this (vis­it­ing) life

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Contents - Costas Bel­las

I visit my mother at least once a week to find out if she needs any­thing done around the house. She suf­fers from arthri­tis, so my vis­its usu­ally start with a run­down of all her aches and pains.

I re­cently no­ticed how much smaller and frailer she looks. I some­times wish she could again be that ro­bust woman I re­mem­ber as a child.

My mother still lives in the fam­ily home that she and my fa­ther bought 50 years ago, even though it has been 15 years since he passed away. (His land­scap­ing projects sur­vive, but in a state of dis­re­pair.)

For me, ev­ery nook and cranny holds mem­o­ries and, when I visit, my mother and I like to sit on the bench my fa­ther built un­der the mango tree in the back yard and rem­i­nisce.

Dur­ing a re­cent visit as we sat and sipped our cof­fees, I asked if she re­mem­bered what the state of the house was when they first moved in.

With that ques­tion, her eyes lit up with ex­cite­ment as the mem­o­ries of the hard­ships she en­dured and over­came in those early years flooded back.

“You know, when we came here there was no wash­ing ma­chine, there was only a cop­per caul­dron and I had to fill it up with a bucket from that tap over there,” she said.

“Not only that, but I had to search for fire­wood around the neigh­bour­hood to heat up the wa­ter.

“The house had no proper floor­ing and in the win­ter the cold wind would rush in through the floor boards,” she con­tin­ued, with grow­ing en­thu­si­asm.”

My mother was on a roll now and I lis­tened with amaze­ment.

“And there were many rats back then and snakes; in fact, when we fi­nally took out the old oven, there was a rat’s nest in the door.”

When she had fin­ished, I praised her for mak­ing such a great home for us, and said that I didn’t think many peo­ple to­day would have the pa­tience to put up with such prim­i­tive con­di­tions or the en­durance to spend years mak­ing small im­prove­ments.

I told her that she and Dad made a home that was filled with won­der­ful mem­o­ries.

I used to think of my vis­its to my mother as a chore be­cause she al­ways had a list of jobs she wanted done, but now I look for­ward to do­ing things for her be­cause she did so much more for us by mak­ing this house a great home, and al­ways do­ing her best to make us happy and feel se­cure.

Look­ing at her face, beam­ing with pride, her aches and pains seemed tem­po­rar­ily for­got­ten as she was trans­ported by her mem­o­ries back into the young en­er­getic body she once had.

Re­view wel­comes sub­mis­sions to This Life. To be con­sid­ered for pub­li­ca­tion, the work must be orig­i­nal and be­tween 450 and 500 words. Sub­mis­sions may be edited for clar­ity. Send emails to this­life@theaus­tralian.com.au

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