In the wee hours last night, while entertaining the monkey mind with endless hypotheticals, separating wishfully rejigged reminiscences from the more authentic ones, searching out patterns, inventing story lines, and generally making a complete ass of my circadian rhythm again, I somehow brain-trekked back to Mothers Day. Yes, I know it was a week ago but just indulge me the title of this post. Thanks.
I had received a text message from Stormboy's Dad, wishing me a happy Mothers Day. The next day I rang him to tell him I appreciated it (plus something could he fix the tray-back on my ute something something). "Oh, yes, it occurred to me that Father's Day didn't happen last year," he said, because all good things must begin framed in the negative, right, "and it made me realise that it was you who always made sure it had happened in the past."
A survey recently detailed women's frustration with partners who do not honour them on Mothers Day nor support their children to do the same. When mothers mentioned their grievances to their husbands, they often answered, "But you are not my mother!" A friend of mine complained to me of the same answer in the same week, in an unrelated conversation.
Personally I think "But you are not my mother" is a valid response for both its genealogical logic and the generally unsexy places where Oedipal complications tend to end up ... but anyway, more about that later.
Maybe my own ambivalence is due to the fact I've been trained well by morbid circumstance not to expect too much on Mothers Day. Pearlie's father died when she was very young. (The painted pasta necklaces from kindergarten were gorgeous. The picture of 'My Family' with the father figure hastily scrubbed by the teacher out was not.)
Stormboy was eight months old when he, his father and I awoke in our bed, the night lightening into day, in the front room where the huge sash windows looked out to the rose garden. Stormboy's father lay still and quiet. It was not light enough to see his eyes but I knew he was awake. "Hey," I nudged him. I wanted a rise out of him, for him to laugh and hug me. He'd been so distant lately.
"Hey, it's Mothers Day."
"I know," he said, and of course he knew and that's why he was so still because he'd woken and remembered it was Mothers Day, because he'd woken and remembered that his mother had just died.
So receiving his text message last Sunday, after seventeen years of radio silence on Mothers Day, was kind of lovely.
007 drove his van out to Pallinup a few years ago, to visit our fishing camp. He used to do things like that: just take off for a few days and stay somewhere different, talk to different people, just for the experiences. He wanted to come out in the boat in the morning, to see what it was like picking up nets before dawn. That evening Old Salt, 007 and I sat around the fire drinking Stones green ginger wine. The cold was brutal. The cold rolled down the snow-capped Bluff Knoll (no kidding, I think it actually did snow up there that night), into the Pallinup system, where it crept along the river, around to the river mouth, over Miller's Point and straight into the back of our kidneys.
Everyone was getting pretty pasted by the wine and the fire and the frozen kidneys. 007 had this way about him, maybe it was just around women, I'm not sure, but he softened and often his conversations were fuelled by a more female sensibility, like someone had surreptitiously rubbed estrogen cream into his arm. Amazingly this night, it seemed to rub off on Old Salt too, notorious for his bluster, sharp tongue and tough guy bravado.
They began talking about mothers.
"You know," Old Salt said tentatively, like he was bracing for ridicule, like he had realised for the first time in his 70-odd years, like he was imparting a great secret, "when Mum died, I think I began to see my wife as my mother."
Both men stared at each other.
"I believe you are right," said 007. "You are absolutely right."
Not long after that, with a dearth of sweat lodges and bongo drums, we all took to our respective swags. I only had to get up once to throw rocks at 007's Maltese/Shitsu who was keeping me awake with his yapping. Okay, I didn't chuck rocks at him, but I did scoop him up, slide open 007's van, throw in the dog and slam the door shut again, hearing muffled grumbles as I stamped back to my tent in my socks.
The next morning was bitter cold and we were hungover as fuck. Even the fisheries officers turning up in the pre-dawn gloom with their headlights turned off didn't merit much interest as we donned beanies, gloves and fishing boots to wade through the shallows to the boat.