This will be maybe the twentieth Mother’s Day that I don’t contact my mum. Do I feel sad about that? Probably. Do I feel sad enough to ring her? Probably not. Does that seem a bit obstinate and juvenile? You decide.
Without churning up the dreadful past unnecessarily, I stopped making an effort to stay in touch when I recognised what a corrosive, unpleasant, wholly negative person she is. I don’t know where her bitterness came from, but I know where mine did: from the annual pilgrimage (4,000 kilometres, $2000+ expense) we made to the shithole town of my youth, where after a day or so of best behaviour she would regress to her natural viperish self. My mother loves the idea of visitors, see, but the reality of them is beyond her. It was an easy decision to cut her loose, and the relief that followed was only slightly tinged with regret. You’d put down a rabid dog even though you remember the good times before it began biting everyone.
My home in South Australia was not the rural wheat-belt town everyone assumes we grew up in. The south-east of South Australia gets plenty of rain (or used to) and my home was surrounded by old, dark pine forests, a mill-town where 90% of the occupants were employed in processing pinus radiata, that worthless plantation pine they use for chipboard and other low-end industrial applications. The mill was owned and operated by our version of the Rockefellers, a family who also controlled every other business that sprung up to service the working class poor. Like everyone else I grew up in Housing Commission, homes for the mill-workers, except my father worked felling the pines. Think ‘lumberjack’ if it’s easier. I was a lumberjack’s son.
Yes, I know, I had a giant head — for the brains, see. But anyway, I have no particular lingering emotion, certainly not animosity, towards my father. He was just a weak man. Slow to anger but volcanic when he erupted, I wasn’t on the receiving end often but knew about it when I was! No scars, though. But my mother! She would snap into a fury over nothing. No hint of ‘spare the rod, spoil the child‘ in that woman: I was unspoilt. Her favourite trick was to grab me by the hair (yes I had tonnes of hair back then) and shake me violently from side to side, stopping when she lost grip or my hair pulled out. I went to school with bald patches that oozed blood for days. Of course the teachers knew, but back in the day, they beat their kids too. Still, there were good times too — the fishing trips, the camping, the piles of presents under the Xmas tree. I prefer the old memories over the newer ones.
But then I got big. All those school holidays of slave-labouring for my dad made me the biggest kid in school. I was also the smartest kid in school, and Australians (FYI in case you’re not from here) hate anybody that shows them up. Some of my schoolmates were so fucking dumb it made your eyes water. I don’t know where the smarts came from, but I suspect it was books. Being a big, bookish kid with a silly surnames in Oz means the locals ostracized me. Especially when my dad made more money chainsawing trees than theirs did stacking logs in the mill. So I was an outsider, but also an outlier. Friends were few and far between, and my introversion stamped deep and hard. But I didn’t know any better, I dodged my nasty mother, ignored my absent father, and retreated into books or the bush. But when I got too big to physically hurt, my mother became emotionally cruel instead. I never had a defence to that, so I left.
Realistically, it’s all been for the best. I’ll be lucky to make three good decisions in my life — so far, I’ve used up two of them: Left home at seventeen, and second, married my wife. I still have one up my sleeve! It didn’t take long (maybe ten years) to realise that the obligatory Christmas trek to visit the family in the South-East was a really bad idea. Fast-forward to now, and the only time I think about my parents is on the days named after them, on birthdays and Christmas. But it was my mother who started this, over something petty and spiteful, so all I’ve done is repay her in kind. It would be so easy to call, but the sad reality is that I don’t want to anymore. Too much bitter water under the bridge. None of my siblings will ever bear grandchildren, and because of my mother’s behaviour she has missed out on the three I gave to her. But you reap what you sow, don’t you Mum. I’m sure my stalky sister will find this one day and relay it to the old witch. Tell her from me, sis: hope she’s enjoying her Mother’s Day.