Christmas morning in 1996 I went out and jogged for at least two hours. I was literally on the run. My lived-in relationship of eight years had ended. All I had were two suitcases and a collection of odd boxes that summed up my life. I can’t describe the feelings I had. It was so long ago. What I do remember is that for the first time in my life I experienced the sheer agony of anxiety attacks usually in the early hours of the morning when in that moment between sleep and wake, when you feel so alone, paralysed by fear, thinking how could you survive this. I remember the feeling of nausea and alienation that I walked around with all of the time. This memory, this period of bleakness led me to connect with my Mother in a way I hadn’t for a long time. Considering that she died 18 years later… well it shows how time and distance can push people apart. Make them fade into the background.
I remember seeing a larger-than-usual present among the dozens under the Christmas tree. I was not at all enthusiastic about the usual drama and ritual we had of tearing apart and gaping at presents, drinking too much and talking too loudly. But late on Christmas Eve in between her ham and turkey prepping she kept reminding me to open my present from her.
I opened the gift with her sitting there and I unravelled the track suit – top and bottom with matching cap. I never would have ventured into this kind of get-up even though I was a keep fit enthusiast. But somehow when she gave it to me, I realised how much she had thought of me and the tearing apart of my sense of self and security during this relationship break-up. I sensed the subtle kindness behind the gift that was carefully put together to make me feel good. Almost as if I could put it on and become a whole person again. Her giving, was so rich that I felt it wasn’t just a sport outfit, it was an act of love and encouragement. I was so grateful for her intuition and gesture. It was more than a mother-daughter exchange. It was like two women meeting and understanding a shared moment….without words. I felt then, that she was aware of the deep loss I was experiencing in a way that I did not even understand. There were no words between us. She was just there. She knew there was nothing she could say, so she made a gesture. That morning, pulling myself away from the family revelry, I decided to run, to show her how thankful I was for her quiet, unobtrusive acknowledgement of my pain.
That memory was the one that came to mind as I lay in bed trying to sleep last night. It was so alive in my mind then…. It was (and is) a memory of my Mother that I can pull out every so often …just to remind me that she was here.
(She died Nov 26th 2014)