Freedom is the oxygen of the soul. – Moshe Dayan
When I was 24, I packed two suitcases, boarded a plane, and flew over the Pacific Ocean alone. Craving fresh air from a stagnant relationship, I wanted to find independence in a city that didn’t know me. In San Francisco, I had no job, no friends, no home, and to top it all off, I made an alarming discovery that Americans can’t understand Australian accents.
But it was so exciting.
The only hard part was leaving my friends, my dad, my five sisters, and my mum behind. Especially my mum …
Mum had always been my confidant. In her rustic bluestone kitchen – my childhood home – I’ve spent countless hours chatting with her, while eating a breakfast of syrupy waffles and bacon. With Mum dressed in her usual morning-to-noon attire (a robe over pajamas), we’d talk about life, people, emotions, dogs, and dog’s emotions. I’d float away on her positive energy, as she indulged all of my whimsical ideas.
In San Francisco, away from Mum for the first time in my life, I combated my homesickness by writing her emails every day. In one-thousand words, I’d fill her in on every daily occurrence. Mum would reply with one-thousand words of her own, and I’d munch on her insights each day, slowly rationing out the sustenance they provided.
I wrote her ecstatically the day I landed a graphic design job in downtown San Francisco. A few days later, my letter bubbled over with joy over having found a house to live in with three cool housemates and an emotional dog named Disco. “I’m so happy. It’s all working out perfectly,” I told her.
“That’s fantastic, honey!” she replied.
Not long after, I blushed as I wrote her about a fling I’d had with a guy from a bar. Why not? I was living it up in a city of uninhibited fun. A week later, my letter recounted a second date with my no-longer-one-night stand. I told Mum how this guy, Ivan, had been saving for years to go and see the world with ‘Gracie,’ his humble 1979 sailboat. “He’s a really interesting person,” I told Mum, “but obviously the relationship won’t go anywhere. He’s nice, though (and Latin!)”
A few months later, I told Mum that Ivan had asked me to come sailing with him. “He’s completely crazy! I hardly even know him! This relationship is going to fizzle out really soon because there’s no way I’ll go with him. I can’t imagine anything worse than being trapped in an old boat in the middle of nowhere!”
“Nope, me either,” Mum said. “I get seasick just thinking about it.”
Several more months passed before my one-thousand word email mentioned that … well … I’d been doing some research and … er … I was kind of thinking about going sailing with Ivan. “I mean, just imagine how incredible it would be: the turquoise water, the tropical islands. I’ve been on Ivan’s boat, Amazing Grace – she’s beautiful. He said he’d take really good care of me. And imagine the friends we’d meet along the way? I mean … I haven’t decided anything, but I’m just writing to let you know that I’m considering it.”
Now, here are two possible reactions that a mother could have had upon hearing her daughter say that she’s considering a year-long major ocean voyage with a man she hasn’t yet brought home.
The patronising mother: Oh sweetheart, I think we need to talk about this in person. I know you’re in love, but you’re not thinking clearly and, quite frankly, I’m worried about you. I just booked a flight. I’ll be there tomorrow.
The manipulative mother: Don’t be such a selfish brat! Think about your mother’s feelings! I gave birth to you and it HURT. If you even think about doing something like this, you can forget about inheriting the diamond collection I promised you in my will.
But that’s not how my mother rolls. Instead, her words went something like this: “If you decide to go, I’ll be terrified of course. But I’m sure that it will be an amazing adventure!”
I wrote back: “Thank you, Mum. I want you to know that I really appreciate your support and trust.”
(I still choke up over those words.)
I did go sailing with my ‘one-night stand,’ and I missed Mum every day for two years. With no email at sea, I was deprived of our daily conversations. Being disconnected was harder than the seasickness, the fear, and the hardships combined. I still wrote her, though, but instead of clicking Send, I saved the letters to my desktop. I used words to collage a picture of my watery world for her. Labouring over each adjective, I described the smell of land after 26 days at sea, and the vision of craggy peaks jutting skyward, while scribbling with every shade of perfect blue in my wordbox. I spent hours dwelling within my universe of words, tapping at my keyboard to transport Mum there with me.
Once the boat reached land, I would load the letters onto a USB drive, row to shore, hike to an internet source, and send the letters to her.
I didn’t know it at the time, but through those letters to Mum, I was learning to be a writer.
Sign up to be notified of my book’s release here>>
(100% spam free. All submitted details are kept private.)