This morning I was having a coffee with my mum. She lives close by so I am fortunate to be able to see her on a regular basis. Today she was showing me some things when she was cleaning up one of the rooms in her home. You see my mum is a hoarder - she keeps most things. Case in point is that I am in my forties and only recently she showed me the RSVP notes to my 21st birthday party that she had saved…along with my Grade 2 writing books. So when she pulled out some stuff from her bag I was prepared for something similar. Yet it wasn’t - what she had found was far more profound. You see she had found parts of her ‘old’ life. That life she had lived for nearly 30 or so years before she met my father and certainly before I was even a thought.
The old pictures were travel pictures. The photos showed mum with some girlfriends sitting aboard a boat on their way to Europe. Beside her was her ex fiancée. A Maltese man she had intended to marry but it wasn’t to be. Other pictures showed her dancing with friends in Canada, standing outside a hotel in London and so on. Each picture depicted a young woman, mid twenties at best. Smiling brightly. Fit. Healthy. Strong. The diary entries she had also kept showed trips to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), Europe and even Cairo. She would go on to visit all those places, living in some and taking refuge in others. An overnight stay in a toilet in London because she had nowhere to sleep and had run out of money is a story I haven’t forgotten, nor is her living on cups of tea for a week because the grocery bill was over budget. All these stories, all these tales, these friends, these experiences, these life moments happened to a woman that in the pictures looked nothing like my mum. They happened to the woman whom I know best yet I was never a part of those times and nor would I ever be. I will never know my mother as that young woman. I only know her as my mum.
And so do our own children only know us as ‘their mums’. They may hear stories; they may listen raptly as we share our experiences, yet the life we lived before we had children is something that will always be foreign to them. I often wonder how my children view me. I think they see me as a nag; a mother who yells too much, gets cross quickly and is constantly telling them what to do. They see me simply as their mum and dare I say an uber driver and a chef. Like I have done with my own mum, they have not imagined what I would have been like before they were around. They would not recognise nor even know the person I have been for most of my life. It’s not on their radar and it’s not part of their present. It’s a history that they will never know nor be a part of. Yet like my own mum, so much of our past has made us who we are today and so many of our experiences have brought us to the place we now find ourselves. I should appreciate that my mother has, in life, been so much more than just ‘my mum’. It may be our most important job but it certainly isn’t, and hasn’t been, our only one. I’ll try and remember that next time I see my own mother and I’ll try and delve a little deeper into why in fact she did break up with that Maltese fiancée…..