Monday, September 7, 2015

Must I always remember my mother by my failures?

Here we go again: the anniversary of my mother’s death. This year, like every year, it has crept up on me and has been marked not with gentle ceremonies of remembrance, but by my failures.

Friday: I forgot my middle daughter’s athletics carnival. We arrived at school to find athletes buzzing – and my daughter in tight jeans. “Go home,” she said in panicky tears, “go home, and get me some shorts!” I ran to the office and checked when the bus was leaving: three minutes. I asked if they had anything she could wear. They found a pair of bike shorts in her size: brilliant. Eight dollars and two minutes later, my daughter was dressed and ready for the bus. Problem solved; but in the initial forgetting, I felt like a failure as a mother.

Saturday: “I have an itchy bottom,” said someone. “Me too,” said someone else. Worming tablets, eight loads of washing, a whole house cleaned, and five showers later, I was exhausted. And this inability to impress upon my children the importance of washing their hands felt like a reflection of my crappy parenting: yet again, failure.

Sunday: We went for a swim at the pool. Afterwards, my oldest daughter and I decided to stroll home separately from the others. I hadn't brought my bag, just some money in my pocket. I thought we could pop into an op shop and a café, and have a little mother-daughter time. But the bright low sun caught in my eyes, and the whirling sparkles of migraine began. Without my bag, I had no phone to call for help, and none of the pain medication that I usually carry. We staggered home with me on her arm, blind, and I collapsed into bed. So much for op shops, cafés, or mother-daughter time. These things happen; but what a failure.

Monday: We arrived at school. My youngest daughter’s friends were all holding books. Everyone had attained the required reading level, and their teacher had declared a class party. They were bringing in their favourite books and some food to share; we had forgotten. My usually calm daughter looked shocked, then began to weep. I lifted her seven-year-old self into my arms, and crooned and rocked. She wouldn’t come to the library and find another book; she wouldn’t borrow a book from a sister or a friend; she just clung onto me, and wept. The bell rang and I gently lowered her down. I left her in line, a fat tear rolling down her cheek. Fat tears rolled down mine, too. Three hugs from three friends later, and I’m still tear-y.

Yesterday a friend sent me a text: If only your mum could see what an amazing person you are. Weird, I thought. Almost everything I ever did was wrong, according to my mother. Just imagine how she would have ripped into me these last few days, as I failed and failed and failed.
And then I realised my friend had sent the text because it was the anniversary of her death: yet another thing that I had forgotten.

It’s been fifteen years since she died; and fifteen years of me trying to learn that I’m a good enough parent, and a good enough person, for this world. But at this time of year, every year, I forget these lessons along with everything else. All I do is fail, and notice and remember my failures.

Will there ever come a time when I mark this anniversary with the good things about our relationship, the things we held in common? The love of stories? The hours spent in galleries? The relishing of small jokes? When will I remember our joint passion for nooks and crannies and creaky old houses? For serious conversations held with small children? When will I rest in the pleasure we shared sucking the marrow out of lamb chops, and out of life?

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