The Long Walk to Work

Sifting through my earliest memories of time spent with my mother, I found this little gem and the life lessons reflected to me. A lesson of love, given freely to two little gremlins with apparent personality disorders (at the time)…

It’s a typical Monday morning in the 90’s. My eight year old twin and I had come to the conclusion that we weren’t going to school that day. It didn’t really matter what we did, we just weren’t in the mood for that prison camp. Our mother, already late for work and panicking about our decision, made up her mind to take us to work and deal with the situation from there. To this day, I respect the single mothers who, despite the consequences, still take their children to work to make sure they’re safe. Oblivious to our mother’s predicament, my brother and I were ecstatic. We were going on an excursion to town. How exciting!

Leaving the house and shutting the gate behind us, the lock snapped closed, signalling the end of the security of home. We were on the open road, ready for adventure. We stepped onto that road and I remembered that we still had to make our way to the bus stop, just over a kilometre away. The lengthy stretch ahead seemed to mock my resolution to skip being driven to school by my grandfather earlier that morning. My mother’s curt voice snapped me out of developing tantrum and her perfume reminded me that while I was with her, I was safe. I was getting what I wanted, I was spending time with my mother.

After what felt like hours in the desert sun (actually 5 minutes in the shade of a tree-lined suburban road), a car hooted loudly behind us and our mother herded us off the road as it sped by. Watching the tail lights shrinking in the distance, a wave of frustration and anger overwhelmed me as I wondered why I had to mutilate my poor feet and tire my legs walking when others had cars. Not wanting to upset my mother (and achieving exactly that), I took my frustrations out on my brother. The tedium of the walk had bored me enough to forget that I was supposed to be having fun. Paying no attention to us, my mother kept her hurried pace and soon, we realised that we were being left behind. Setting aside our differences for the moment, we united to make sure that we weren’t forgotten. We believed her when she said “I’ll leave you here in the middle of the road.”…when we finally made it to the bus stop, my brother remembered that he had a bone to pick with me (and the world), so he continued the saga…but that’s not my story to tell.

The lessons from Gremlin Avenue were always there but only with years of hindsight am I able to begin comprehending their relevance to my life today. My mother’s optimism in taking us to work, knowing her decision would be frowned upon, is what revealed her heroism to my brother and I. My mother’s commitment to her responsibilities as a parent and to her contract at work forced her to make grim sacrifices but she persevered, just like we did with our short legs on Gremlin Avenue. “Keep moving forward”, a phrase introduced to me years later but demonstrated long before I understood the concept.
My mother’s humble reaction to the neighbours passing us taught me that I had no right to begrudge people for having something that I didn’t. On this planet, I’m only entitled to her love (considering my mood swings, even that’s pushing it). My mother forgave our selfishness, our inability to grasp the consequences of our actions quelled her anger and as she proudly introduced is to her colleagues who fawned over us, my brother and I turned into cupid’s little helpers. Of course, she was also making arrangements to get us the hell out of there before we got bored and revealed the reason we were known as gremlins at home.

The long walk to work was worth all the blood (not my story to tell…), sweat and tears.

I love you mummy.

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