The Mothership believed in throwing you in the deep end and seeing if you’d sink or swim. Quite literally.
It was Tuesday Night Swimming Club, I was eight years old and it was the 25 metres freestyle race. By that age most Australians could swim a lap of the whole island if called upon, but I was always a slow learner. I stood at the pool edge, shivering with dread as we waited for the starter’s pistol.
I looked over to Mum. She was leaning against the pool fence with what she’d say was as an encouraging smile but I thought embodied pure sadism.
I hate you, I fumed silently. I can’t believe you’re making me do this. I will drown right here in all that kiddie pee and then you’ll be sorry!
The gun fired and the fright tumbled me into the water. I thrashed along for all of ten metres, spluttering and flailing, before some bloke had to jump in and fish me out. I felt like the eyes of the whole town were on me.
See Mum, I glowered, Told you I sucked.
But I’m sure all she said was, “Well done.”
My main complaint growing up that Mum always made me do things I didn’t want to do. Drama classes, netball, Brownies, the dishes; looking up words in the dictionary rather than her just telling me how to spell something. I wasn’t just lazy, I was scared and I hated new things. It was like she existed purely to dream up more ways to make me suffer.
It’s only when you’re old enough to figure you out for yourself, that you realise she had you pinned right from the start. That sometimes you needed to be pushed, and that you wouldn’t have turned out as interesting if she hadn’t.
It’s incredible to think that when I was that grumpy brat at the swimming pool, Mum was the same age as I am now. The Mothership steered us through all the dramas and divorces; droughts, deaths, depression, dead-end jobs. There were situations so surreal and ridiculous; there were arguments so volatile I thought we’d never recover. But when that fades, what you remember most is how you never had to doubt that she loved you. Other things filled you with fear and uncertainty, but never her.
The older I get the more I appreciate that. And the more I appreciate being thrown in the deep end. Sorta.
Happy 50th Birthday, Mothership! You rule the school.
(If you’re new round here and haven’t seen the brilliant blog fodder she’s provided over the years, here’s the Mothership archives. And if you’ve been reading about her for awhile, why not leave a wee birthday message? She’s always watching!)