ON TOUR WITH THE KID: Blessed by a life less ordinary
My mum had me, her only child, at 18 and raised me by herself. Despite conventional wisdom of the early 70's, I don't think it ever occurred to her that she couldn't do it on her own. What other people thought was of no concern to her. This fact was the subject of the biggest fight she ever had with her dad, who she loved more that anything in the world.
I was to be a flower girl at the Masonic Lodge Ball. The Mason's were, at least back then, a very conservative group and were a big part of my Pops life. So that no one would question why we all shared the same last name, my grandfather had told the committee that mum kept her maiden name when she got married. Mum was annoyed, firstly, because it was untrue and secondly because her family wasn't something that needed to be explained or excused.
She has worked full-time all my life, on top of which she put herself through university. It can't have been easy with a bratty teenager in the house. I was a nightmare. Not for any particular reason, just because I was strong-willed and thought I knew everything, the way you do at that age. Raging against the world is part of the job description, and my world was the two of us. With no justification, mum bore the brunt of my teenage rebellion.
Thankfully she hung in there with me. I don't know what I would have done without her. She has a certain way of being in the world that just makes you feel good, that makes you a better person just for knowing her.
Now that I'm older I can appreciate her strong sense of self and social justice. However, as the aforementioned bratty teen, I did say (on more than one occasion), "why can't I just have a normal mother."
Prime example. The phrase "ideologically unsound" was one often used in our house. After a trip to the supermarket, she once asked me to return a punnet of strawberries I had purchased because they were from France. In all fairness, there was no reason to buy imported, in-season fruit, but mostly it was because it was the early 80's and she was still not that happy with the French. Explaining to the 14-year-old behind the counter that I needed to return fruit due to the pursuits of the Rainbow Warrior was not an experience I was keen to relive in a hurry! At the time I wanted the earth in front of Coles to open up and swallow me, but now I'm so glad that I learned early that my consumer choices should be in line with my principles.
Chloe (before she turned into a bratty teenager) with her Mum.
When I finally had my daughter, Mum slipped straight into the role she was seemingly born to play - Grandma. The pure love between the two of them is a joy to watch. When the kid was two, my mum got news that no one ever wants to hear. Stage 3 cancer. I was gutted in a way that I can't really explain. Every fight we had ever had, every horrible day of my teenage years came flooding back to me. All the times I was broken-hearted over some boy, crying that no one loved me, mum would say "I love you," and I would reply "that doesn't count." All the time I had wasted that I now couldn't get back.
My mother, however, handled the whole thing like a superhero. She had always had beautiful long dark hair, but she didn't want the kid to be scared when she was going through chemo, and her hair began to fall out so we all went to the hairdressers and she shaved her head. Through treatment that I know took all her will power, she never once complained. The one time I saw her get upset about the process was her being concerned that she may not be able to cover the yearly tuition for the schooling she pays for a little girl in Africa. She did, of course, cover it. During the course of her treatment, she fell and broke her wrist and, sadly, her only brother died. I know this broke her heart, but her strength astounded me.
Mothers Day isn't the same for everyone. Though commercially it's all flowers and chocolates, I'm always conscious that there is along list of people for whom it is a source of sadness. Those who have lost their mum, mothers who have been through the heartbreak of losing a child or wanting but never being able to have a child. Those who for whatever reason are estranged.
I'm well aware how lucky my daughter and I both are to still have my mum here with us. So this Mothers Day I just want her to know that even if we were not related, I would still want you in my life because you are the most amazing human being I know. I'm so glad you're not a 'normal' mum because I love you just the way you are.
Pictured top: Chloe’s Mum and her brother (who passed away during her cancer treatment).