran me a bath and if I was hungry yet not ready to get out of the bath she would bring me a tray in and set it across the bath!
Many years later when I was in my mid-twenties, my grandmother who lived to the ripe age of 102, died on Mother's Day, and I thought this was beautiful and very apt.
It meant I would always remember the day she died, it would never be a nondescript day on the calendar that might slip off the radar – the public announcements of Mother's Day approaching would be there always to jog my memory – and just like in life, my grandmother would continue to fight for dominance over the coveted Mother's Day weekend which threatened every year to be eclipsed by my mother's birthday.
And so Mother's Day that year became a little more complex.
My parents had been away on tour, and I had a surprise party planned for my mother's birthday with all their closest friends. The friends of course had questioned whether the surprise party should still go ahead, but it did and it was a party made even more special, for we celebrated both life and death.
A few more revolutions around the sun and another life was added. One pregnancy hadn't made it, but the second took, and I have a distinct memory of sitting on my parent's couch in the house I grew up in, holding the tiny warm wholeness of Tom less than two months old, stunned and still trying to absorb a whole new meaning to Mother's Day.
The softness of flannelette blankets, the mysterious new smell of breast milk, the sore nipples and exhaustion, everything new and wonderful and terrifying at the same time.
Of being the centre of attention, and of my mother, flitting back and forth between the kitchen as was her habit, happy to play second fiddle, her face alight with joy.
That might have been the day I gave her the nickname Ninny, short for Nincompoop. It was funny and mean at the same time; we were so blissfully unaware of the road ahead.
The first Mother's Day without Mum was ugly. I didn't know how to grieve for a person I'd lost who was not yet dead, I still don't. There's no card in the newsagency for that. There was no ending, no closure, no celebration of life, just grief. And that was so the opposite of everything my mother had been. The present tense and the past tense didn't match up, there was a tear in the fabric of space-time and I was trapped in it, stuck in a parallel universe where there was no laughter or joy.
May, once such a bright and happy month on the calendar, was now a dangerous time. I made mental notes as it approached to have fun things organised to do, to get plenty of sleep, to stay away from wine. Grief, when it manifests, feels uncomfortable, it swells in your throat like anaphylaxis, it compels you to run – and it has a sneaky habit of breaking out of the little boxes you try to contain it in.
Mother's Day is rarely simple. Love is so much more than romance.
And life will not be confined to beauty.
Suggested song for this blog:
'Teach Me About Dying' by Holy Holy.
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