It’s my mum’s birthday right now and in lieu of flowers, a meal or some material gift, I thought I’d share a few words. Back in kindergarten we were taught that it’s the thought that counts, so I’m banking on New Zealand’s public education system pretty hard.
I think the first time I realised my mum was human, I was in my early 20s. She’d been to a funeral and it’d clearly impacted her. One of the most affecting things about the whole ceremony to my mum was how little the woman’s family really knew about her until she died. So many stories came out of the woodwork. Her upbringing and early years were shared and a greater picture of who she’d been throughout her life became visible. To my mother, the concept that her children could go their entire lives without a three dimensional understanding of who their mother had been was a terrifying concept. She told me that any time I wanted to know something about her life she’d share it. No matter the topic, any embarrassment over personal stories or life’s foibles paled in comparison to the notion that she could die without having passed on as much of herself as she could to her kids.
We’d always been close, but there was an understanding at that moment that deepened through the years. Something shifted. I wasn’t merely seeing the woman who raised me, but the teenager who grew to become that woman, the child who grew to become that teenager. The removal of that taboo changed the relationship in a fundamental way. Of course there’ll always be an entrenched nurturing dynamic to our relationship, but the shattering of that childish idyllic view of my parents as ideas rather than fallible people is irreversible. In no way do I respect them less. On the contrary, by hearing how they stumbled through their younger years has given me a greater appreciation for the foundations they were able to craft for me.
My mum and I have always been buds. There’s a resonance that’s unavoidable. She’s an energetic, driven person who is rarely content to just let things happen. Any ambition I have to make things happen is a direct translation of her prime directive. It’s pretty badass and something I’ve always respected, how she pushes herself to stave off the boredom of not being challenged. Whether it was starting her own business (a second hand toy store), taking to and dominating real estate, discovering her love of golf (taken to an international level) or deciding in her 60s that she wanted to learn to do the splits, she actively seeks new experiences because for her there’s no alternative. Last year when my dad had no interest in travelling through India, she instead called up a friend and they went together. My dad’s disinterest wasn’t an obstacle (and he’s no slouch either, but this isn’t about him), she’d just find another way.
My mum was also a chubby kid. She turned to dieting and exercise to work it off. She started working out, jogging. She started running a lot more. She ran a few marathons. She’d wake up at 5.30am to do classes or workouts with a personal trainer. She took control over something she wasn’t pleased with and instead of seeing an active, healthy lifestyle as a hindrance, she made it part of her life. She struggled with me. Knowing that it was something I was unhappy about but resistant to changing wasn’t easy. It took years, numerous diets and nutritional education. After some time I started to seeing small results, but she supported me the whole way. At some point it caught on and now it’s something I’ve just made part of my life.
Her support, not only in this area, but in all aspects of my life has helped me become the person I am. Craving variety, exploring new experiences and a desire to learn are all traits she’s given me and I can’t imagine who I’d be if not for her. I love you mum. Keep kicking ass, taking names and making life your bitch.
Oh, and thanks for the Canadian citizenship. I wouldn’t be here without it.