Dear Mum

I may as well get this out there:  if there’s one thing I can never forgive you for, it’s your tuna mornay.  The smell was horrendous, it looked like vomit, and I notice since my sister and I left home you don’t make that lovely meal for yourself…Just saying.  It seems like you were wrong about my messy habits providing a breeding ground for spiders too.  The only time I’ve been bitten was when a white-tail spider fell out of a very neatly folded jumper.  It almost happened a second time, the spider dropping like a horrid lead balloon from neatly folded sheets.  So there.  But you were right about a lot of things.

‘Live your life while you’re young,’ you’d say.  ‘Because once you have children, you live for them.’   Now that motherhood is a shared experience, I understand what this means, but your experience was so different to mine.  I know what it’s like to struggle in those early years of motherhood, the expectations we place on ourselves, the expectations of others.  I know what it’s like to struggle to find yourself – your ‘old’ self, your pre-children self – beneath the heavy mantle of motherhood.  I found respite in childcare, just a couple of days a week to have some time to myself.  I joined a gym and exercised regularly, with and without the children.  I took up study.  I wrote.  My husband is loving and supportive; a hands-on father.  For you there was no respite.  There was no daycare, no OSHC, no family, no support. A demanding, lazy and resentful husband who never so much as changed a nappy.  Such wasted intellect, those early years for you.  Such hard work.

Yet I remember us dancing to Bony M and The Village People in the lounge room at Forest Hill, the smell of dust, dark wood and vinyl, and the great joy I found in the mystery of watching the records spin. You played us Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita, ABBA, The Village People, The Mamas and the Papas. You played us Joe Dolce’s Shaddap You Face LP to ad nauseam, because it made us laugh and laugh.

I wonder if you think back on those times like I do?  Taking refuge in sublime harmonies and a shameless love of mass-produced music; I still love them, and the fun and laughter we shared.

As we grew up, you never put pressure on us to find a partner, get married, or have children.  You knew Motherhood is a wonderful thing but can take you to dark places in yourself you didn’t know were there.  Before I joined the gym and found release and balance in my life, it was hard to admit I was angry and resentful at my own children. I would sit there during long night feeds just thinking ‘Beam me up Scotty!’.  I was short-tempered, I was frustrated, I was becoming someone I didn’t like.  As the baby Mr. 7 cried in his cot, I would tug at my hair like a crazy person, trying desperately to stay in the here and now, not descend into madness. You put aside horse riding, your great love – your great escape – for a period of years.  Now I understand what it cost you.  But you didn’t get angry, you were always loving, always gentle.  You were so patient and kind, where I have struggled to find that with my own children at times. You showed a great strength and a great capacity to love that I can only hope to tap into someday:  I’m so grateful.  I’m so grateful.

You gave me a love of books and reading.  A way to walk down the dark, dangerous and delightful paths trod by Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Cap, Snow White and Rose Red, Cinderella.  In a world of evil stepmothers and absent, foolish and neglectful parents, I knew I had a mum who loved me, who was always there.  Black Beauty, Charlotte’s Web, Banjo Patterson and Henry Lawson; you gave me a strong foundation in verse and story. Through the years has been my love, my escape.  Luckily books are much more portable than horses.

The smell of well-oiled saddlery and sweaty saddle cloths.  Bridles, bits cleaned and hung on the walls of the shed; hole punches, saddle oil and soap.  Containers of cotton, bandages and unguents for the horses.  Coprice, chaff, oats in big barrels.

The sticky, dusty-sweet taste of molasses  – even today there’s a jar in the pantry.  The smell of sunshine and horse sweat; the sleek warmth of a well-groomed horse under my cheek.  These things all remind me of you.  Thankyou for being the outdoorsy, horse-mad, physically strong woman you were then, and are now.  Thank you for showing me how to pursue your passion in the face of adversity.

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Thank you for standing between us and dad when he was out of control and trying to hit us; thankyou for showing kindness and patience to counter his blustering rage.  I sometimes wonder what my childhood would have been without you.  Thank you for taking us to Little Athletics, gymnastics, swimming, pony club.  I have to thank you for so, so many things.

We are both adults now.  Both mums.  You’ve held all three of my children, and they have grown to love you very, very much.  Every so often, as I see myself in my own children in the flash of a smile, a gesture, the way they parrot my expressions and copy my mannerisms, I wonder if you see flashes of yourself in me too? For example, I’m sorry for losing it and falling down laughing when you picked up your saddle and somehow the stirrup iron swung up and hit you in the face.  Two things about that:  1.  Collapsing into wild laughter at wildly inappropriate moments is something I inherited from you, and, 2. I think you had your revenge that day in the NT when I fell down at Edith Falls.  We laugh together:  we’ve always been able to.  We have cried together, shared our mental load with each other.  We have sat in companionable silence out the back with a cup of tea, looking at the birds, the trees, the sky.

There are so many things I wish I could give you this Mother’s Day.  It will be a phone call wishing you well, giving you my love.  And this letter:  I hope you like it.  As ever, this girl wants her mum to be proud of her.  I am so very proud to call you my Mum.

How will you thank your mum on Sunday?  #blurbology #buildbetterblurbs #goodcontentgoodwriting #mumtrepreneur #mothersday #writing #copywriting

Jennifer Zeven

Mother, Loving Daughter, and Principal Blurb-ologist




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