(Mother’s Day came and went last Sunday, as did Mum’s 39th wedding anniversary. I sent chocolate and wrote this in my head. It’s now made it to paper.
(With supporting quotes from He Waiata Mo Te Kare 8 – James K Baxter )
‘No, Mum, I can’t do it. Go on without me.’
‘You can do it baby – jump. I’ll grab your hand.’
‘No, I can’t. I can’t. Oh god, I want to live! I want to live!!’
‘I’m not leaving you here. Two of us started this walk and two of us are getting to the hut tonight. Grab my hand!’
It was the kind of moment only Mum could take me seriously in. Everyone else would have told me to pull it together. They would have told me just to just take the one or two steps required to move from where I was – on a walking track- to the slightly muddy, slightly inclined part of walking track that Mum was on. But not Mum. She took me seriously, guided me through the leap, or step, of faith, and we went on. She didn’t even complain when I had a similar (more justified) freak out climbing up the ladder towards The Pinnacles peak the next morning. She just kept calm and kept supporting.
You, straight-backed, a girl
Your dark hair on your shoulders
Mum was a bright eyed middle child. There is a great family story that Susan, as a toddler, ate the whole wrapped little chocolate that she was given. The whole chocolate! Perhaps she was expected to daintily nibble a bit and re-wrap it?
She was an daughter of emigrants, and of immigrants, and an emigrant and immigrant herself. My grandparents moved their family to New Zealand nearing their middle age, leaving behind in Britain their extended family, and their sense of belonging. My grandmother especially spent much of the following half of her life with her eyes towards Mother Britain. Arriving as barely a teenager, Mum has dual identities, a Brit and a first generation New Zealander. A Kiwi by choice, not just immersion. She is and was a tirelessly loving daughter and sister.
When I was growing up, some of Mum’s best friends were also originally from the UK. I remember noticing that after a shared meal at someone’s house, there was a silent tussle of politeness between Mum and her friends. ‘You keep that half a chocolate cake I brought’ ‘Oh no, you take it home with you. Here let me wrap it up for you. And take back the wine you brought too. ‘Oh no, you keep it. I insist.’ The winner was the one who proved she was most polite by successfully making sure she kept least of the communal spoils.
No one would have given tuppence for our chances
Yet our love did not turn to hate.
Such youth and optimism! I was at a baby shower with Mum last year, and the subject of which decade she’d married came up. Mum is almost embarrassed to admit the year (and age) they married. Perhaps after a certain time, the time becomes immaterial. When they both went to the doctor recently, and Mum was asked about her family medical history, Dad helpfully offered some of his own medical background. The doctor had to remind him that, no matter how close the bond, in this context his medical history doesnt actually count. Bless. I promise I’ll do more than send 50grams of chocolate for your 40th next year.
In spite of, or perhaps because of the fact I take more after Dad than Mum, she and I get on rather well. In 2008, while I was studying in the UK, Mum, myself and a hired Ford Fiesta I named ‘Nellie’ undertook a road trip from the south to the the north of England. Most memorable was the night we stayed in a hippy gypsy caravan site without power (huddling together by tea candle light), and some rather precarious incidents in which we got lost on some of the huge ring roads outside of Birmingham – which if you don’t know which lane you need to be in several kms before you get there, you’re in a spot of bother. We were in a spot of bother for a few goes at that roundabout.
Now I see you conquer age
As the prow of a canoe beats down
The plumes of Tangaroa
When Mum and I walked up to the Pinnacles in March for her birthday, she was an absolute trooper. I was kitted out with a proper pack, sitting snug on my hips and with the weight ergonomically distributed. Mum had what can only be described as an over sized school bag. At points, the poorly distributed weight of the pack would pull her backwards, and threaten to topple her over. But she didn’t complain. We managed the walk at our own pace. When we arrived at the hut, the DOC ranger said ‘I’ve got you down as in the 50-59 years category, but you look closer to 25!’
This is my favourite of this series of photos of you, Mum. I smile like this sometimes, ever so slightly Lady Di’ estque with the tilled down head and eyes looking up. It’s a smile done with the eyes x