My mother was the most beautiful woman I ever saw. All I am I owe to my mother. I attribute all my success in life to the moral, intellectual and physical education I received from her.
It took me a long time, but I’ve discovered that sometimes you really need to listen to your mum. My mother and I get along really well, we can talk about lots of things and I always know she’s there if I need help. However, we don’t always see eye to eye and when I was growing up I saw that conflict as a sign that we were polar opposites. My teenage brain then decided that the best course of action was for me to try my very best to show everyone how unlike my mum I was, despite the constant and consistent comments of “you’re so much like your mum – you even look a lot like her!”. Genetics: 1, Me: 0.
I am a lot like my mum in many ways: we both love reading, we’re both generous (sometimes overly so), we adore fairy lights and xmas, need our alone time and have a love of hot chips and Cadbury easter eggs that I suspect is due to a powerful spell placed upon us by a dark wizard.
I’m also very different to my mum in many ways: I am a night person; she is more of a day person. I hate hot weather with an unbridled passion whereas she lives for summer. She loves Aussie Rules football and I think it’s a ridiculous game. I can be quite negative (especially towards myself) whereas she has her head screwed on very nicely. But, in thinking about our similarities and differences, I realised that I don’t actually know her as well as I sometimes think I do. The thoughts I use to define my mum run along the lines of someone who likes the place to be properly clean, who doesn’t like garlic or spirits, someone who likes the idea of the supernatural, enjoys watching cooking shows with dinner and has wonderful hair. But they’re all so superficial. What do I really know about her?
I was dropping her into the hospital this morning for a minor operation and we were having a talk about life. I look at my puny life so far and I’m disappointed. I’ve only been around 26 years but I feel as though I should have ticked off some of my major dreams by now. Sadly, life gets in the way of living sometimes. But I still count myself as a failure. My mum however (and she may be biased) thinks my pessimistic, glass-half-empty approach is stupid and chooses to look at all the great things I have done. The studies completed, the myriad of interesting jobs I’ve had, the hobbies I enjoy, the places I’ve been, difficult situations I’ve navigated, obstacles overcome, paying for three overseas holidays on a student’s wage. Where I see myself as being stuck, she sees the process of me moving forward. Where I see myself as unsure she sees me as tenacious. Where I worry about where I’m going she knows the best is yet to come. I may not always believe her when she says the best is yet to come but I’ve learnt enough over my time to know that she is often right. When she said “you and he are not well suited” she was right. When she says “you’re making this harder than it has to be” she was right. When she said I was making mountains out of molehills, she was right. Most often she is right when she tells me to stop worrying about things. This morning she said “you worry far too much about where you’re going. Don’t bother worrying about the future more than six months in advance. Beyond that it doesn’t matter yet”. As my mum, her opinion of me may be slightly more elevated but she has a way of keeping me on track. She’s figured out when I need kind, helpful words or a swift kick up the bum. She knows when to help me out and when to let me learn by myself. Sometimes we don’t see eye to eye and sometimes we annoy each other, but at the end of the day she has my best interests at heart and I have hers. It’s important to me that she is happy and now that I’m old enough to know it, it’s something I try to do as often as I can.
When I picture mum I picture her smiling, or reading a book or gardening. I remember party teas as kids or going to the beach (and getting fish and chips and an ice-cream). I remember her fixing a flat in the middle of the night with a storm raging while we were driving for a holiday. I remember her picking us up from babysitters and after-school care while she worked her bum off to provide for us. When crumpets or nutella or chocolate covered wheatons appear in the house, I know she’s thinking of me. So much of what I am was learnt from her. Her perseverance as a single mum taught me how important it is to work hard for what you need and what you want (in that order). The way she rolls with the punches has taught me to roll the same way. Her generosity and kindness always fills me with a sense of pride for how lovely she is and inspired me to be kind and generous also. She taught me what it is to be myself and how important that is. She always says ‘wherever I am, I am me’ and it took me a long time to understand that. It’s something that I’ve discovered as I’ve gotten older and cast off some of the hang-ups of my childhood. She knows who she is and what she stands for and it’s something I’m finally able to do as well. You always think you know who and what you are as a teenager, but time makes fools of us all and I may just be the biggest fool out there. Looking back over my adolescence, in sketch books and in the writing I did, I was an angry, confused, melancholy little thing. I worried so much about where I was going and got caught up in my dreams of the future that I never started taking the steps to get there. It’d become an overbearing roadblock that would make me feel depressed and useless (so dramatic, I know!). In the end, time and patience have given me the space to figure out who and what I am and allowed me to discover that where I’m going is inconsequential. Who and what I am will take me where I need to be and as I grow what I need may change as well, but I’ll still be able to get to where I need to be.
People often say that when a young boy gets a new girlfriend he should look at her mother to see her future. If this is correct then in my future I will be awesome. I’ll be beautiful and loving. I’ll be sure of myself, ballsy and quick to laugh. I’ll be kind and smart and a lot more relaxed. I don’t think I’ll ever stop worrying entirely, but perhaps the things I worry about will be more substantial.
Before she left for hospital, she turned the seasons on our event tree. It’s a metal tree my grandfather made for her. She used to use it just for xmas, but now it’s also an easter tree (because easter eggs fit in the curls (which means a steady supply of easter eggs over the season)) and a birthday tree and an any-other-event–that-takes-her-fancy tree. Some of the pretty xmas ornaments are still up but the easter eggs have sprouted (and some have already been harvested). I used to resent how excited she’d get for occasions but I realised that an occasion is only special if you make it special. If no one cares then it’s just another day at the office. It’s important to her that life is made special and now it’s something that is very important to me too. Going out should be an occasion, effort should be made in everyday life. People don’t seem to make the effort any more or to talk to each other enough. Complements arouse suspicion. Kind words can be taken as false. People don’t trust for fear of hurt. I’m guilty of all these things. But I’ve made a choice to try and tell people the good things I’m thinking. When I walk through crowds I often see people and think ‘his hair is amazing!’, ‘she looks absolutely stunning!’, ‘that busker is so talented!’ and I wonder if they think that about themselves. Chances are they don’t. I’d like to tap them on the shoulder and say something, yet I don’t say anything. I may still be too shy to say it to strangers, but there’s no reason I can’t say these things to people I know. ‘If you haven’t got anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all’ needs to be paired with its less douchey cousin ‘if you have something nice to say, then make someone’s day and say it’. My thoughts are always sincere but I sometimes have trouble articulating them for fear they won’t sound genuine. However, I hope to be sprouting a few more “you look amazing today”s or “you worked so hard for that, I’m super proud of you”s and other such happy thoughts in the future. And to my mum: you always have my perpetual thanks and admiration and an everlasting I Love You.
So what do I know about her? What do I really know about her? Well, a lot more than I thought, because I’m so much like my mum. I even look a lot like her. Genetics: 1, Me: 1.