I have many flashback recollections of my earliest years —the feel of my father’s baggy trousers as I clutched them, trying desperately to keep up with his long strides; matching clothes my mother made for me and Barbie, pink gingham with white trim; masses of purple flowers in my nana's garden that smelt bitter despite their allure; the unreachable height of the wooden beds at my grandparents’ house and the almost brittle crispness of their linen sheets; playing shop beneath the peppercorn tree that stood in the vacant block of land behind our house; walking to kindergarten holding Mum’s hand. In fact, walking almost anywhere holding Mum’s hand. Feeling safe. Being certain that I was loved.
Never much of a hugger or kisser like most modern mums, she was a classic 1950s-movie-style mum — great cook, fussy housekeeper. She wore an apron, a ‘pinny’ she called it. Dad was the breadwinner and Mum the homemaker. She went to work only when we were at high school and she thought we were old enough to safely fend for ourselves. It must have been difficult for her with Dad working long hours and travelling for business but she never grumbled or made a fuss. They had a particular ritual whereby Dad would kiss her on the lips and the nose every morning before leaving for work and then repeat the process in reverse when he returned at night. And she always slipped into the bathroom to freshen up her ‘lippy’ just before he walked in the door.
For years I thought that the woman holding the flaming torch for Columbia pictures, was my mother. She was as beautiful as my mum.
I thought all mothers were like that, just as I believed all dads read the paper when they got home from work and played golf on Saturdays.
We were expected always to be polite and honest. Cleanliness and respect for people and property had to be maintained. There were no rules about eating everything on your plate or taking your shoes off at the door or only watching one hour of television as there were at my friends’ houses. Reasonable limits were set and we adhered to them. I don’t ever remember her being angry. She never raised her voice. I was going to grow up to be just like her.
Fuck was I ever wrong.