I’m sorry I made you cry.
I’ll never forget seeing you standing under the streetlight at the end of Carols by Candlelight, wiping your eyes, while the crowds streamed around you as they walked away from the beach.
I’d just told you I never wanted to see you again. I was scared, and I needed your help. Rather than asking you nicely, though, I demanded, and when you hesitated, just for a second, I panicked. And before we knew it, we were yelling at each other again and we haven’t spoken since Christmas.
If I was logical, which I know I’m not, especially when I’m anxious, I would realise that time spent with you is a gift. We live so far apart, and we see each other so rarely, I should try to make your visits as fun and harmonious as possible. But instead I end up making them painful, and all about the past.
Watch: The things we’ve learnt from our mums. Post continues…
As you know, my life has been a series of disasters, from my stupid and impulsive teenage marriage to a string of university courses and jobs that I didn’t have the willpower to persevere with. But when I try to justify this history to myself, I find it much easier to blame it all on you and Dad moving away when I was nineteen, rather than accepting any responsibility for my own actions.
Did I want you to remain in Victoria rather than move to Queensland? I have argued ‘yes’ many times. But the truth is, I was happy to see you go. I was a nineteen-year-old, recently-separated university student who was excited about the future and drunk on freedom and I didn’t need my mother hanging around … or, at least, that’s what I convinced myself.
‘Come with us,’ you said, while you were packing after Dad accepted his new job. ‘See it as a new adventure. We’ll have fun.”
I looked away.
I didn’t want anything to do with what I thought was another one of your stupid ideas. Why would I want to live near my parents?
But fun times never last. And when I began to find things hard on my own, I started to blame my inability to cope on you. Money problems? It was because you had moved away. If I still lived at home, I wouldn’t have to pay rent, would I? Failing subjects in my course? How could I study enough when I had to work as well? Binge eating? I was lonely, and missing my family.
The biggest thing I blamed you for, though, was the fear I felt when I was pregnant and I discovered my baby was going to be a girl. I mean, how could I be expected to form a close relationship with my own daughter, when the one with my mother was in tatters?
What really killed me, in those lonely moments when I was buying baby clothes by myself, is that you really wanted a daughter. You’ve told me many times that you hoped that you were going to have a girl. But you didn’t know, of course, because it was back in the days before ultrasounds were routine in pregnancy. And when you first saw my raw, red, scrawny body you told me your voice caught.