Saturday, December 10, 2011

This One's For My Mum

   Well over two years ago, for a local writing event that used to be held at the shop where I work, I wrote a piece for my Dad. I talked about all the ways he's positively influenced my life even though he spent much of my childhood away at sea. I was happy let him know that he was still a good father, even when he was far away.
   Ever since then, I have tried to write a piece for my Mum. At least a dozen times I've sat down at the computer or in front of a blank piece of paper with a pen in my hand and tried to put into words how much she means to me and...the words won't come. Now, I did write her a song, but it was about her relationship with my Dad and not about the person I've become because she is my mother.

   I've tried to figure out why exactly this is and it's certainly not because we aren't close or because I don't have anything nice to say. If anything, I think it's because I have almost too much to say. Also, perhaps I feel that this piece would be a vanity article. My Mum and I are a lot alike so if I started singing her praises would I also be singing mine?

   Even now, I'm having trouble. My heart is beating rapidly, a great feeling of love and respect is swelling in my chest and creating a lump in my throat. I'm a very emotional person and before I can put emotion into words, I have to work through those feelings. I know I am lucky to have a mother that makes me speechless with admiration, but I'm going to put the emotion aside and get on with the words.

   My Mum is a healer. She has been in the field of healthcare since her late teen years. When I was a little girl I dreamed of being a nurse because I wanted to be like her. My Mum looked so professional in her nurse whites and she always looked proud to go to work. She used to come home with funny stories or sometimes very sad tales about her patients. Some of the stories she would tell at the dinner table would make most people blush, but we loved them. Nursing has it's dark side and to get through some of those times, my Mum would use humour. It's a trait I've picked up from her; even in my darkest moments, I've still been able to laugh. Sometimes through tears, sometimes a little manically, but I can still laugh.

   When I was a child, although my Mum laughed and joked and made up silly songs about crocodiles and skipping to school with lunch in a basket, I hardly ever saw her laugh hysterically. The first time I can recall her doing so I was about 11 and the sight of her laughing uncontrollably in the kitchen, head down a cutting board, really frightened me. I thought something was wrong with her and practically begged her to stop. I remember how angry she was with me for thinking that her laughing fit was a bad thing. I felt guilty, but it was at that moment my view of my mother really changed. I realized that this woman standing in front of me wasn't just my mother, someone who was born to take care of me and my brother, cook our meals and keep the house clean. I realized that she was a person, a woman with feelings and dreams not yet revealed to me. She could, if I stopped looking at her through narrow eyes, be my friend.

   I tell my daughter that I am her mother first and her friend second.  Once I stopped thinking of my mother as just my mother, this was the relationship that grew between us. I discovered I could talk to her about anything, silly crushes on boys, the cruelty of the girls at school, my dream of becoming an actress (once I leaned about needles, blood and aiding in many messy tasks, I decided I didn't need to be a nurse to be like my Mum) and she would listen without judgement and with great patience. I loved talking to her about these things and more because when we talked I would feel like a grown up. She would share her own stories, talk about things that some people may have thought I was too young to know about, but that she felt I was ready to learn. She trusted me from an early age to do the right thing and armed me with knowledge that helped me in situations where many of my friends remained a little too innocent.

  However, as I said, she was my mother first. When I took liberties with her kindness, or took her for granted and lipped off or yelled, she would put me in my place with a look, or a well deserved scolding. It didn't always go over well. We are both stubborn people who like to be right and get the last word in. When two people with these traits are arguing you wind up with very loud fights. As a teenager, the arguments between my Mum and I happened often. My Dad would often try to act as mediator, but my Mum would tell him that we would work it out when we were ready. The fight would rage, we would go to our corners and when we were ready we would talk it out once the words had been shed of their raw emotion.

   These were difficult times for us, but they made me stronger. I know that a fight can clear the air and that as long as you have the courage to talk after, to work it out, to forgive the hurt feelings and even boldly admit when you are wrong, the foundations of your relationship will remain strong. I have a very good marriage and I strongly believe that my rocky yet strong relationship with my Mum during my teenage years taught me that the right person will work through all life's problems with you. The right person will still love you and forgive you. The right person will love you for all your flaws and goodness.

   My Mum is independent, friendly, and her compassionate and beautiful soul shines in her eyes. People gravitate to her because she has an energy you want to be a part of.  Her many friends trust her with their deepest secrets and know that she is loyal, honest and will not let them down. I try to be this kind of friend too, and when I feel let down by someone I thought was a friend, my Mum understands exactly how I feel.

   For years I lived far away from my parents, but last year the stars aligned in such a way as to bring a distance of almost 6000km between us down to just 7km. Instead of two hour talks on the phone I can now pop over for coffee, gossip, laughter and long talks about everything. We don't fight anymore, or very rarely, and she still shares stories with me and we help each other through the rough times. She is proud of me and the person I've become. She is one of my best friends which fills me with a joy I cannot put into words. But those feelings fall a distant second to how I feel when I look at her and know that I am truly blessed to be able to say that this amazing woman is my mother.

Happy Birthday Mum. I love you.


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