Which mother? The one of my childhood, conservative, judgemental, and with a clear sense of how the world works? Or the one I am still becoming acquainted with now, who sees the subtle shades of grey, who perceives the nuances in tone at the age of 80?
Which mother? The one who was concerned in infinitesimal detail about what clothes I wore, the length of my hair, and whether I had visited enough aunties and uncles at the weekend? Or the one who now is quietly pleased if I remember to call any of the uncles and aunties when I’m in town?
I look at the life I’m living now, on the other side of the world from my mother, and wonder often what each mother would say. She who left her own mother to travel thousands of miles with her husband. She who raised her own family in so many different countries, no assistance, little support. She who is learning to live for, and with herself. She who is becoming comfortable in her own skin, and finding her own voice.
What would the harried, mother of my youth, the sometimes-harridan of my teens say about the life I live now? The mother I now Skype with in her daytime-nighttime and my nighttime-daytime is a different person. Unrecognisable to her younger self, I’m certain. Unrecognisable to many of her friends.
The lone survivor of her family, the lone survivor of her marriage, she has endured through trials. She sees the world differently now, and the world sees her differently. No longer do the judgements of society weigh upon her shoulders, hunching them in submission. Her new-found deafness has enabled her to tune out the shrill caws of stereotypes, and this-is-how-you-shoulds.
She makes her own rules now. Travels through unfamiliar lands on her own terms. She wears a new courage, still sporting the price-tag, stiff and not quite worn-in. It suits her though. Cut to fit just right.
What would the mother of my youth say? She would be unforgiving and unrelenting. She would be stop-complaining-I-did-what-you’re-doing-and-more-with-no-support-from-family-or-husband. Her you-don’t-realise-how-lucky-you-are-how-good-you’ve-got-it would ring out like a clarion call to my inadequacies.
What would the mother of my now say? She is worried and caring. She feels the tug on her heart and the emptiness of distance. She measures the loneliness of days through the number of classes she does at the community centre. She waits patiently-impatiently by the computer for a Skype call. Her face lights up when internet goblins deign to establish a tenuous connection. She lets loose fragments of the girl she was, a look, an excited shuffle, and I glimpse the mother I have never known, the one who was before she was a mother.