My Mother Hears Me
By Anushka, Year 11
Her arms pulled me in close until my small body was enclosed by hers. I felt my mother kiss the top of my head, resting her chin there. Her heartbeat synced with my own as my tears slowly dried. She was listening. Listening to my voice. My small voice.
Less than a minute ago, I’d woken up sweating and crying from a nightmare. I couldn’t quite remember what it was about, but I do remember feeling like the walls were caving in. So I clutched my pink heart pillow with both hands, pressing it tightly against my chest, and crawled out of bed. I walked over to my parents’ bedroom, which was right next to my own, and mumbled, ‘mama… I can’t sleep.’ My parents woke up and took a few moments to figure out what was happening.
Eventually my mum replied, holding out her arms, ‘Okay betta, come here. Sachin, you sleep in her bed.’ My dad grunted and dragged himself out of bed half asleep, grabbing his pillow before he left. I guess that’s a habit we both have. I dived into his place and my mother immediately cuddled me, as if I were the most precious thing she owned.
We didn’t say a word. No “I love you”s. No “why can’t you sleep?”s. We didn’t need to. She was my mum after all. She can see all the cracks in my mind. All the bruises on my heart. And can hear all my voices drowned out by the wind.
Within seconds I was fast asleep, wishing my mum could hold me like this every time the world gave me nightmares.
If only I’d wished harder.
A couple of years later a family friend picked my sister and I up from school. Later that evening, my dad arrived and drove us home. I, being the oblivious nine-year-old that I was, didn’t notice my dad’s unusually deep sighs and dark eyebags. As soon as our car pulled into our red driveway, I rushed through the front door, dropped my school bag on the sofa and darted into the kitchen to see what curry my mum had cooked for dinner. But there was no curry. No delicious smell of dinner.
It wasn’t until my dad sat us down on the couch that reality dawned on me. He explained that my mother was in the hospital. She’d hurt her back at work that morning and couldn’t stand or sit. As my dad talked, even his naturally loud and calm voice – that my mum said he developed from working at loud construction sites – couldn’t make the lump in my throat disappear.
My mum arrived home later that night. She went straight to bed and didn’t leave it for the entire weekend. Soon, regular visits to doctors and hospitals were normal. Seeing my mother standing in the kitchen cooking some of my favourite food was a rare sight. The kitchen cabinets were stacked with medicine and pills. Bedside tables were filled with heat packs and massaging oils. Even bookshelves were stacked with X-ray results and medical bills.
I remember the day we put up the disability permit in our car; I was ecstatic. No more wasting hours looking for a parking spot! Another exciting memory was when my mum first started using her walking stick. It was black and the metal parts were painted gold. You could even adjust the height to what you preferred – my sister was absolutely mesmerised by this feature. My mum had a habit of putting it against the wall when she wasn’t using it. Unfortunately, it would always fall. Pretty quickly the sound of a metal tube hitting timber floorboards was the melody running through our home.
Years passed, and my routine involved a lot of staying home alone while my dad took my mum to physio and hydrotherapy. I did a lot of chores around the house, looked after my younger sister, and even made dinner most nights. Gone were the days of running to my mum after a bad dream. They seemed too far away. My voice was too lost in the wind to be heard.
In Year 6, I got into a fist fight with a Year 5 boy during recess. It went from name-calling to a shoulder shove to a straight up boxing match. My emotions got the better of me and I felt like letting all my anger out. I got a few good ones in before the teachers arrived to break it up. I spent the rest of the day in the office and first aid room getting my cut and bruises bandaged. I was relatively calm about the entire thing and was ready to accept any amount of lunch detentions I’d earned.
That was until I saw my mother walk in.
Well, more like limp, with the support of her walking stick, into the school office. I felt like I was drowning in an ocean of guilt. Not fear, but guilt. She hadn’t left the house in over a year and now she had to deal with her stupid daughter who was going around beating kids up. She and the principal had a long chat about school policy and behaviour; I was so sure I would be disowned.
Finally, she entered the first aid room and our eyes met.
I was taken by surprise when the first thing my mother did was pull me into a tight hug. Her warmth was like a blanket over my shuddering shoulders. I couldn’t help but break down in her arms and just let the tears pour. It’d been a while. For the first time in a long time, it felt like the whisper at the back of my mind was heard. All the heavy weight on my chest released and the tightness in my throat disappeared.
That same day, as I supported my mum out of the school gates, I overheard a few people whispering behind me.
‘OMG, is that Anushka’s mum?’ a classmate of mine said.
‘What happened to her? Is that a walking stick?’ another kid asked.
‘Oh no, I feel so bad for them,’ I heard a teacher say.
I remember thinking: Yes, that is my mum. Yes, she is disabled and needs a walking stick. No, we don’t need your sympathy. I remember in the moment being the proudest daughter with the most amazing mother, and no one needed to feel sorry for her.
As even more days passed, my mother’s condition gradually grew better. She left the house more often and could even sit down long enough to drive. Before I knew it, she was fitter than me and now works a full-time job!
It’s true, my mother wasn’t there every time I had a bad dream. However, she taught me how to face the nightmares. She showed me how to be a fighter. She showed me she’ll always be there. And I know she will.
After all, my mother hears me.