I have finally begun to see my Mum as the multi-faceted person she is, rather than the person I conjured from my childhood. From my own shortcomings. After all, my Mum is the reason I became a feminist.
I watched her clean the house to a shine, prepare special meals for my Dad, showered and scented before he arrived home. Wearing a fresh dress and a satisfied smile. While I sat and cowered beneath neatly placed cushions, in a dust free zone. That wasn’t going to happen to me.
My house doesn’t’ gleam. There’s no gleam in it. Clean and clear surfaces are rare. I didn’t use a vacuum cleaner until I was 33. I have lived with two different men. I made them do it. My sons have taken up the task now. I can delegate. Except the toilet. I could never get anyone else to clean the toilet.
As I age I realise that the mother I saw – the nifty-70’s housewife – was Queen of our house. While my Dad disappeared on the train to the mystery called ‘the office’ – Mum cooked, cleaned, hung curtains, changed plugs, mowed the lawn and raised 4 children. And she loved it. You hardly ever saw her work, it was done before we got home from school. I didn’t even see dust until I left home. I thought you had to shut up houses for years to get dust and cob webs – like in Scooby Doo.
Mum rose to the challenge of surviving on a tight budget. Never complained when we moved to a house miles from the shops or the train station – she never did take her driving test. At Christmas she dragged an enormous real Christmas tree a couple of miles, then on to a train, ending up with another hike home.
I undervalued her tireless work. I always wanted to be like daddy; dressed smartly, disappearing on the train to the ‘office of mystery’. And I did that until I nearly turned grey. I’m quite the homely one these days. After having kids and living in an idyllic tumbledown cottage on acreage. My house doesn’t look anything like my mum’s but when she visits she is kind. She doesn’t mention smeared windows and clutter. Although I have seen my Dad wince once or twice.
It’s Mother’s Day this Sunday in the southern hemisphere. I’m a bad daughter as I always miss the northern hemisphere one. My excuse is that the cards aren’t in the shops yet. But I know I could make her one. I don’t.
They say that women understand their mothers once they have children. Well for me it took a little longer. I can be slow on the uptake at times. Finally I understand that housework wasn’t a distraction from me, or my siblings. That she preferred to spend time polishing and bleaching. It was how she showed her love. Now I’ve finally worked that out my wish is that my mum stays on this earth for many years to come. On the other side of the planet but all the same I want her feet in gardening shoes and low heels far far into the future. I’m lucky, she visits every year. And she probably won’t ever read this post but all the same, she might develop a craving for technology. You never know. She must be into her second childhood by now.
Happy Mother’s Day Mum. I got there in the end.