How high is a High Tea I’d ask the Dimple?
Would we enter another realm of consciousness and see that us mothers are all mere dust full of spinning electrons and protons floating through an ever-expanding universe? Would we be entertained by a witty speaker and feel a little high after fits of laughter? Or would we drink tea and eat dainty scones and politely sit through the Mother & Son fundraiser? I was at a school event after all.
The keynote speaker, Simon Dallow the television newsreader, was sitting near the front in his chequered shirt but before Dallow was Drake. He was 12. And right out of the gates he had us gripped but not from laughter. He talked about how incredible his mother was and I’ve tried to remember what exactly he said about her but I can’t. I can remember the look on his face though – eyes wide open furiously blinking back tears – as he tried to keep it under control in front of his mates. And their mothers. Gripped, he had us!
My son, Bob*, looked bored but he liked the club sandwiches.
The second speaker, a teacher, told us about how his mother passed out cold when he needed her: once when he shoved a peanut up his nose and then when he smashed open his thumb with an axe. I quite liked his mother for passing out but I didn’t understand the point of his speech.
He got a couple of chuckles and the feta and chutney crackers were delicious.
Then Dallow the newsreader got up. He was an old boy of the school and said he’d come across hundreds of sad stories over the years like the Pike River Mine Tragedy and I thought here we go, he’s going to talk about his fabulous news reading career since leaving the college so we all feel good about our sons going here and maybe becoming newsreaders too.
But he segued into why it was so significant to him because the first explosion that sealed off those men in the mine was the day his mother died and the second explosion, which sealed their fate, was the day Dallow buried his mother. And it went off during the funeral.
I don’t remember what details he said about his mother either (I’d had a few cups of tea by then) but he was so sincere about who she was and how she was no longer around and we all held our breath as we wondered if the newsreader would go the way of Drake.
The air was thicker than the clotted cream in the mini doughnuts in front of us.
He told us how we should all tell our mothers how much we love them, as you never know when they’re going to go. A lump knotted in my throat as I thought about the boy, Dallow, who lost his mother and any future boys who might lose their mothers too young.
And then Dallow, with his moist cheeks, talked about being there right at the end when his mother died, which made me think of leaving my son one day, for like, forever, and it was all over for me. The lump in my throat exploded.
I looked at Mary Ellen, my friend who was fanning her face with the butcher’s voucher we’d been given. I had to turn my head away so Bob wouldn’t see my tears.
Shoulders were threatening to shudder.
Thinking about abandoning your children when you die feels more painful than abandoning your own body. Will they know I’m dying at the time and if they know I’m going, and I know I’m going, how do we deal with the enormity of gone. Forever. And how do they cope without me and how do I cope with the idea that I can’t be there for them. Forever.
Like Dallow was dealing with. It was all too much.
I picked up my butcher’s voucher and furiously fanned too, willing Simon Freakin’ Dallow to stop talking about how amazing his dead mother was. Puhlease. My face was a streaky mess, I was falling apart. I didn’t dare look at Bob. But somebody offered us more tea and I turned around to say no thanks, no more bloody tea, I need something stronger but he clocked my face. Snotty nose, stained cheeks.
And he quietly handed me his napkin.
Which did not stop the tears! More came as that small act said yes, you’re embarrassing because this High Tea is meant to be fun, but you’re my mother and you need a napkin so have mine. I’m welling up now just writing about it.
Thank goodness Dallow finally sat down before we all had to wring our frocks out.
But as it finished I felt elated. Like that feeling you get after a good howl during a tragic romantic period piece drama. You feel lifted up from something. You feel, I hate to say it, completely totally utterly HIGH!
The next day I asked Bob what he thought about it, assuming he wouldn’t like the tears.
He said that posing for the photos was annoying and the mini doughnuts were good but the best thing was “hanging out with you Mum!”
Which had me reaching for my butcher’s voucher again.
Next time I’m sneaking in some whiskey and leaving my expectations at home.
*Names have been changed but you could ask what’s the point because I have photos of faces in this one…