Swings and Staying


You will be the ‘golden ticket’ of my personal discovery. Is NOT something pubescent daughters says about their mothers, ever!

“Mum, you are the glittering example of who I want to be” … Was not the inner teen dialogue I was mediating on as I hoisted myself over the wall of my childhood home. ‘Escape’ however, was the more logical deduction reviewed by my adolescent brain.

Houdini was someone I was hailing that day as I marched off on an unannounced hike.  The reason, irrelevant. My pride was swelling, I was spilling over come-backs and chortling about my cleverness. Disappearing and causing household panic would have been a real juvenile moment, if it wasn’t for the smallest detail. I had walked no further than the local playground, only a block away. I stayed there huffing about a ‘never-there-for-me mother’ for the rest of the day. And…you guessed it, I proceeded to scuttle home the moment dinner time came.

I penned a letter to my mum on the day I fled to the park about restitution and friendship. It was an apology for the moments I had needed to grow and the times when I had failed. It was a prayer I had written for myself for the decade to come in the hope that I could stand alongside her and feel rest. I have kept it ever since.

These last couple of months, I had been ascending ‘anxiety mountain’ like ‘the little engine who could’. Reduced to house dwelling and munching on Coles malt biscuits on the couch had been an uncontested ritual. I was not garbed or gathered enough to put on pants or open the front door. But Mum knew the weight and strain of this life season. She always knows. Knows when to swoop in and takeover, while I am in the full flight of panic. She was the one who relinquished my need to control, with an invitation. She had planned a day for us together, to take my mind of things. Together we went shopping, we drove from store to store and spent time chatting, eating lunch and laughing about life, from farts to friends, for five hours. In reflection of that moment, I am pretty sure my mum would hustle in the shadows of an alley and be the solo member of a gang, if it meant fighting for the people she loves. But could that teen ever leave mockery’s swing? Growing up feels like replying to whispered reminders to change your mind and try again. In the moment you do, tides of gratitude surge, forgiveness calls on the current and hope rushes in. That is where I want to be.

I recall, my mum being there when I had a painstaking and sleepless 116-hour work week, to make sure I was looking after myself. When I woke up to find myself garnished in my own vomit while being concussed in the sick bay at school, she brought me home and cleaned me up. She showed up when I failed my practical at university. I didn’t know how to tell her, but she had intuition about my silence and she reminded me about the future she saw for me. When someone had made a remark about my singleness, she held me as I cried and told me she was proud of me; she hadn’t left. She was the sounding board for friendships in rough waters and relationships that broke me. I have seen her outraged at my ‘mistreatment’ when my coach told me to lose weight. In the chaos and in the calm, she is relentlessly present. She has never left. To this day, she hasn’t left. Not like that day I ran away to the park. Turns out I have been the one coming and going. 

Now at 26 and living out of home, my heart is no longer blowing smoke about hormonal gloom on a children’s swing. Now It is more like nostalgia and the gentle breeze of memories embossed by the healing of time, flickering with a different purpose for this chapter in my life. What was once warning sirens now sound like mercy bells, red flags of trauma are now white flags of peace. Motives and mayhem, have reduced like the cascading sun over the horizon. All the conversations about feeling misunderstood have faded without my notice and I am standing somewhere different.  Somewhere breath-taking and I am not alone.  She is still standing with me, my mum.

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