Most days, I am just in awe of my mother. I think she may be the most wholesome, perfected person I know.
When I look back at my childhood, that’s how I picture her- perfect. Consistent. Fair. Wholly dependable. Accomplished and confident and so strong- stoic without becoming martyred.
My mum has always been right there, never more than a phone call away. I’ve witnessed friends with mothers who are not like that- parents who turn their back on their adult children, argue with them, never help them out. I can’t imagine what that would be like, what a difference it would have made in my personality had that been the case with my mum.
She has never let me down.
My mum used to draw me teddy bears to colour in when I was tiny. Happy stuffed toys wearing vests and smiles.
We always seemed to be short of money. That never mattered, and we rarely noticed it.
“Let’s go for a drive”, my mum would say on weekends. My brother and I, sometimes my grandmother as well, would pile into our huge red Toyota van, leaving my father at home to smoke cigarettes and watch the cricket.
“I’ve always wondered what was down this road…” My mother would murmur as she navigated dirt tracks and fire trails around the vicinity of Paradise.
“Let’s go check it out. It will be an adventure!” And it always was. We’d arrive in a hundred different places, surrounded by scrub or sand or trickling, noisy creeks. Once we parked the car and walked, turned the corner on a bush track only to find ourselves at the very top of a momentously tall, rushing waterfall. We stood and gazed over the rolling valleys of million year old hills as the sun dropped lower in the sky.
Discovering your mother is a person in her own right is breath taking.
When I was about eight or nine, my mum came home late from work one night, held up by meetings and other teacher-like responsibilities My younger brother and I had already been fed, and we’re clean and snug, the smell of fresh showers on our hair.
I witnessed my mum making herself dinner in our small, well-lit kitchen.
Making herself dinner.
I don’t think I’d ever seen that happening before, my mother submitting to her own need for sustenance without catering to ours as well.
“What are you making?”
“What’s an omelette?”
“Look,” says my mum, lifting me up onto the kitchen cupboard to observe, “It’s eggs, beaten, and you add other things to it, too.”
I remember my amazement. “But I’ve never seen you make that before!”
And my mum seemed surprised by that.
“I used to make them all the time, when your father and I first got married. Before you kids came along…”
And I held that, like a whisper, like an errant thought. My mother was a person before I was here. She had a whole life that she had lived before I existed.
My mum has never been one for self-pity. Emotional support and empathy was given where it was needed. But wallowing was not allowed.
I remember having my heart broken for the first time, by my first real boyfriend– the dim blue lights of the school disco illuminating him embraced in a kiss with a girl I couldn’t ever get on with. I remember waking up the morning after it happened, crying in the way only a devastated teenage girl can- sobbing and weeping, heart shattered, life over.
My mum sat next to my bed, rubbed my back while I cried.
“I don’t know what to do…” I whimpered.
“You get up,” my mum replied. “You get dressed. And you get on with it.”
And I did.
And I do.
My mum is still an adventurer, and even now, well into here fifties, she is doing all the things she has always wanted to do. Her and my step-father take extended driving holidays, exploring every back-road in New South Wales. She takes her class of school children to a nearby bush camp and struggles with them through the ropes course, zooms along the zip-line of the flying fox.
She’s always wanted to go to Broome, and to Tasmania. To parasail behind a boat.
She’s always wanted to climb the Harbour Bridge.
It’s not something I probably ever would have thought to buy for her- her practicality has been passed onto my brother and I, and gifts are always relatively small, useful, well thought out. Had I not been offered the chance to take my mum on a Mother’s Day Climb by BridgeClimb themselves, it may have never happened.
And that would have been such a pity. Because it was so intensely lovely to see my mother happy, childlike. So excited she was nearly bouncing out of her skin.
It was the most beautifully perfect day- the sun shining, not even the tiniest breeze to flutter the flags at the top of the bridge’s arch. My mum was expecting to be scared, and she wasn’t- the safety protocols are so thorough, the instructor so amazingly friendly, that all my mum felt was glorious exhilaration.
The view is amazing. From the top of the Bridge, you can see for miles. From one side there’s The Opera House, the green water of the Harbour, the deep blue of the ocean past the Heads. The Blue Mountains, the Parramatatta River, the sprawling suburbs stretch from the other.
A fleet of green Army choppers fly in formation directly above our heads, just fifty feet away. They’re close enough that I can see the olive-green gloved hand of the man who waves to us from the cockpit, and my mum and I laugh as we return the greeting.
As we pose for a photo, my mum remarks that we don’t have many pictures of the two of us together, and sadly, she’s right; and I know from painful experience that one day in the future I may regret that.
She’s done so much for me- this is nothing. A few hours compared to a lifetime. A drop of salt into the teal green waters of Sydney Harbour beneath us.
But to give her something back- something like this, something she’ll remember… Selfishly, Ill admit, this was as much thrill for me as it was for her.
I turn to check on her, my blonde mother in her tinted glasses- she always seems to look the same, has done so for as long as I can remember. The look on her face is one of awe, of wonder.
The view from up here, it’s amazing.
The expression on my mum’s face is even better.
A huge thanks to BridgeClimb for having my mum and myself climb for Mother’s Day. No cash was exchanged for this post, but the Climb and photographs from the day were complimentary.