Dear Reservoir Mum,
I love watching Lewis play Under 9s footy, even at 8.30 in the morning, but that was some seriously tumultuous weather. The fact that Lewis seemed to have a great time is not the only factor to take into account here.
The wind was giving the rain claws and my face-skin was stinging and my Chuck Taylors felt like gumboots filled with potato and gravy and when I yelled ‘Go long Lewy!’ I couldn’t help but think of a terrified Helen Hunt, clinging to a stump and screaming into a cow-and-car-flinging tornado in the hit movie, Twister.
Seriously, the game should’ve been called off. And that’s why I thought I’d made the right decision on your behalf this Mother’s Day. I’d heard several women say that all they wanted for Mother’s day was some time to laze about and chill out and so I just decided, on the spot, that you’d enjoy some of that as well. The chance to stay out of today’s winter disaster acting as an extra bonus.
It was 9am when I bent my frozen knuckles to open my phone and text you because I was thinking of how you, Archie, Tyson and Maki were inside our home, wrapped in doonas watching TV. It made me crave that dry kind of comfort so bad that I almost regretted wetting myself to keep warm.
I also regretted my early morning pressure-cooker assumption that you’d rather be at home out of the weather than standing here on the boundary line, not only because I would have been the parent under the doona, but also because I detected a little disappointment in the tone of your reply text which read, ‘I’m a little disappointed I’m not there.’
My intentions were good when I snuck early riser Tyson down the hall this morning at 6.30am to give you some extra minutes sleep for Mother’s Day. Between then and 7.30, while the heavy rain hushed on our roof to assist your slumber, I got the boys fed and dressed as quietly as possible and it was only as I was walking Lewis down the hall, with several minutes spare to make our way to the footy ground, that I thought it would be crazy for you and the boys to suffer the elements by coming down just as the game was starting, as usual.
When I popped my head in to the bedroom you were laying there with your eyes open and suddenly this strange game football seemed the most ridiculous idea. My testicles must have been going nuts on the testosterone and my pineal gland on overdrive with melatonin because my body struggled to accept that slipping under the covers with you was not an option. Something hard-wired and reptilian stirred inside me at the same time that I remembered the smell of morning in your hair and the days when sex and whispering and cuddling was bookmarked by warmth and silence and sleep, as we laid back to back or face to face or with just an arm or leg reaching out for touch.
‘Happy Mother’s Day. I’ll get the boys to bring in your presents and then we better go,’ I said, coming back to the clock and the race against time.
‘We probably should do presents after football,’ you said. ‘It’ll be a bit rushed…’
‘Oh, okay,’ I said. ‘Hey, don’t worry about bringing Arch and Tys and Maki down. Take it easy. It’s been bucketing down all night. They’ll get wet and it’s freezing out there. They’re dressed and fed so you can stay home and relax… a bit.’
‘Yeah…’ you said, as I pulled the door shut to give you a little more peace and ushered Lewy down the hall to the car, the sound of Sunday morning TV from the living room providing confirmation that you’d get some more time to yourself.
On the way to the ground as Lewy and I talked wet-weather tactics Oh Sherrie by Steve Perry came on the radio to raise the water level of the great river of drama that lives inside me and with it came a sense of de ja vu; I felt like I’d missed something in the morning madness.
I went twenty-two years back to the night at Kylie’s house when we were so into each other but still so many nights away from getting together and admitting it. You were the dark silent type from the city who seemed aloof and sexy and was always smiling. I was the long-haired country boy drinking like a fish for the courage to talk to you and clowning about for your attention. As the wipers thumped back and forth like a slow heartbeat, the road rolled out in front of me and while Lewis was tucking the laces into his football boots it occurred to me that my memory of that night – our whole history from day one – is always shifting. From this point right now, with all I know about you and all we’ve been through together, I can say I loved you with this same desperate intensity even back then. The same is true when I go back even further into my life, before we’d even laid eyes on each other. In some strange comforting and satisfying way, I feel your presence there.
I was so wet and sweaty standing on the boundary line in the rain wearing denim jeans and an oversized jacket that I felt like a human piece of Tiramisu wrapped in baking paper but it wasn’t the weather weighing me down after I’d received your text and realised that – despite how well I know you – I’d made a meal of another Mother’s Day.
You’re into you career in a big way, of course, but much of your week and some weekends are gobbled up by the pure effort and work it requires and I know there are times when you feel you’re missing out on us – this family you work so hard for – and it’s in that light, despite my best intentions, that I kept you from the perfect Mother’s Day present.
You, me and the boys standing crazy-strong in our soaked through jackets and beanies and rain-filled rubber boots as we ran the boundary line screaming our support for Lewy into the chill wind. We would have had to buy more deliciously unhealthy dim sims to wrap our stiffened fingers and blue lips around on the way home and there’d be more than one boy to peel wet clothes from, to march through the steamy warm showers; and more in terms of preparation and clean up but then we’d be there, basking in post-hypothermic relaxation and the glow of shared experience.
It wasn’t solitude or pampering or a lazy morning you were after, of course, it was time with your family; the six of us together, all at once.
You might have guessed this but I’m listening to Steve Perry again, while I’m writing this letter late at night, and the great river of drama inside me is threatening to break its banks. We both know I’m an emotional creature but these reflective happy-sads seem to get me on Mother’s Day even more so than on your birthday or our anniversary and I’m not sure why that is.
Maybe it’s because reflecting on what you do for our children makes me reflect on what you do for our family – and going back through all the years we’ve had together – on what you’ve done for me.
Happy Mother’s Day