Mother, will you help me build the wall?

My mother is a far more difficult thing to talk about. For a start, she is still alive and may be directly affected by what I say. Additionally, she is no longer who she was as I grew up. There are still traces and undercurrents, but a lot has changed.


Mother was conceived in Papua New Guinea during world war two. Her parents decided that the didn’t want her to be born or raised there. They had liked Australia, where they had passed through on the way through to Papua New Guinea, so thought they would move back to there and settle down to create their family.


Her parents were quite old to be starting a family, although not the oldest parents in the world. The generation gaps in my family are quite large. My grandmother was 35 when she had my mother. My mother was 28 when she had me. I was 28 when I had my daughter. I wonder if this trend will continue, or if it will be the trend of my daughters mother, who tends to have only 20 year generation gaps. Time will tell.


Mother grew up in a time of hefty discrimination. She was a first generation Australian, with a heavy East European accent trying to fit into a very white Australia who didn’t like foreigners. Her parents put her in the best schools, even though there was no expectation that she would be able to do anything with her educations. Best schools usually mean rich kids, with rich attitudes and loads of privilege. Mothers family were not rich. Mother lost her European accent at school and speaks excellent English.


Two years after her birth, her brother was born. Mostly he doesn’t play a part in my life, so I’m going to skip his side of the family. I just want to flag that he exists. He currently resides in the United States of America, near the border of a country that does not call itself American on the off chance that people would think it is the USA.


Mother was often used by her parents as the mediator, because neither parent would listen to the other. This was quite a strain on her, especially when she was dragged out of bed to do so late at night.  Her father interacted with her via the intellectual medium. She always struggled to be as brilliant as her father, but always felt that she fell short. Her mother wanted her to become a Princess Dianna clone. She struggled against this for a long time, feeling that she was worth more than just a pretty smile and a rich husband. Her mothers communication style was guilt, shame and manipulation.


When mother was 19, she moved out and convinced her embattled father to leave too. He never moved back with his wife and not too long afterwards they divorced. Mothers brother was left behind and shortly after graduating university moved to the USA. He does not talk about his life with his mother.


My mother excelled at high school and progressed to the end of year ten doing subjects such as chemistry, physics, mathematics, latin and english. After year 10, she was expected to only participate in domestic classes, since she was destined to become a house wife. This was the school model and her mother agreed with it. Mother did not.


Mother worked for an insurance company, where her skills and abilities were quickly recognised and put to use. She was placed in charge of a section, but not paid for the extra responsibility, because she lacked a male appendage. When one of the men wanted a promotion, she was demoted to fit him in, since he had a family to support. She was still expected to help him do his job, and still not paid any additional money. This was fairly typical of her employment history, even to this day. She shows promise, she is passed over, and then she leaves.


Mother grew up being taught that she was better than most people. It is a waste of time being friendly with the little people, because they just want to tear you down. What you are supposed to do is aspire to those greater than you, so be friendly to them so you can become elevated. The paradox here is that if they are like you, they will want nothing to do with you.


I, too, was taught this superiority complex. I work hard not to let it interfere with my life. I don’t always succeed.


My mother met my father at a friends party. This has been discussed in my fathers section. Mother was quite blown away by my father, but also quite wary of his girlfriend. They didn’t see each other for several years until mother went to night school to learn more stuff. Here she met my father and she would give him rides to school on her scooter. Slowly their relationship developed and they moved in together (father was no longer seeing the girlfriend, so was single). Mother says that she helped build a more complete man out of him. She describes him as brilliant in so many ways, but completely incapable in so many others.


She became quite frustrated that he couldn’t keep a job. He would get them, easily enough, but would not keep them. This was generally due to him being too smart and not being able to keep his mouth shut. She told me he went for a job with IBM, who did an IQ test on him. He scored way over 150, but he refused to swear their allegiance above and beyond his family.


They planned to have a family, and soon after had my brother. They were together for a good 6 years before making this choice. My brother was born and he was bright, capable and full of energy. Mother found that fathers lack of stable employment was creating quite a strain. Also, he wanted to sit around and talk philosophy too much, leaving the burden of parenting and domestic chores to her. Not long after I was born, she left him and aborted my sister. I don’t tend to think of her much.


She moved back in with her mother and tried to rebuild her life. She spent a few years hanging around a mustached man. I don’t know why that relationship ended, but she met my step father at a party not too long after. He was a ring in from a different state and they had some fun together. He came back about a year later and they had some more fun. He talked about moving his company to the East. Mother thought he meant to do that to move to her and offered to move to the West instead.


It turns out he was considering moving to the East because that was where the business was. He didn’t correct her. We figured it out much later.


So when I was half way through my third year of life, we moved West. She stayed with him for fourteen years. The last few years were very tricky and I was used quite a few times to help her process her feelings and emotions. Deja vu? She finally decided to leave him in the middle of my mid year twelfth year exams. I said to mother “I really do understand why you are leaving him, but your timing sucks”. I stopped taking year twelve seriously after that while I supported my mother through the separation.


She still defends his lack of involvement in the family to this day. I find that somewhat challenging, although I see this more as a reflection of how little she thinks she is worth that she thought he was as good as she could get.


When I was twenty two I met this wonderful girl. She moved in with me and for various reasons I moved out of the share house I was in. We moved back to my mothers house as we were not yet in a position where we could move in together alone, or move back to her parents house (who were still trying to work out which of us was taking advantage of whom – I think it was her taking me).


I had just secured a full time position at a company I had been doing some part time work at, and still servicing the customers I had for my computer business when things came to a head. I was quite horribly sick (a man cold!), had done a full shift at work, then left to fix a computer at a private residence. I got back home at about 2 am, cold, sore, tired and somewhat cranky. As I pulled into the driveway, I saw my mothers light was on and thought “oh crap.”


I went into the house and checked in on her. Her bedside light was out and she was on the “wrong side” of the bed reading from the other bed side lamp. She said “I have been waiting for you to come home and fix my lamp. It is very late.” It doesn’t sound like much, written down, but she had implied that I was guilty for her being awake so late, that all of my hard work was not as important as taking care of her and quite a few other things. Guilt and manipulation.


I asked “Why? Can’t you change a light bulb?” and went to bed quite angry. It took about another hour to calm down enough to sleep.


In the morning I slept in. My partner had got up and was hanging washing when my mother came out and asked her to wake me up as it was time for me to mow the lawn and cut a tree down and I had slept enough. My partner, who had consoled me the night before, layed into my mother pointing out how hard I worked, how late I had worked, how sick I was and how hard it had been for me to sleep being as pissed off as I was. I woke up to this argument and separated the two. I pointed out I was too sick to do garden chores.


The next day, mother informed me she was giving me until the end of the month to move out as she didn’t have to accept that from my partner. I pointed out the end of the month was four days away. She said she knew. I didn’t talk to her again for another two and a half years.


When I did come back, she slowly began to change who she was into who she is now. I know she doesn’t see the difference, but it is there and it is enough.