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Mum’s perfect, quirks and all
by Jill Alphonso

THE ground was rumbling, like the sound of an angry bear. The walls were groaning, as they listed from left to right. The hotel room we were in swayed to weird angles all around us.

My mother and I were in Melbourne earlier this month and we were experiencing a rare Australian earthquake.

It was later reported to be a 4.7 on the Richter scale, with the epicentre less than 100km away from Melbourne.

“Oh dear,” my mother said mildly, looking up from her Hello! magazine as the room began its jerky mambo. “What on earth is that?”

I told her what was happening and her eyebrows leapt towards her hairline.

Grabbing my coat, I shooed my mother, who was blustering about what else she should take with her (Did she need her purse? Would we be out for long? How cold was it?), outside in an evacuation attempt. She stopped suddenly, midway down the stairs, to wail: “You can’t go outside, you have no shoes on!”

We halted our exit once more to argue over who had the room key.

The quake lasted less than 10 seconds, with no later reports of damage to the city.

However, for me, it was the pinnacle of an eventful one-week trip with my mum, whose reactions to the earthquake encapsulated everything about her that I love and which exasperate me.

Her quirks and idiosyncrasies have grown as she got older – she is nearing 60. We don’t live together and we haven’t taken a holiday together for years.

Hence, that holiday was a chance for me to rediscover my mother all over again.

On the trip, she refused to take any mode of public transport besides cabs.

She would not walk from one place to another unless both were within the confines of a shopping mall.

And her pace was that of a wounded tortoise. But, funnily, if she saw something she wanted to buy from far away, she would gambol towards it with a spring in her step, like that of a nine-week old puppy.

Anyone who is close to my mother will tell you that she is an irrepressibly difficult woman.

While she is generous, warm, funny and immensely kind, she is also deliberately contrary and definitely has her own mind. No one could accuse her of lacking an opinion, either.

As a daughter, I struggle with ingrained responses to her and the things she does.

While I love her for raising me, for loving me unconditionally and for giving of herself to me, I – like other kids, I hope – struggle with everything from occasional exasperation to embarrassment.

Yet she has no such complaints of me. This realisation came to me after our earthquake experience: Parents are destined to love their children, no matter who they are. But for children, it works the other way round.

We are destined to slowly discover who our parents are, and then love them in spite of their faults – and in spite of ourselves.

True love, it is said, is a function of total acceptance. My vacation with my mother conffirmed one big thing for me – that I wouldn’t ever have her change.

After all, her funny quirks are a huge part of who she is.

They make me laugh sometimes and they make me cry occasionally.

But mostly, they make me just want to hug her.

Love you, Mum. To me, you are perfect just as you are.

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