Biting is bad.
One day when I was about four, I bit my sister Meaghan during an argument (probably over who got to be Gumby and who was Pokey). I remember screaming “noooo!” as Mum held my wrist and lifted my hand to her mouth as though she were about to bite me back as punishment.
“What? You’re bigger than she is and you bit her. I’m bigger than you are, so I get to bite you. Isn’t that fair?”
Of course she didn’t actually bite me, she didn’t need to. I’m definitely using this tactic if my kids are biters. It was a lasting, and still relevant lesson on the abuse of power, and not exploiting others’ vulnerability.
“Air on a G string” can be both giggle-worthy and culturally enriching.
I remember as kids groaning in agony as Mum filled the house with Bach, Mozart or the warbling of German tenor Fritz Wunderlich.
“I don’t care, it’s culture, and I find it relaxing” she maintained.
Not so relaxing when we made up our own lyrics – her favourite track “Caro Mio Ben” became “Come comb your beard” , but she thought it was hilarious.
While we whinged at the time (and occasionally still do, for old-times sake) Mum’s genuine love for classical music was contagious for all of us. Just last weekend I tortured my husband by swapping spotify from Greenday to Debussy. I loved it.
Listening to someone is a way of loving them.
In 1991, my sister Meags and I caught chicken pox. After our bath we would stand like scarecrows in front of the fire, and mum would dab the itchy red spots with soothing calamine lotion. Nooma, who was two at the time and hated to be left out of anything involving her older sisters, would stand naked next to us, searching desperately over her creamy white skin for anything resembling a pock. I remember her pointing to a freckle on her arm and saying very seriously
“Mummy, pickenpox! ”
Meags and I laughed our heads off “it’s just a freckle!” but Mum nodded very seriously and carefully dabbed the spot with a clean cotton ball. Nooma was so proud the day a real chickenpock appeared, but until then Mum made sure to dab her over just as gently as she did her legitimately spotty daughters.
Gardening is like painting a picture that slowly changes over weeks.
Mum is a very gifted artists, but not many people know this. I remember asking her why she didn’t paint more, when I was a teenager. She replied that she preferred to be outside in the sun where the wind could blow the cobwebs out of her head. “The garden is like my canvas. I get to choose my colours, choose what to plant where, move things around if I don’t like them. New things are always growing up, old things die back. It’s like a painting that’s always changing so I never get sick of it.”
“The Proverbial” is not an actual body part.
Maybe this is something I learned in spite of Mum. I will admit, it took me until half way through Anatomy in first year uni to discover that “the proverbial” is actually “of the proverb”. I always assumed it was an anatomical structure located somewhere near the rectum, because where other people said “you’re being a pain in the bum”, our mum said “you’re being a pain in the proverbial.”
Being selfless is a mother’s gift to her children.
Whenever a treat came in a four-pack, like chocolate yogos or something else delicious, Mum would give one to each of us and the last one to Dad. I remember thinking it wasn’t fair, but was far too selfish to give up my one so she could have it (sorry Mum, I would these days!).
I still love chocolate yogos and have decided to only have two children so that I always get one, but Mum’s consistent selflessness made a lasting impact and will certainly shape the way I parent my own children . The only thing I ever remember her demanding was some privacy as, once again, we all crowded in to ask her questions while she was on the toilet. We haven’t done that for at least three years though so, you know … children do learn.
Who you are is good, and you shouldn’t feel pressured to be anyone else.
Mum is a wonderful woman, a unique woman, who wasn’t like many of the other mums we grew up around. I am ashamed to say, there were times during my school years that I wished she was a bit more “mummish”. I am more ashamed to say that I think I even told her that.
Other mums baked biscuits and had prepared snacks laid out ready for their kids when they got home from school. (Those kids are probably 27 and still living at home.) Our mum would come home from work to find us all sitting at the table reading in silence. Never the fool, she’d run her hand down the back of the TV with a knowing grin.
“Riiiiight. Still warm hey? ”
She would then walk into the kitchen and cry out in anger “GIRLS!” at the exploded mess of baked beans and congealed cheese that encrusted the inside of the microwave.
Other mums spent all afternoon preparing elaborate dinners. As a kid, I was envious of those dinners… but now that I’m a grown up, I’m definitely less like those mothers and more like our mum. Tired from a day of work, she would stick some veggies in the steamer, chops under the grill, and start correcting essays on the couch.
“Naomi, can you come here please?”
“Just come here please.”
“Because I asked you to.”
“Ok, what is it”
“While you’re up, can you put the kettle on? Thanks!’
Other mums braided hair and painted nails. How boring! Our mum was challenged to regular wrestling matches. I remember when I was twelve, making a Mothers Day card that said something like “I love my mum because we joke around a lot. She says that when I’m bigger than her she’ll still be able to beat me up because she’ll take steroids, even if they make her hairy”.
I am incredibly blessed to have been raised by such a woman, a lover of literature, footy, and chips. A total dag with a razor sharp wit, she taught me to be articulate, courageous and kind.
Happy Mothers’ Day Mum! I’m sorry for any time I made you feel like you weren’t enough. You are more than enough, and always have been. I am so grateful for all the parts of you that ended up as me. We three are very lucky to have you, and as I’ve always maintained, “you’re the best Mum I’ve ever had!”