It’s Mother’s Day in France

Posted on 03 June 2012

Although I wrote a blog for Mother’s Day in Canada, I did not get round to publishing it. I was preoccupied with projects in our house and the rental house. I was also preparing some little things for Gill’s wedding. Then I escaped to Madrid to meet Marlene who, wonder woman, had just walked over 550 km on the Camino de Santiago.

I will write about this trip later – or not I fear (I find it harder and harder to alight and write) – which doesn’t mean that the four days were not memorable. We had some great moments, some hilarious ones, wandering, getting lost (neither of us have a good sense of direction), eating good food (lots of patatas bravas for me), and doing the usual tourist stuff – sightseeing and people-watching and visiting the Prado.

It was a great four-day escape and good to hang out with my friend. I only had a fleeting thought of myself as a mother when I saw a wedding dress that I thought Gill would like. As I seldom see my mother or my children, I am not often mothered or mothering any more. I think about them often and love them madly but they are not a part of my day to day life.

When I was writing about motherhood a few weeks back, trying to think of something original to say, my mind flipped back to an incident that happened in 1992. This was the year Rob was nominated for an Academy Award and we escaped the media by fleeing to Mexico. We travelled down the eastern coast from Cancun to Cozumel where we were lured by advertisements for day boat trips, following the route of Jacques Cousteau.

We bought tickets in the early morning and boarded a small vessel with around 6 or 8 others. We were not told there was a storm approaching and it was inadvisable for small craft to venture from the harbour. I remember stepping into a small shabby boat – not quite the luxury cruise outlined in the advertisement – and setting off. The noxious smell and loud noise of the engine were unpleasant but the sun was shining, the blue water crystal clear, and the scenery so gorgeous that we forgave all until the trip home. Suddenly the sky grew dark and waves started splashing onto the deck. Within minutes, the waves were so large that the boat started rocking wildly and the entire deck was coated in water. Each wave soaked us afresh. The captain advised the passengers to take cover under a small canopy which offered little to no protection. When one passenger went sliding across the deck and only managed to crawl back with difficulty, we formed a human chain. Two men sat and held onto sturdy posts. They spread their legs and another passenger set between them, holding tight, while yet another sat between theirs holding tight. I was sure we were all going to die and the one thought that rushed to my brain was “I want my mother.”

I want my mother? I had left home over twenty years ago. I hadn’t consciously thought of my mother as a safe haven for years before that but there I was, soaken, freezing, fearful for my life, wanting my mum.

I remember my big pregnant belly and the shape of a tiny foot disturbing the surface. Within days, I was holding that foot in my hands. I was my child’s lifeline. My baby clung, clawed, demanded all my time and energy and I gave it without complaint (or maybe I complainted a little.)

Now my baby is a quarter of a century and my two sons over thirty. They have all gone, leading their own lives, doing what pleases them, and I am glad. Being a mother was one of the most difficult jobs that I’ve ever done. At one time, I thought that I knew what was good for my children. Sometimes I disappointed them, wouldn’t let them do what they wanted to do, in order to keep them safe – and even though I knew then that I was being over cautious, I also knew that I couldn’t live with myself if something happened to one of them.

Now I don’t know what is good for them. (Sometimes I don’t know what is good for me.) I wouldn’t dream of telling my children how to live their lives. (Often, they are the ones who give me clues on how to live mine.) I simply love them.

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