Sunday was Mother’s Day in Australia. Apart from the children’s birthdays, Mother’s Day is one of my favourite celebrations, easily beating Father’s Day (too much work for me), my birthday and even Christmas as a day that I cherish. This year Mother’s Day fell on the weekend following my weekend of jubilee when Rich had taken the children camping so my expectations for being pampered were low (one week later Rich is still recovering) which didn’t matter in the slightest as I was still on a high from last weekend’s delicious 36 hour “me-athon”.
On Thursday of last week I went to a funeral. It was a double first for me – the first time I have been to a funeral in Australia and the first time I have been to the funeral of a child. The five year old son of a friend lost his lifelong battle with a degenerative disease that has kept him incapacitated for four of his five short years. The nature of his disease is such that children affected by it have a life expectancy of only about 30 months, rarely living to see their third birthday. It is a testament to the enormous faith of his parents and the extraordinary care that they took of their son that the brave little guy defied all medical expectations and lived, pain and medication free for twice as long as he was expected to at the time of his diagnosis.
I wept silently as my friend stood up in front of a packed church of around four hundred people and told the story of her son’s life; a beautiful and seemingly perfectly healthy baby until, at age nine months, his parents started to wonder why he wasn’t achieving the same milestones as his peers, or as their other children had done. It was many tests and a few months later, shortly after his first birthday, when their whole world came crashing down and doctors delivered the agonising news that their beautiful boy was terminally ill and would only see one more birthday, two at the outside. My friend’s very moving speech was delivered without a crack in her voice against a backdrop of the most beautiful photographs of all the amazing adventures that they had managed to cram into their son’s all too short life. She bravely talked of all the things they used to do together and what she would miss most about him – holding him into her chest and feeling his soft warm breath on her neck. The whole congregation was in tears by this point.
Mother’s Day this year fell only four days after this funeral and after calling in to see my friend, delivering a big hug and some home-made bread for her family to share that day to show that we were thinking of them, I was even more determined than usual to enjoy this special day with my happy, healthy, vibrant children, appreciating their home made cards, pictures, poems and gifts from the school Mother’s Day stall.
Every year as part of the school’s fundraising efforts the year six students host a stall which the children from the other years can purchase a gift for their mums for one gold coin (one or two dollars). As is the nature of these events, the stock for the stall comes from donations from school mums and we are encouraged to clean our out bathroom cabinets and kitchen cupboards and donate unopened bottles of lotions and potions, chocolates or scented candles etc. Of course there is a risk the children will spy something familiar that you have donated and buy it back for you knowing you would like it as you already have one!
After breakfast in bed lovingly prepared – a fried egg face served with so much ketchup it looked like it had a punch in the nose – it was time to open my gifts; grapefruit shower gel from Ben and pomegranate soap from Matthew (the boys know I like to be clean). From Katie I received a very useful necklace, home-made from coloured paperclips serving both a decorative and a practical purpose and a bottle of canary yellow nail polish (“There wasn’t any pink, Mummy,” said Katie by way of explanation). From Zach I received some rose-scented hand-cream and a t-shirt congratulating me on successfully completing the New York marathon in 2011 (I’m sure I would have remembered such an accomplishment but apparently I am to wear the t-shirt with pride even though the event is lost from my memory). They were all beautiful gifts and I loved helping the children tear back the greaseproof paper whilst anticipating what might be inside.
With my fluorescent yellow toes, smelling like a fruit basket and wearing my handy necklace and NY marathon t-shirt, it was time to venture out. Katie and Zach were suffering the effects of two late nights and were in desperate need of a nap so Rich willingly agreed to stay home and supervise the siesta whilst I spent the rest of the morning with Ben and Matt; I suggested a bike ride and Rich gave them some money so they could take their sweet-smelling mum out to lunch. They knew I had cycled over the bridge the previous weekend during my time of jubilee and were keen to see if they could rise to the challenge. Cycling over the bridge is easy and spectacular so I knew that wouldn’t present a problem if they could manage to push their bikes up the steep path that gets them to the top; the challenge would be cycling from our house to the bridge – it’s about 6 kms of unforgiving hills. But the boys were keen to try and we had plenty of time – Rich didn’t seem in any hurry for us to return as he settled the little ones in bed with a couple of chapters of The Faraway Tree and settled himself down in his hammock with the Sunday paper.
Matt and Ben have been cycling to and from school pretty much every day since we arrived in Australia so they are fairly fit and handle their bikes well but I didn’t expect them to be able to manage all the hills between home and the bridge and was ready for us to spend a significant amount of time pushing bikes up hills and freewheeling down. I must say how proud I was of them when they both managed to cycle all the way there over the bridge and back (twice) and then all the way home again, pausing only to treat me to chicken and chips for lunch in Kirribilli as I tried to spy Nicole Kidman out having a Mother’s Day lunch with her brood (although realistically I didn’t expect that she would be sitting on a plastic chair outside Chargrilled Charlie’s waiting for her number to be called so she could enjoy the Mother’s Day special!).
After a fine feast with two very handsome companions we cycled home. Upon arrival the boys were exhilarated but exhausted; they felt (rightly) exceedingly proud of themselves but had little enthusiasm for any more physical activity and were secretly hoping for a quiet afternoon of computer games. Katie and Zach were freshly roused from their siesta and had other ideas so the next planned activity for Mother’s Day was a trip to the skate park.
I had been secretly hoping that perhaps besides my lovely lotions, yellow nail polish, paper clip necklace and NY marathon t-shirt, there might have been an appointment card for a facial or a massage that was scheduled for the afternoon whilst the rest of the family stayed and home and beavered away in the kitchen making roast beef and Yorkshire puddings. But alas, it was a trip to the skate park for me followed by a home cooked supper of beans on toast.
But the only thing that really mattered to me was that I had all my babies with me all day and I could cuddle each of them in turn and feel their warm breath on my neck.