06 May Mother’s Day Stories
With Mother’s Day coming up on Sunday the 10th of May, the Majellan has dedicated this week to all the amazing mothers in our lives. Over the next few days we will be posting some of our most loved articles about mothers, from past issues of the Majellan magazine. We sincerely hope you enjoy them!
A Mother's Day Wish
I’m sorry I made you cry. I’ll never forget seeing you standing under the streetlight at the end of Carols by Candlelight, wiping your eyes, while the crowds streamed around you as they walked away from the beach.
I’d just told you I never wanted to see you again. I was scared, and I needed your help. Rather than asking you nicely, though, I demanded, and when you hesitated, just for a second, I panicked. And before we knew it, we were yelling at each other again and we haven’t spoken since Christmas.
If I was logical, which I know I’m not, especially when I’m anxious, I would realise that time spent with you is a gift. We live so far apart, and we see each other so rarely, I should try to make your visits as fun and harmonious as possible. But instead I end up making them painful, and all about the past.
As you know, my life has been a series of disasters, from my stupid and impulsive teenage marriage to a string of university courses and jobs that I didn’t have the willpower to persevere with. But when I try to justify this history to myself, I find it much easier to blame it all on you and dad moving away when I was 19, rather than accepting any responsibility for my own actions.
Did I want you to remain in Victoria rather than move to Queensland? I have argued ‘yes’ many times. But the truth is, I was happy to see you go. I was a nineteen-year-old, recently-separated university student who was excited about the future and drunk on freedom and I didn’t need my mother hanging around … or, at least, that’s what I convinced myself.
“Come with us,” you said, while you were packing after dad accepted his new job. “See it as a new adventure. We’ll have fun.”
I looked away. I didn’t want anything to do with what I thought was another one of your stupid ideas. Why would I want to live near my parents? But fun times never last. And when I began to find things hard on my own, I started to blame my inability to cope on you. Money problems? It was because you had moved away. If I still lived at home, I wouldn’t have to pay rent, would I? Failing subjects in my course? How could I study enough when I had to work as well? Binge eating? I was lonely, and missing my family.
The biggest thing I blamed you for, though, was the fear I felt when I was pregnant and I discovered my baby was going to be a girl. I mean, how could I be expected to form a close relationship with my own daughter, when the one with my mother was in tatters?
What really killed me, in those lonely moments when I was buying baby clothes by myself, is that you really wanted a daughter. You’ve told me many times that you hoped that you were going to have a girl. But you didn’t know, of course, because it was back in the days before ultrasounds were routine in pregnancy. And when you first saw my raw, red, scrawny body you told me your voice caught.
‘It’s a girl, isn’t it?’
The doctor looked up.
‘Yes,’ he said.
You started crying, because you were so happy. You had everything prepared for me at home. Lace trim on the cradle. A pram with a frilly canopy. A slew of pink teddy bears. You so longed for your little princess. But you got me instead.
I wasn’t interested in having tea parties with you, or playing dress-ups, or making paper dolls. I was an anxious little girl immersed in her own little world and you didn’t quite know how to reach me. And it only got worse as I got older. The harder you tried to establish an emotionally stable mother-daughter relationship, the more I pushed you away.
That is, of course, until my own daughter came along. I had no idea, when I was trying to fall pregnant, that becoming a mother is one of the hardest things you will ever do. I couldn’t comprehend how much courage is required to get up night after night to feed a new-born, or how, when you’re caring for a child, your own needs get completely ignored. I wasn’t prepared for how often they get sick, or how often they cry, or how much attention they need every day. Nor could I have predicted that there would be moments, when I hadn’t slept properly for days, that the urge to run away from it all would seize me.
And it was during some of my darkest days that you came down to help me. I am so grateful for all those times you changed Amity, and fed Amity, and took Amity out for walks. Thank you, mum, for giving me those moments to breathe when it felt like I was suffocating under it all. The fact that Amity has grown into a happy, healthy three-year-old is something for which I have you, in no small part, to thank for.
Time and time again, what has surprised me the most is how much she reminds me of you. I can’t even count how many times she has said something to me in exactly your tone of voice, or given me your classic ‘trying-to-be-stern’ look, or put her arms around me with the same fierce and unguarded love that you do.
The other day, Amity and I were scrolling through photos on my phone, and we came across one of you. She touched the screen, looked at me and then said, ‘I want to see Gramma.’
What could I say to her? I’m sorry little girl. I fought with your grandmother and, being the pig-headed idiot that I am, I haven’t spoken to her in over four months. I’ve ignored her calls and I haven’t responded to her emails. I didn’t even open the letter she sent me.
One of my friends once said to me, “Having kids is like a drug. They heighten your experience of living, but destroy you in the process.”
I laughed. I just assumed she was joking. But looking back, I realise now, that there were times I destroyed parts of you. When I’ve made you sob with frustration, when I’ve made you feel like a failure, when you’ve been racked with worry over some of the choices I’ve made in my life. It’s been more than 20 years since you moved to Queensland and we’ve never spent a Mother’s Day together since. That’s largely my fault. You’ve tried to make an effort to come and see us every year at Christmas, but I’m sorry, mum, I haven’t made the effort back.
Amity is asleep at the moment. It’s 10pm, and the nights are getting colder. I just went in to tuck an extra blanket around her and I found her lying there with her arm around that pink bunny you bought her for Christmas. There’s a saying that always makes me cry when I think of you and Amity.
One day, someone is going to hug you so tight that all of your broken pieces fit back together.
I’m sorry, mum, that I broke you sometimes. I’m sorry I never tried as hard as you did. I’m sorry I wasted so many chances with you. If you’ll give me one more, me and Amity would love to come and see you on this Mother’s Day. Please forgive me. There’s a little girl who wants to hug you. And a bigger girl who needs to.
Love, Your Daughter.
Magic of Mothers
Mum, madre or mutter: it doesn’t matter what language as it all translates to love. So, Mother’s Day? Not quite sure what this means for most women. I know for me, a mum of two daughters aged six and eight that so far it hasn’t meant a day of R&R.
With early risers, 6.30am is the latest I sleep in. It does, however, mean a coffee in bed and tiny hands (and not-so-pitter-pattering feet down the hallway) delivering the newspaper before a mad dash to brunch, then lunch, and lastly dinner to celebrate all the mums in our large Italian clan.
During these get togethers the younger mums (I still consider myself young at 41) spend most of their time rushing around the table in between courses and hushing rowdy children back into their seats, where they can quietly reconnect with iPads and iPods and other electronic silencers. The dads and grandmas enjoy their beer and champagne. The kids eat their ice-cream. And the mums, well, let’s be honest, they look like they need a break. They’re probably exhausted from all the retail mania that precedes Mother’s Day to find the ‘perfect’ gift for their own mums, mother-in-laws, grandmothers, sisters, sister-in-laws, and friends who are mums or mums-to-be! Which gets me thinking: why, how and for whom did this day for mums eventuate?
According to the font of all wisdom, Wikipedia, modern Mother’s Day began in the United State in 1908 after Anna Jarvis started a campaign for a day to honour mums following a memorial service to her own peace-activist mother. In 1914, the second Sunday of May was proclaimed a national holiday of tribute to mums in the US.
By the early 1920s however, companies like Hallmark were gaining a nice little profit from Mother’s Day, which Anna Jarvis felt undermined the whole sentiment of the day. Wasn’t it supposed to be a time for loved ones to write letters of thanks, praise and gratitude to the mothers in their lives, not to shower them with gifts? So annoyed, she even tried to have the day rescinded.
Other countries and cultures have adopted Mother’s Day, sometimes to celebrate existing days honouring mothers or on significant religious dates, such as Marian Feast days held in May to mark the life of the Mother of Jesus, the Blessed Virgin Mary, in the Catholic Church. The Immaculate Conception Feast on December 8 officially marks Mother’s Day for people in Panama. In Iran, Mother’s Day falls on the sixth month of the Islamic calendar (lunar calendar), commemorating the birthday anniversary of Fatimah, Prophet Muhammed’s only daughter in Shia Islam orthodoxy. In Israel, Mother’s Day falls on Shevat 30 of the Jewish calendar (between January and March) to mark the date children’s right champion Henrietta Szold died.
In Australia, gift-giving on Mother’s Day became popular in 1924 after Sydney woman Janet Heyden started a tradition of visiting the Newington State Home for Women. Her visits gained local community and government support through gifts and donations to the often lonely mums on Mother’s Day.
Which brings us back to why we celebrate Mother’s Day? I know it’s not for the gifts (I mean how many foot spas can a woman go through!). I think for me, it’s really about appreciating being a mum and having a mum: not only my biological mother but the women in my life who mother me and nurture, guide and inspire me to be a better mum. It is about my husband too; his part in bestowing and sharing the gift of motherhood to and with me. It is about my girls and those handmade pasta necklaces that are really priceless. I’ve kept every one. And most of all its about love: the love a child brings and gives and the love of a mother for their child.
Motherhood is a blind love and a leap of great faith. Before our child is even conceived we fall in love with him or her. It is blind love that carries us through nine months of nausea, reflux, varicose veins, and, (shhhh don’t tell anyone) haemorrhoids, to arrive at spine-numbing contractions, 12-hour labour and what feels like hours of pushing … until it ends and begins at that take-your-breath away moment when your child is born; when you touch skins and you hear that cry, see those eyes, and trace the shape of your child’s brow for the very first time.
From that moment on, love is everywhere and it touches everyone. Ever noticed how older people light up when they see a baby? It’s because they know children have the power to heal, to evoke change for the better and to give great hope. They really are a package sent from heaven — despite all the crying, pooing, vomiting and peeing. And being mum to this precious bundle is truly the greatest gift and one which we should celebrate every day.