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August 9, 2015 | by  | in Features | [ssba]

Mother Knows

Mother knows.

Mother knows her daughter is beautiful. Mother knows these boys, shades of men, wound her heart and body. Aching from the search for love, lust and short term affection to temporarily assuage her soul and make up for a dad who was never there.

She knows her daughter is beautiful.

She is throbbing, thriving, fresh faced humanity; she’s beautiful but she doesn’t know it.

She knows what she doesn’t have. You know that; just you choose to turn a blind eye.

She’ll never see the glamour.

Not even with the glasses she needs, short sighted, only able to see to the end of the week. No health insurance so Mum payed them off for a year.

She’ll never touch the easy wealth, never smile with perfectly whitened teeth, flick her hair back, quietly strut, confidently on tanned legs in expensive dresses that stop between the thigh and the knee, not enough to be provocative, just enough to be tasteful and draw the right sort of attention.



Her dresses are too short and made to be pulled up and she draws all the unwanted attention at all the wrong places and times, and her skin is flushed with the exertion of trying to strut the line between living within her means and not living at all, and still trying to look good.

No foundation hides the beauty spots of a life lived with a foot forever on the pedal and another anxiously trying to dab at the brake. It’s a race to an uneven end and despite an unequal start be sure she’ll burn herself out first.

Tell her that she’s worth more than cracked pavements, frayed lawns, cracked hearts and frayed affections, tell her she can rise above the situation she’s stranded in.


Tell her “everything’s okay in the end, and if it’s not okay, it’s not the end”.

Feed her with irresponsible cliches. But don’t tell her she can’t afford to live a carefree teenage life.

She can’t afford to buy nappies or groceries or disinfectant or baby food or pay rent,

or afford the time for hopes and dreams.

Tell her the measure of her worth, just $137.47 cents, a specified amount we chose to give her because we considered her surplus to requirements, a non event; full stop.

Tell her she won’t drown in this pool of dependency, teenage pregnancy and undiagnosed depression. We chained her hands to her face, a cinder block to her high heeled ankles, a lead balloon to her heart and threw her into an inescapable whirlpool of general poverty.

We gave her half of the antibiotic she and her children needed and left her on her own to develop an immunity while the throats of her children hacked a whooping cough in the winter months.

All she could do was hug their thin chests, racked with barking convulsions, rising and falling with each faltering wheeze. Hold their limp clammy fingers in the embrace of her hand,

and just hope the heater won’t cut off.


She got into a lot of boys’ cars.

Heavy on the gas pedal and light on self preservation,

Sometimes she came out with her dignity intact.

Those boys weren’t men, they were boys.


But nobody taught them how to be men.

No man ever picked them up off the pavement and told them that someone else was looking out for them. Nobody cared enough when they snuck in the window past 10 enough to yell at them for not coming home when they were supposed to, for scaring them so.

Laying down the law never happened enough, laying of hands too often.

Nobody ever told them they were worth more than bare feet in winter puddles, more than stolen lunches because someone else’s parents loved their child more than yours, more than fights and scraps and suspensions and failed tests from trigonometry to pregnancy. Nobody told them that they were beautiful.


Those boys akin in every way to her brother, so many young men living to die and dying along the way. No mercy for any mistakes when you’re young and “disadvantaged”.


Mother knows,

all he needed was a father figure to lift this curse high from his shoulders, correct his own posture, the true measure of a man.

Remove the demon on his back, misinterpreted as a chip on his broad shoulders. Pull its roots from his prefrontal cortex. Allow him to think for himself, choose for himself what he truly wants.

Let him rub his eyes, see the blind spots from his cornea gone. He never saw what he could have seen. It’s probably too late now, but he claimed his neighbourhood to the best of his ability.

Above and beyond what his colour called for.

Fists up. Bloody knuckles scrape the cloudy sky rising with the screeching, crying seagulls wheeling above the lawn.


And her,

she’ll wish she could escape to be with the birds.These children took the best years of her life.

A burden so hard unrelenting and confusing, so unprepared for, so painfully beautiful that they took her vigour, optimism and opportunity. Added crows feet, laugh lines and a furrowed brow from frowning to an unblemished face that cried far, far more than youthful tear ducts have the capacity to hold. Tears that bewildered her kids, tears that no man was around to dry.


Those boys, still boys, besides the justice system, no one really knows what became of them. We never find out, apart from mentions and court dates on Facebook.

If they were truly lucky then somehow an opportunity presented itself. The stars aligned beyond their star sign and somehow they snagged a finger hold, grip stronger than a vice.

Tendons muscles and bones hardened by years of balled fists and broken promises.


We know what becomes of the majority. Victims of circumstances beyond their control or comprehension.

Those court dates ended with PD, community service, a fine or jail time if the Judge had had enough of dealing with every other young man like him.

If they were really unlucky then life drove too fast.

All we have to remember them by are photos, flowers on a gravestone and people wearing sunglasses to funerals to hide the collective guilt in flinching gazes.


At least they have someone to commiserate with in heaven,

Jesus’ father made promises too, but he never stuck around.


But her. She’ll turn to prayer and realise that even if you help yourself, God just doesn’t help some people, not even the beautiful.

Eternal life is no comfort to a woman living the mistakes of a life lived day to day in her youth.

But she’ll give her kids more than she got. Beautiful children, no mistaking their mother’s influence in their faces and steady gazes, or the absence of influence from a father.

She’ll tell them they’re worth more than cliches and broken promises. They can do what she couldn’t: realise their potential.

She’ll tell them they’re beautiful.


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