"How a stranger helped me express my love for my mum."

Thanks to our brand partner, OPSM

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.


Watch a recap of the OPSM in-store event here. Post continues after video.

Five minutes later, I watched as a man’s heart was read to him by a stranger. The two entered and exited my vision as customers moved around and between us, but there was no mistaking the vulnerability on both sides of the counter. Words were written on cards and hearts - and then the moment passed, as moments do. A laugh and a handshake, and Philip was left waiting at his post, customer leaving with their feelings and Philip’s passion on a card.

Each interaction was unique, and each poem more so. Sometimes Philip’s pen moved more surely than other occasions; often his thoughts were interrupted by nervous chatter from the person standing across from him. There was light-heartedness amongst sentimentality, as tales of childhood and bad habits punctuated the air. Some men played the side of the counter with their fingers in nervous anticipation, waiting to hear their words read in poetry back to them; others waited patiently, though wearing their curiosity quite obviously.
Which brings us back to that morning, when not long before he was to enter the store, Philip proposed writing a poem for my mother.

"OPSM offered customers the opportunity to show their mothers how they truly see them." Image supplied.

It’s beautiful. Beautiful enough to make a daughter cry. I won’t share it here – that is for my mother alone. The process of lingering on memories I hadn’t brought to the surface in a while; of dwelling on the extraordinary woman my mother is – that was the gift that OPSM and Philip Wilcox gave to me. I can’t thank them enough.

Happy belated Mother’s Day. I hope you found the words to express how much you love your mother.

How do you show your love for your mum?