I had a love/hate relationship with my mother from the day I was born to the day she died.
She was 22 years old when I was born, in Perth, Western Australia. Her father had always told her that she would never have sons, which he obviously considered desirable. She idolized him, but I think she resented me proving him right. Only after a lot persuasion did she agree to start breastfeeding me and take me home from the hospital.
My father was a truck driver and was frequently away for weeks at a time, leaving my mother alone with a crying baby. She was not coping well, and not responding to offers of outside help. My crying set her off in a rage, and she would do anything to stop me—smother me, half drown me, hit me, hit me harder. I know most of this information from paperwork that I’ve collected as an adult, things that were recorded by government agencies.
When I was six months old, she became pregnant, and a doctor suggested that someone else look after me until the new baby was born, so I was taken to my father’s sister, Aunty Judy. My mother attempted suicide when she was eight months pregnant. She survived; my sister did not. Eventually I was put in two different foster homes and adopted when I was six. My adoptive mother did not know how to show much affection or emotional nourishment, but occasionally she cooked something special for me; her chocolate balls always made me feel some measure of caring.
I did not see my mother again until I was 24. She was living on a farm with her second husband and two sons. I’d visit the farm to spend time with my half-brothers, and talk a little with my mother. I remember driving her to a town an hour away so she could get a chicken from a shop she liked; on the way back, she asked how she should introduce me to others. "Well, you’re not my mother," I said. I was so damaged by her abandonment—damage that was not repaired until years later through benefit of therapy—but in hindsight, this remark probably precipitated her throwing me off the farm. We never spoke again. I continued to try and patch up the relationship by sending letters or cards with messages of reconciliation, but we never spoke again. When she died at the age of 64, I went to the funeral and found myself weeping uncontrollably, realizing that despite our tortured relationship, I loved her. Or maybe just the idea of her.
Rachael Leigh is an actress in Western Australia. She can be found on Facebook and Backstage.
8 oz. package arrowroot biscuits
1 c. coconut, divided
2 T. cocoa powder
14 oz. can condensed milk
Place biscuits in a paper bag, and crush into crumbs with a rolling pin.
Add 1/2 c. coconut and cocoa powder, mixing well.
Add condensed milk and stir.
Let mixture stand for 10 minutes.
Roll into balls about the size of a coin, then roll in remaining coconut.