A mother is supposed to be quiet, soft and huggable. She should smell clean and fragrant. Right? Couldn’t be further from my mother. She’s gone now, bless her. The youngest of twelve, she was a child of the depression and a late-life mother. On my fifth birthday, Dad dropped dead on the pavement (not my fault – heart attack). They carried him home on an old door, My 45 year old Mum was faced with bringing up my brother and I on a widow’s pension. No way! Not her. She was no bludger. She went out and got a job, driving a cattle truck for a local farmer.
Mum smelt of cow poo. She was tough as old boots. She could swear like a trouper and lift a bullock, if she had to. She was a strong, capable woman and she brought up strong, capable daughters. Her softest motherly advice was, “Suck it up, kid! Life’s tough!” Oh, she loved us, we knew that. She just didn’t say it very often. And we loved her. What kid wouldn’t? How many other boys and girls had a mother who drove a truck and could crack a bullwhip!
I turned thirty the year my mother turned 80. As she lay, frail but still stroppy, in her federation bungalow in Campsie, I put my arms around her. I breathed in the still faint perfume of ‘eau de la bullock’ and wished beyond the stars that we could turn back fate and make it deal us a different hand.
Now I hug my own children tight, tell them every day how much I love them and wear a lovely perfume, so that when I am gone, they will remember softness, as well as strength, and recall the faint fragrance of Chanel No 9.