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Moments To Treasure: Monica McInerney Reflects on the Ordinary Moments She Misses Living Away from Her Mum

May 10, 2019

About Monica McInerney

One of the stars of Australian fiction, Monica McInerney is the author of the internationally bestselling novels A Taste for ItUpside Down Inside OutSpin the BottleThe Alphabet SistersFamily BaggageThose Faraday GirlsAt Home with the TempletonsLola’s SecretThe House of Memories, Hello from The Gillespies, The Trip of A Lifetime, and a short story collection, All Together Now.

Those Faraday Girls was the winner of the General Fiction Book of the Year prize at the 2008 Australian Book Industry Awards. In 2006 Monica was the ambassador for the Australian Government initiative Books Alive, with her novella Odd One Out.

Monica grew up in a family of seven children in the Clare Valley of South Australia and has been living between Australia and Ireland for twenty years. She and her Irish husband currently live in Dublin. Find out more at http://www.monicamcinerney.com.

Words // Monica McInerney

For most of the year author Monica McInerney lives in Ireland, so when she gets to visit her mother in Adelaide, every moment is precious treasure that she stores away till next time…

MOTHER’S DAY: Monica McInerney

This morning at 7.30 a.m. my Mum brought me a cup of tea in bed. When I got up to have breakfast, she reminded me there was plenty of bread in the freezer and that she’d bought a new packet of cornflakes yesterday. She recommended I cut up a fresh peach to put on top. A short time later, she started doing some washing, and offered to do mine at the same time. All the while, we chatted, flitting from subject to subject like butterflies choosing flowers in a garden. Discussion of a news item. The weather forecast. A forthcoming family gathering, and the various logistics involved.

All such ordinary happenings, but I am treasuring each one, tucking them away to revisit when needed. I am usually 16,000 kilometres from my mother. I live in Dublin with my Irish husband, while she is here in Adelaide in a small apartment. It isn’t our family home. My six brothers and sisters and I grew up in a big rambling house and garden in the Clare Valley. After my Dad died in 2000, Mum stayed there for three years before moving house and town in what was in many ways a brand new start. She can run, but she can’t hide. We all come looking for her, needing her, wherever she goes.

I sometimes think of her as a cat with many lives. She’s had cancer, a stroke, heart troubles, joint pain, a shoulder injury. She’s recovered each time. She is wise as an owl, bright as a bee, mischievous as, yes, a cat. Another creature too: for reasons none of us can quite remember, one of her many family nicknames is The Lizard, shortened to Lizzy. Another nickname springs from her childhood in country South Australia, where she was the youngest by far of the seven Hogan children. She told us once she was known around town as ‘little Mary Hogan.’ We seized on that too, and all regularly call her LittleMaryHogan, the words rolling together. She’s LMH for short.

She is a big reader, still often getting through a book a day. She does two crosswords every day. She knows everything that’s going on with all of us, because we tell her everything about each other, but she always pretends she doesn’t know a thing.

When we were kids, it was precious to get any one-on-one time with her. It often involved fighting off other marauding brothers and sisters or feigning illness or sheer luck. Even now, here I am, aged 54 to her 80, still craving that special time, revelling in every just-the-two-of-us moment. By accident or intent, she rented an apartment with only one spare bedroom. When all seven of us are around, we take in turns staying with her, like playing a game of Mum-tag.

I go back home to Dublin soon. I’ll be swapping sunshine for sleet, a big blue Australian sky for a low grey Irish one. On Sunday 12th May, I’ll see mentions of Mother’s Day on social media and do my best to quell a familiar jolt of sadness, a sharp pang of homesickness. I know I’ll be wishing I was back in that small apartment in Adelaide, up early, making a cup of tea. This time it will be for her.


Comments

  1. Chris Gloyn

    I grew up living next to your family in Clare. I spent more time at your house than my own! I remember performing plays with you all, in front of your Mum & Dad. I would regularly eat fish & chips on Friday night at your house. I used to like helping your Mum hang up the clothes because she had dolly pegs & we didn’t. So many wonderful memories!

  2. Sandra

    I really enjoyed reading that Monica, it was lovely. I lost my Mum just over a year ago and like you we lived at opposite ends of the globe, I am in Perth, Australia and my Mum lived in my home town, Dumbarton on the West Coast of Scotland. I was lucky to have spent four weeks every year with her, cramming as much as I could into the time we had together, before flying back to my life here in Perth, you will know how hard this is to do. Mothers Day is a happy & sad day for me. The Happy part is spending the day with my own daughter and the sad part is living in a world with no Mum of my own.

  3. Margie Arnold

    Lovely words Monica! Enjoy your time. I miss my Mum xxx

  4. Margie Arnold

    Lovely words Monica! Enjoy your time. I miss my Mum xxx

  5. Ann Hart

    Hi Monica…. I enjoyed reading that. I understand your feeling home sick as I to felt home sick when I married & shifted to Yorke Peninsula. I was only just over two hours from my mum & Dad but it was still hard. I remember your family & remember your mum coaching us in netball & at school. Your Dad I saw lots when I started working & took parcels to the Railway Station. Please wish your Mum the very best & the same to you & your sisters & brothers! 😘💖

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