Kim M Horwood
#1 DAD -and- Mother of the Bride
Updated: Jul 5, 2021
If ever one of our sons call us by our Christian names, I usually remind them, there are thousands of people in the world who can use our names, but there’s only 4 people who can call us Mum and Dad. Plus, our coffee mugs say we are, “#1 DAD” and “Mother of the Bride”.
I had a birthday recently and an old friend messaged me, using a nickname I’ve not heard in 30 years. She reminded me of who I used to be before I was "Mum" or "Mother of the Bride". I thanked her and said, nobody calls me that anymore. She replied, ‘you’ll always be that person to me’.
And with that, the most amazing thing happened. A single sunbeam broke from the clouds and parted the atmosphere like a laser, instantly warming my face.
Actually, no. That’s a lie. There was no sunbeam. It was a lightning bolt epiphany.
Thirty years was a long time ago, almost a lifetime, but I'm still that 20-something person, just with some of the sharp edges smoothed over.
As we get older, we add layers. A bit like the rings we count to gauge a tree’s age, or the conditions it’s endured. In the rings of a tree, we can see it’s first year of growth. We can tell when there was a rainy season, and when there was a dry season. We can see where a branch has sprung, and we can see scars of a bush fire.
A tree's rings tell us it’s life story.
It’s the same for us.
We get married, we add a ring. We have children, and our new branches can be seen in our layers. We suffer trauma or pain or grief, and a scar is forever left inside.
This idea sat in my head for a few days, then out of the blue, something happened. I had the unexpected opportunity to study my husband’s face for some hours, without him suspecting I was a serial killer.
He was sedated. And not because I was making him watch the Great British Sewing Bee. (Although fair’s fair – sometimes I’m forced to watch Aussie Gold Hunters or reruns of State of Origin matches.)
Anyway, while I was thinking about layers and studying his face, I suddenly noticed his skin was not as smooth as it used to be. His nose looked bigger. His hair was almost all grey. I could see more of his forehead, or maybe that was just the angle.
There was a machine pulsing at his bedhead, and a screen with bouncing lines like fancy stitches on a Janome. Green blanket stitch. Pink zig zag stitch. Blind hem stitch that was blue.
From the Nurse’s Station, I suddenly heard Adele singing, ‘…hello from the other side’. It stopped all my other senses, while I wondered if it were a message from one of the souls in ICU. It’s funny how music does that to you.
In the car on the way to the hospital, it was Whitney who took me right back to the excitement of 'us'. In 1987, we'd been together a year and were spending another Saturday night, drinking at a shared house. The radio was playing Whitney’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody”, and I was dancing with the girlfriends of the other boys – all the time hoping the guy I’d fallen for would get up and dance with me.
If they were to cut me in half right now, they would see a bright ring where he came into my life.
The thought made me grab his hand as it lay outside hospital sheets. It reminded me of a photo on our wedding day of just our wedding ringed hands and marriage certificate in the background. (That’s what we did for arty wedding photos back then. Now it’s all misty forests and sunsets poking through heart-shaped hands.)
The nurse told me I should speak to my husband even though he wasn’t conscious. He told me later he didn’t hear anything I said that night. It didn’t matter because he knew it all already.
On my way to the hospital the next morning I stopped for coffee. I almost laughed when the baristas radio started playing “I Wanna Dance with Somebody”. My inside voice was saying, ‘Okay Universe. Stop nagging. I get it!’
Regardless of how our branches grow, or how we change colour, regenerate, and even shed growth, our layers indicate our seasons, and what we have endured. Even if our coffee mugs say #1 DAD and Mother of the Bride, who we are remains at the very centre of our layers.
A little gem I recently learned…
No relationship is all sunshine. But 2 people can share 1 umbrella and survive a storm together.