Solo Mama Memories

Sunday Blog 142 – 30th June 2024

This week I’ve been submersing myself in the memoir edits (I’m revising my 2014 memoir, to get it up to the standard of my novella. Just play along with me!) My 2014 memoir skates right over the top of the reality of my life as a solo mama, and in this edit I’m letting myself sink down, down into the parenting chaos.
All that editing surfaced a replay a memory of a friend’s book launch in April 2023. Renae Hayward’s Say Hooray picture book. I’d watched her writing practice dip as she had her first, then her second child, and was so excited to see that she’d been able to co-produce her gorgeous book and get it out into the world.

The launch event was at Melville Library, a place I used to haunt when my daughter was young. When I arrived at the book launch, I made sure I had my copy ready for Renae to sign, sneak in an extra big hug before the event got underway. I was keen to get my copy posted to my niece for her to read to her little girl.

Renae signed my copy with a flourish, then reminded me I’d raved to her about Melville Library—probably about 2003, when we first met as colleagues. It had a creche, and I’d waxed lyrical about how wonderful that was for me. I had no child care arrangements in place at the time, despite all my efforts to get something in place. My daughter had been persistently miserable when left at day care and any joy I had when briefly snatching time to do my own thing was wiped clean when I saw her sad little face.
Somehow the Melville Creche was that miracle place where she was happy, and I could sit in the library or go to the gym or just walk around the oval crying for an hour. This conversation with Renae was over two decades ago now. I had completely forgotten I’d had that conversation with her.

I sat down with my signed copy of her book, and watched as Renae and her illustrator co-author Rebecca Mills, marshalled and wrangled an enraptured group of children. They sat on their parents knees, on the floor or on chairs. It was a touchingly delightful and sweet scene. As Joan Didion says, “I’ve lost touch with a few of the people I used to be.” But the conversation with Renae had unloosed the memories of the “me” I used to be. The solo mum who went to Melville Library for a little snatch of freedom.

The children sing along and listen in rapture to Renae but they recede and I’m lost in the tug of the past. Just around the corner of my eye, I can see my daughter’s artwork from twenty years ago when she was four years old. It had received a prize and the right to be displayed at Melville Library. Zoe sitting proudly next to it, posing as I take photos, and then we walk off together hand in hand. It’s like friends I’ve long neglected have brushed past me in a crowd and disappeared around a corner. I’m calling out to get their attention, but it’s all too late. They’re gone. I want to tell that exhausted solo mum that in no time, but also a really long decade and a half, her days and nights and weeks and months will be all hers. Her daughter will be launched and gone.

The wash of two decades old memories became a wave, then a tsunami. I’m pulling painfully against the now, where my daughter is an adult. Well-established in her life now. I need to make an appointment to make sure we see each other regularly. That is the point of parenting, after all. To raise independent people.

But could we be closer than we are? Is she suffering through some really difficult adult crises that she isn’t reaching out to me for help for? I check my phone where a couple of my texts to her sit unanswered despite their excess of emojis. Then I sneak away from the book launch and the sight of parents and children sitting so close and entwined. I creep into my car just in time to ugly cry.

Before I finish, my darling girl texts me. I soar with the glory of connection. She’s sick, that’s why she hasn’t returned my recent texts or calls. There’s a gig that night and she’s not sure she can make it. She asks for my help and I roar out of the Melville Library parking lot, on the way to help and, help her get her show on the road.
PS if you want a beautiful kids book, I’d highly recommend Say Hooray.

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