When asked about my mother, I talk of tall glasses of milk, and sweeping steps up corporate ladders. Of broken glass ceilings, and a shawl placed on my bare shoulders by gentle hands.
It took a man with folded notebook and black marker in hand, on a bench in morning air, to realise it.
This Mother’s Day, OPSM offered customers the opportunity to show their mothers how they truly see them. As we age, some of us misplace our ability to convey the extent of our affection to our mothers. In particular, affectionate little boys can grow up to be stoic, tight-lipped men. The annual holiday’s standby of chocolates and flowers are always welcome gestures; but they say nothing of what we love about the women who have raised us, who continue to inspire us. Nothing of the routines that preceded our being lovingly tucked into bed at night, of the scent of meals fed to us throughout childhood; nothing of their specific ways of loving us – or of the specific way we love them.
"Philip proposed writing a poem for my mother." Philip and Mariella. Image supplied.
Enter Philip Wilcox. Current Australian Poetry Slam Champion, and adoring son of a woman with tenderness in her hands and fire in her heart. For one Wednesday afternoon, Philip stood amongst designer frames and hurried optometrists at the OPSM George Street storefront, and took five minutes from customers in exchange for the words to express their love for their mothers. He’d ask a handful of questions – what’s a place you and your mother have shared? What’s something you admire about her? – then long, wavy hair tucked behind ears, bent over a counter at the hips, Philip would compose a poem for customers, most often men, to write in a card to give their mothers for Mother’s Day.
So approached the first customer.
He was dressed in a plaid shirt, sleeves rolled above his elbow so one could glimpse the tattooed skull adorned with flowers beneath. As they talked, Philip’s hands were ever moving, and though curious and willing, the customer’s hands lived securely in his jean pockets. It struck me that this man was giving over precious memories he probably hadn’t accessed in years, and to a person previously unknown to him. Words moved back and forth over the metre or so of white counter space, until Philip thought he had enough to go off.
We waited. Words fell softly on the paper from Philip’s mouth, as easily and readily as they poured from his marker.