you & me

Dear Mummsy: An Open Letter.

{Photo credit: Leonie Orton}

{Photo credit: Leonie Orton}


It’s that time of year again: Mother’s Day. You know, that commercialized con? That designated day when big business tells us to buy something and make a public, conformed, socially syncopated display of mumma-love?

This year, to show my love, I made you a letter.

And, not only am I conforming to social expectations and doing it on this public Tell your mother you love her day, I’m going to the darkest of dark sides and doing it on social media.

Yes I know — that thing for which you reserve a special place far, far from your heart to loathe and detest.

I love that you’re so suspicious of things. But I also love that although you’d sooner have your nails pulled out than spend time sharing, posting, tweeting or pinning (you don’t know what I’m talking about, do you?), you will love this…

Now I’m going to set about making you a list of some of the many things I love and appreciate about you. Fortunately, you’re not very familiar with blogging, so you won’t realize how passé a blogged list is.

Mummsy, roll a ciggy, make yourself a half-strength packet vanilla latte, get comfy under the grapevine, and enjoy this…

I love that you taught me to have a healthy cynicism for… well, everything. I love that you inspired me to always challenge and question the status quo.

I love that you provided me with a shining example of what it is to be a multidimensional, sometimes unpredictable, inconsistent, contradictory human.

Surely there can be nothing more wonderful than showing your children that it is okay to be one thing sometimes, another thing on others. To have hopes, dreams, ideals, and to not always live by them: a perfect antidote to perfectionism.

We may regard public days of celebration such as today with a cynical, world-weary raised eyebrow, but we also love it, don’t we, in a non-conforming to non-conformism way, with its bunches of chrysanthemums, potted cyclamens, colorful handmade cards and boxes of cherry liquor chocolates?

And now you can roll your eyes and add open letter posted on social media to that list of things you secretly love about this day.

Thank you for swearing occasionally. Like a pinch of saffron — minimal, occasional, but subtly wonderful in the dish of life.

If you had been a crass mother who cursed all the time, it would have been too much, and not special at all. But your valiant attempt to not curse, and that swear jar you instigated as tax for swearing for your three daughters, which was mostly full of my pocket money, has given me a heart bursting with love for a well-timed 4-letter word.

I love that you sing We are Siamese (If you please) to me every birthday, long with the story of my birth — especially how you got halfway to the hospital once you were well into labor, and had to turn around because Dad forgot his cigarettes.

I love that although you were a psychiatric nurse, accustomed to, understanding of, and compassionate towards mental illness, you were also occasionally really not. Like that time a busload of intellectually disabled people took over our picnic spot, and under your breath, you cursed Fuckin’ Retards. Gosh, hasn’t that moment become a family favorite. Like farts, it never ceases to be funny.

Speaking of which, I love that you try not to fart. And that when you do, you either pretend it didn’t happen or quickly say Pardy me. And then go on with what you were doing, as though that moment never existed. Except that of course your three daughters never let it slip by without a mardi gras of raucous laughter, which you join in with, whilst feigning embarrassment.

I love that you taught us to play cards and board games — a dying art.

I love that you taught me to be an assertive, independent, self-sufficient woman. Even though at the time I really hated you for it, and wished that you would do the things that you classified as good assertiveness training, but I classified as scary…

… like booking train tickets over the phone. What if I didn’t get my sentences in the right order? What if I froze, and couldn’t speak at all? Well, that ability took me around the world, allowed me to live, survive and navigate foreign countries, cultures and languages.

I also love that you taught me what vulnerability is. Even though you are one of the most capable people I know, weird little things like driving to the airport scare the shit out of you.

I love that you always have my back. Even when I fuck up monumentally, get myself into a pickle, do something that most others frown upon (including me), you’re there, either in person or on the other end of the phone, available for non-judgment, advice, counseling, consoling, support and encouragement.

I love that even though you are a fiercely independent, anti-establishment, let’s face it… feminist (of course, you wouldn’t call yourself this because it would mean conforming to a social cliché), you also bake awesome scones, knit socks, sew frocks, grow your own veggies, and have a pantry brimming with preserves.

I even love that we had such a shitty time of it as I was bumping and bashing my way through the teenage years en route to adulthood. Let’s face it, we love-hated each other for a while there, didn’t we? We challenged the fuck out of each other, knew just the right tender spots to poke. It was painful, upsetting and challenging, but gosh how we’ve both grown!

And isn’t that the definition of a soulmate?

No, this isn’t a sugary, pink, feathery, frilly ode to love from daughter to mother. It’s a boots and mud and blood, multi-layered love letter to motherhood, childhood, life, love and being human…

… all wrapped up in a totally clichéd, digitally overdone Open Letter available for public consumption. Which makes it totally consistent to the contrasting, contradicting beauty of our relationship.

Fucking love you, Mummsy.

PS: Sorry for all the swearing.

PPS: Sorry for that really ugly picture I drew of you with a huge nose, warts, massive ears, big scary evil eyes and decayed teeth, that you found under my bed when you were vacuuming my room. I think it might have been after you didn’t book train tickets for me.

Also, I know this is about 30 years late, but thanks for vacuuming under my bed.


LeonieOrtonLeonie Orton is a blogger who writes intimate stories about life. She is also a freelance copywriter for businesses looking for unique, emotive words. When not writing, she’s teaching Yoga, playing with flowers, growing vegetables, exploring Earth, and adoring two spirited sons. You can get in touch with her via her website and Facebook, or sign up at her weekly blog.


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