Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Am I Turning Into My Mother?

This whole thing began when I looked in the mirror one night and realized I was becoming my mother.
            This isn’t intrinsically a bad thing – she’s a remarkable woman – but for someone who has never felt older than about eighteen, it was disturbing.
            I remembered my elderly grandmother – she must have been close to fifty – as she discussed the march of time.
            Anno domini,” she said sagely, “The years prevail.”
            I was impressed by her grasp of the Latin language until I learned some of it myself.
            After the initial shock of my own imminent senescence, I contemplated my future. For some reason, I imagined myself as a cake. After all the kneading, rising and baking of my youth; the decorating of my adulthood; I was now about to dessicate, and – in this same heartless mirror – watch my icing melt. 
            Oh, crap! I thought. I better get on and have some adventures before I’m past it!
            I was thirty-three.

For years, I wondered what I was doing here, when I could be out there.

But back to my mother for a minute. She was the second of four children, born in England just before "the war". My Australian grandfather and Welsh/English grandmother emigrated to Australia soon after "the war", and bought a house on Sydney's Northern Beaches (half a century before it became one of Sydney's hottest addresses). They shipped their heavy wooden furniture from England and hung a large portrait of a man I always assumed to be my Great Grandfather above one end of a louvered oak dining table. 

Two things came as a surprise to me when I studied Modern History as a young teenager. Firstly, there had been more than one war, and secondly, I was not even distantly related to Winston Churchill. 

As a child, I assumed the subject of this portrait by Arthur Fan was my Great Grandfather.
My mother has always claimed to have been far more traumatised by her forced move to Australia than living through the Blitz on the outskirts of London. And while she is the one who has become famous for her refrain, "I wish you would not go so ... close, deep, high, fast, far out ...", she has been as adventurous as any of us.
     As a new bride in the late 1950s she grew bored of being  a housewife and went door to door until one of the local businesses gave her a job as a receptionist. This was almost unheard of. In the mid-1960s, she and my aunt decided to learn to ski. They drove 350 miles in a blue-green Holden with fins at the back. The very best part of it was that they took me with them. The Australian ski fields were in their infancy, and the ski gear was still made of wood and leather, held together with springs and hooks. But we learned to ski, my Mum and me, in 1964; which was one of the hugest snow seasons on record. I still remember skidding to a halt before a steel door at the bottom of a snow covered ramp, the blizzard snatching at my woollen hat and gloves as I came in from the morning lesson; sliding and falling, picking myself up and sliding and falling again. Then wrestling with spring bindings and leather ski boots before putting sixpence into a vending machine and running up a long hallway to our room, and my bunk bed, with a bar of Cadbury's peppermint chocolate. What fun!

Spirited but not exactly stylish.

Had I realised the challenges my taste for chocolate would present in later life, perhaps I and my mother would have opted for a banana instead, but there was so much we did not know back then. Fortunately my taste for adventure was far more healthy, if no less challenging. And while my mother attributed my need to find a frontier to my father's itchy feet, I suspect she is equally to blame.

No comments: