The Most Important Thing
Thoughts on Mother's Day
I don’t see Mum much these days because she lives 418 kilometres away and the government has banned me from crossing regional lines due to the Coronavirus. So we talk on the phone once or twice a week. Mum always updates me on what the weather is doing where she is. She describes the clouds in detail and lets me know if the trees are moving in the wind. Or whether it’s perfectly calm.
Mum has been a widow for fourteen years. That’s a long time to live without Dad. She was married at nineteen and the two never spent a night apart except when Dad went to hospital in the last week of his life.
When he died Mum didn’t talk about him for at least two years. If we mentioned his name she looked away and pretended great interest in a trivial object – a spoon, the scarf around her neck, a stranger in the street. Those that know about these things said it was shock, part of the grieving process. I guess her shock stage lasted longer than most because she’d had unwavering faith that God would heal him. And He didn’t.
Mum grew up with three siblings on the fringe of the goldfields, in a hut with whitewashed hessian bag walls, a dirt floor and a dad who drank too much. These basic conditions didn’t stop her from transforming into a woman who wore stilettos, danced like a queen, cooked with as much flair as the Naked Chef, grew the greenest grass in the street and tried to teach us (her three girls) to do what was right.
Mum cooked bread in a wood-burning stove and made muesli and yogurt before anyone else had heard of it in Australia. She cleaned other people’s houses, got down on her knees to polish our kitchen floor, and made all our clothes, from calico dungarees and cotton undies to bridal gowns and trailing veils.
Two words I’ve linked with Mum through the years are elegance and serenity.
Now Mum is 88 years old. Her hair has finally gone grey – years after mine did. Although she wears comfortable trousers, flat shoes and socks, blue or white blouses and lots of rings, there’s still an aura of elegance. And even though she’s sometimes flustered and can’t remember where she lives, or the names of her grandchildren, serenity isn’t far away.
Mum may forget where she went this morning or the current prime minister of Australia, but she does remember that the most important thing is that we all get along.
If Mum had a soap box, she’d step on it in her flat shoes and shake an admonitory, multi-ringed finger:
‘Get along, everyone,’ she’d urge politely to the gathering crowd. ‘It’s not hard.’
It’s true. Getting along is easy. Not getting along is hard.
If all the mothers around the world unfailingly promoted this one principle – that we all get along – then there wouldn’t be any wars.
Thanks, Mum, for your timeless wisdom. I’ll do my best to pass it on.
With love, Marlane
First published on Medium.com - Illumination