This is a public apology.
We’ve often joked about how moody I was in Disneyland at 15. We’ve looked back and laughed at the big rows we had about my piano practice (or lack thereof) when I was a teenager and all I wanted to do was go to see my friends – because if we didn’t laugh we’d probably cry because the rows were so crazy they’d upset Grandma. Many times I’ve recalled the unfairness of not being allowed to wear mascara as a young teen, and the fights we’d have about that as we were leaving to race to the train station.
Oh, over the years haven’t we have reminisced about the drama of getting up and out the door in morning, the times we’ve sat in that queue of traffic at the train station with panic in our throats as to whether I was going to make the train in time or whether it was going to be the ‘late train’ for me that day.
Let’s not forget the subject of my hatred of seafood and my churlish teenage ways – so infamous in our family now that they even came back to haunt me at my own wedding, in my stepdad’s (albeit fondly told and wonderful) speech.
How I do owe you such an apology.
I mean, it’s been one thing that I have found myself slowly appreciating some of the methods you use in housekeeping or developing some remarkably similar tastes. Example – I now regularly check the labels on all food to check the “processed” content, or that I prefer to walk somewhere, or that I find myself washing out and re-using ziplock bags until they no longer function … These things and others, though intriguingly influenced by your wonderful self are just incidental. A mere maturing of my character through the natural progress of life.
But if it’s not enough to shock you that I now eat most seafood without kicking up a steaming tantrum. This might just be…
Let’s cast our mind back a number of years. It’s the mid nineties, and you and I were living in our little house, just us; and you had a long drive to work in heavy traffic in the morning. Similarly, I had a train to catch at 8.07am precisely. Now, I wasn’t a quick dresser etc. and neither of us are first thing in the morning people. For both of us, at least we had a silent agreement about silence… a simple grunt was all that was required until we were properly woken up. And god forbid anyone entering into our realm should try to switch the lights on in the morning. Only darkness for us, please. Until, that is, our eyes become accustomed to the gloomy light of winter or early spring mornings!
I, like most teens, found it so hard to get out of bed in the morning. It was just too hard to climb out from under the covers and admit that the day had started, all my body wanted to do was just be left alone to sleep for 100 years. This feels so alien to me now, but the strength that the drug of sleep had on me remains a clear memory!
And of course, what ensued were these (probably daily) fights where you were asking, and asking, then yelling… and yelling… at me to get the heck out of bed. I just thought you were so mean. Why couldn’t you just let me sleep? Where was the harm? I wasn’t hurting anybody. So I’d be a little late, so you’d be a little late… so we might not make it in at all… whatevs… it’s just work/school. Imagine the beauty of just lazing around ALL day long. Go on, mum…. just IMAGINE it.
This is my teen self speaking of course. And only in my mind. Outwardly I was just saying “yeah alriiiiiight, in a minn-iiiittttt,” and then, into the covers – “she is so mean, she doesn’t understand how tired I am, how much I need to just sleeeeeeeeep.” Yawn… zzzzzzzzzzz. “GET. UP. NOW. Or I will be pouring a glass of cold water on you, young lady.” Or something of that ilk.
Once up and the desperate scrabble to get out the door, to the car at the end of the garden, and across town to the train station was underway, the problem then became whether or not I would make the train. For at that point the resistance in my mind started kicking in again. Why should I rush for stupid train? If I miss stupid train will look silly missing train and have to wait in cold on station platform on my own for half an hour instead of with my friends like would have been if on other train. If I miss train mum can just drive me to school like other mums, no? If I miss train she might feel really sorry for me and a) let me go home or b) wait with me for the next train.
The outward truth of the matter was: No, mum would not be driving you to school which at that hour in that traffic would take her about an hour out of her way – i.e. an hour late for work, rocking up at 9.30am. And no, mum was not going to wait for the train with you – please see above reason. And no, you were not going to be allowed to “just go home” are you insane – your mother NEVER allows days off school. Not even if your arm is falling off.
But I found that so hard to fathom. All I could think was I want to be dropped at the school door. I don’t want to go to school. I don’t want to wait for a train on my own. And things of that nature.
What didn’t occur to me is how my poor mum must have felt. She has since said to me that it was not fun to have to leave me to run for the train or to drive off while I wait for the next train on my own. So imagine the play on her emotions as a mother, on top of just getting herself up and out the door, making our lunch, organising what would be prepared for dinner, ironing uniforms (although this was always done before the week began).
But none of this has been so acute in mind as it has been in these last few weeks. When I’m ironing a school uniform on a Sunday night. When I’m preparing lunches (not now just for me and Mr OC). When I’m knocking and hammering and shouting through the bedroom door of my fifteen year old stepdaughter for the fifth time this morning. When I’m listening to her say she’s sick (when it’s only a few days since was last ‘sick’ with no signs of ‘sickness’). And hearing the ‘but I hate schooooool’ from beneath the covers separating her from the cosiness of her bed, and the doom and gloom of the outside world.
When I’m dashing around the apartment like a mad woman of a morning and I hear a voice from the other room saying to me, “can I stay home today to do my assignment?” “No. When is it due?” “Friday” “Well then you have two days, so you can work on it tonight and tomorrow night.” “But that’s not enough time.” Exasperation. “But you’ve known about it for ages!” Silence. Me – “Now hurry up or you’ll miss your bus.” “But aren’t you driving me in today so we can go to the uniform shop?” Damn! I forgot. I’ll have to text my boss I’ll be late. “Oh yes…. I forgot. Right, well we still have to hurry up. Like, really hurry up.”
Or maybe it’s when I (having now given up being Mrs Nice Stepmum) am shouting, as I’m shovelling kitty litter, that you WILL be going to school today. It is not up for discussion. If you don’t get up in the next two minutes you won’t make your bus which means you’ll be walking the 40 minutes to school and will be late. Get. Up. Now.
To be fair, in my role as stepmum, I think I have it a heck of lot easier than my poor mum. For a start my stepdaughter is not argumentative with an answer for everything like I was as a teen… as an adult…. like I am now…. (?) And she doesn’t require too much telling on most mornings – we seem to just get one, or maybe two mornings a week where it becomes a problem. On the whole we have a good young lady on our hands and a relatively smooth ride.
Which probably means that what I’m about to say is even more profound.
Mum. This is an apology for being argumentative. An apology for being moody. Scratch that, an apology for sometimes being so moody I was an immense cow. An apology for not understanding the yumminess of seafood. An apology for being terrible at getting up in the morning. And an apology for generally just making your life much more stressful than it needed to be. I finally get it.
I am not a mother yet but I have had a glimpse into this ‘guilt’. The worry of not having a rulebook for this job and wondering over every action you take whether you’re doing the best thing. Or thinking about time and where the heck does it go.
By the way mum, you looked amazing at our wedding. Like. Amazing. It’s always been abundantly clear you’re beautiful on the inside and I was so glad your beauty just radiated to wow every guest, and those who don’t know you as well as I do. You were stunning – our beautiful mumma. Love you more than words can say.
Schoolbag in hand, she leaves home in the early morning
Waving goodbye with an absent-minded smile
I watch her go with a surge of that well known sadness
And I have to sit down for a while
The feeling that I’m losing her forever
And without really entering her world
I’m glad whenever I can share her laughter
That funny little girl.