“We’re thick as thieves, Mum and I.”
We shouldn’t need a dedicated day to celebrate mothers. We shouldn’t need endless promotional emails from retailers, gaudy advertising and special deals on Facebook to remind us to show our mums a bit of love.
It’s easy, however, to get swept up in the hustle bustle of everyday life and forget to show our gratitude as frequently as we’d like. I know that I’m guilty of it. So I’d like to take a moment today to tell you a bit about my mum.
My mum’s name is Vlasta. She named me Elizabeth for the Queen, both because it was easy to pronounce (unlike her own) and because she had a running joke with a British family friend that she’d name me after the monarch if I were born a girl. I was born two years after my parents had bought a hotel; something of a joke of fate. I was a complete surprise — the mistake my parents never made twice.
My earliest memories of my mother are of sitting on the bathroom vanity as a toddler, watching her get ready for the day. She was so glamorous and beautiful that I was mesmerised by her.
She smelled of Yves Saint Laurent Opium when I hugged her, and she always had everything under control. She was the glue that kept both our family and our family business together. That much has never changed.
As a working mother and a business owner, she had heavy responsibilities to juggle. She would often have to work late, and I remember her coming into my bedroom to hug me goodnight after I’d gone to bed. Her hair would smell of cigarette smoke and cooking smells in those days, when smoking was allowed in restaurants and bars. She instilled her tireless work ethic in me by osmosis. Or maybe it was already in my blood.
She used to take me to the library after school. My mother has never been a big reader herself, but she nurtured my love of books until reading became a lifelong passion. She would pull books from the shelves for me, reading blurbs and carrying the ever-growing pile of titles that I tossed into her arms to the counter. When we went to Auckland, she’d take me to Borders, where we’d while away hours. I grew up surrounded by stories in an environment where you could never have too many books.
I still have every single one of those books. They’ve been lovingly stored at my parents’ house since I moved out nearly a decade ago. It’s highly likely that I’ll have my nose buried in one of them as you read this, as I’ve been summoned home this weekend to take the books out of their boxes and put them into the new bookshelf that I know Mum and Dad had built especially for me.
It’ll free up some cupboard space, which is in high demand given that Mum had kept every single school exercise book I ever owned in boxes for me until very recently. It wasn’t until last Christmas that I finally biffed out my printing book from 1995.
My parents have been busy people for as long as I can remember, but my mother still made time to have fun. We moved house when I was about 6, and we bought new beds. The mattresses came wrapped in plastic, and the house had two long, steep staircases. Dragging the mattresses up to the bedrooms with Mum soon turned into hours of surfing the mattresses down the stairs together. “Don’t tell Daddy,” she said, conspiratorially. It’s a phrase that may or may not have been used once or twice since then.
We’re thick as thieves, Mum and I. “You two stick together like shit to a wet blanket,” my father has often said. She’s the one that I call when something good happens, when something bad happens, or when I need someone to tell me that it’ll all be okay.
She told me on Monday that there’s nothing I could do that would ever make her ashamed of me. That she would always love me, no matter what. It was exactly what I needed to hear this week.
My mother may be shorter than I am (a feat that is quite difficult, despite what people think when they’ve seen me in the paper or on television), but she is a tower of strength. She loves fiercely. She’s pint-sized, but you wouldn’t want to mess with her or the people she loves.
She’s always been in my corner.
Even when I’ve written something outrageous that has seemingly incensed half of the country. She told me this week that I need to get back into writing more controversial columns.
Sorry, Mum. You’ll have to wait another week, I’m afraid. But don’t worry, I’ll give them hell next Saturday.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mama. I am so lucky to have such a wonderful mother, friend and role model.
She smelled of Yves Saint Laurent Opium when I hugged her, and she always had everything under control.