Monday, November 9, 2009

Mum's Legacy

On the weekend Canterbury defeated Wellington to win the rugby super 14 championship. In a province renowned for its one-eyed provincialism - I am also a son of the Canterbury soil - there were probably few more parochial than my mother who died earlier this year. And if the All Blacks lost that was a national catastrophe. She never forgave the selectors for dropping Mehrtens. Loyalty, not logic, was always one of her characteristics. Her support was tribal.

"You with your university 'on this hand and then on the other hand'" she growled at me after she'd asked my opinion about why New Zealand would want to become a republic. I'd merely replied that I thought it was inevitable but maybe it was a little too soon yet. That didn't suit Mum. Black and white, right and wrong, you took sides. She had wanted a statement with which she could challenge or agree.

She'd led a much more austere and tougher life than I have. In most people’s narrative their mother is a major player. Not always, but certainly so in my case. Not negatively. There has been a spate of recent autobiographical memoirs critical of parents. That’s not my experience. But Mum was always a no nonsense person. Two adjectives that would been least appropriate to describe her would have been volatile and capricious. A few years back she said “you were a trial as a boy. Always day dreaming. You took after your maternal great grandfather, away with the fairies. You were too clever for us.” That’s a reasonable summary. Mum’s practicality is part of my being. But I have other yearnings and interests. The rift between the two is the context of my history. With what complexities are we all composed.

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