Tomorrow is Mother’s Day for Australia.
I couldn’t half-tell when I went shopping yesterday. The slippers and dressing gowns were prominently displayed out the front of Target. Over at Kmart, a wall of pink greeting cards were obviously placed as we walked through the door. And today, driving around, the roadside flower sellers were pushing their product.
It’s become very commercialised. But the thought is there. Even though I’m not supposed to know, my children have been cleaning the weeds from behind the shed to surprise me. Yep – I’m raising my kids the right way.
Mother’s Day is not only a day to give mothers all over a present, but a day to reflect on the sacrifices and hardships your mother went through to raise you. A time to reflect on the positive, instead of the negative. A day to think about all the things she gave you in life. So what did my mother give me?
Her feet. Okay – all the editors out there will be screaming, “Autonomous Body Parts.” So my mother didn’t literally give me her feet, but when you put our feet side-by-side, they are the same shape, right down to our funny, small little toe. I have a sister, who is two years older than me, and although we are the same height and were identical growing up, she has a very different shaped body. Her feet are two sizes bigger than mine, and are very similar to our father’s. I have Mum’s smaller foot.
Mum also greatly influenced my hair. Dad’s hair was fine and straight, and I get my hair colour from him. But my hair is thicker, coarser and curlier – like Mum’s. Not as much curl as Mum’s hair has, but definitely not straight.
So away from the physical, what else did Mum give me? My domesticity. We’re very alike in that respect – my mother and me. We both adore home, and looking after our family. Many times I stood with Mum as she doctored and mothered a sick or orphaned animal. My mother opens her heart to those who need it, and she delights in her pets. I’m also very like my mother when it comes to gardening. The two of us can visit for an hour, chatting away while we’re outside pruning and weeding, never feeling the need to go inside and sit down. We both need that solid home base to feel secure.
And that follows on to my own children. My children both have my half-curly hair and my black eyes. My son has my ears and my daughter my feet. (Editors – please, back in your box. They know I don’t mean literally!). Both of my kids are also caring and high energy – they get the best of me.
But how about characters – do they have mothers? Do their mothers influence them? I once read an article about Walt Disney who disliked mothers, and encouraged his writers to get rid of them in the fairytales. It’s true – think about the big childrens’ stories. Cinderella, Snow White, Bambi, Dumbo, The Jungle Book, 101 Dalmatians… They all lose their mothers in some way. Why? To make the character vulnerable – because we all need parents.
I will often read a book and think to myself, “Where is this character’s family?” Authors seem to be reluctant to write in families. I know what they mean. Family can weigh a story down, and does the reader really need to know that Scott is a good son and visits his mother every Saturday? Does it really matter?
The simple answer is yes. Some authors ignore any family ties, while other “conveniently” kill off the family in a car accident so they don’t have to deal with them. I prefer to write in the family. It makes the character more real. More relatable to the reader. More like a person, and less like a character.
All of my characters have mothers. Some mothers are needy, some loving, some great weights around the character’s neck, and some are even dead or no longer involved in their lives. But who and what they are/were is important in the character’s development.
Jake’s mother in The Blinding Light is a right pain in the arse. Jake should’ve told her to grow up long ago. But taking care of his mother and sisters is a part of who Jake is. If he didn’t care about his mother (and continually bail her out of her messes), then Jake would’ve probably been working in the mines up north and making a ton of money. He would never have met Patrick.
Patrick, on the other hand, says he doesn’t care about his mother who abandoned him when he was two days old. Maybe he never felt a lack of her in his life, but she certainly influenced him. This was one of his first lessons in life. Patrick was born blind, so his mother didn’t want him. Logically, as an adult he can see that not everyone will abandon him. But he’s still insecure about his disability, expecting people to leave once they get tired of putting up with him.
So what will my characters be doing this Mother’s Day?
Loving Jay: Liam and Jay will need to divide themselves between the two mothers. Liam’s mother will insist on a Sunday Roast, so lunch will be spent at Liam’s parents’ house. Then they will drive straight to visit Carol, Jay’s mum who lives the next suburb over. Two mothers = the whole Sunday.
The Blinding Light: Jake will host a Mother’s Day lunch at his house. He will fuss, ring Ellie and Maria ten times to make sure they’re organised, and run around like mad cleaning the house. Maria will bring Corrine, and everyone will come to celebrate. Patrick will give a fleeting thought to maybe taking time soon to track down his own mother. But then he will look at Maxine and decide that motherhood is something you earn. Then he will kiss Jake, and forget about it.
The Shearing Gun: Elliot will be on the phone first thing in the morning. Melbourne is two hours ahead of Dumbleyung, so it will be nearly mid-morning, but his mother will be waiting for her call. She’ll fuss and lie, and tell him he didn’t need to call. Then Elliot will mention that he’s posted her gift and she’ll probably get it soon. She’ll be happy. Hank’s mother died when he was young, so he’ll be a little sad over Mother’s Day. But Hank knows that his brother and father will be missing her too, so he’ll ring them, even though it’s not his turn to ring, and they’ll all chat.
Safe in His Arms: Roses. Lon and Casey won’t need to discuss it beforehand. Just some time on Saturday, they will spot someone selling flowers, and they will grab some roses for Lon’s mother, in anticipation of the Sunday visit. Casey will already have bought some sort of flowering plant in a pot for his grandmother. And Friday afternoon he will remember to post a card off to his mother – late, but at least he remembered!
Shawn’s Law: Mother’s Day will be hard for Shawn. Very hard. But the others will know, and they will rally around him. John, Lisa, Kris and Harley will be there with hugs and laughter. Shawn will be happy and sad at the same time. Harley, on the other hand, holds bitterness to his mother. He’ll frown and try to forget his mother by fussing over Shawn. But some time during the day, he will sit down next to his father and they will hug – no words necessary.
So to all the mums out there – have a great day. Enjoy your new slippers and your bunch of flowers.
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