Last Mother’s Day, I wandered happily around the local markets with my little family and a lot of love. This year, I woke on a mattress in an old mill in Austria. My little girl rolled over and kissed me on the lips…”Good morning, darling,” she says, “I love you. Sleep well?” So filled with love, it hurts my chest. But when I told her it was Mother’s Day, she said in a teary voice: “No, it’s not Mother’s Day, it’s my day.” This is the lot of a mother, and the will of a child.
My husband and I then cycled together to a little town called Aspang and celebrated with goulash soup and apelspritz, coffee and cake. Ironically, Mother’s Day morning was one of the only mornings we have spent without our dear daughter, as we take advantage of six doting family members and Elka’s love for them.
This beautiful house where we are staying was once an old mill – at least 500 years old. It was found as a ruin by my husband’s family when he was a boy. They have spent every year since doing it up and making it livable. Not only is it livable, it is grand and opulent.
The bathroom is ten square metres and every inch of wall and floor is a mosaic of precious gems and stones. There is an enormous wooden japanese bath in the centre which fits at least 13 people. (And yes, that has been demonstrated).
The house is four levels and has ten bedrooms. The walls are covered with paintings. There is a beautiful large antique woodfired stove in the kitchen, which warms the huge space in the winter.
The house is surrounded by vegetable gardens and more recently, a handmade stables for the five horses, eight (or more) goats and two enormous hairy pigs with teeth. Forty-three rabbits live near by. Seven cats (one a little weak and mild) roam freely across the acreage and through the house. A dear little stream runs beside the house. The village is Grimmenstein, and it is surrounded by mountains, which by Austrian standards are considered hills, but would put up a fight against Mt Kosciusko.
Seven people live here, including Gregor’s father and his grandfather, affectionately known as Opa. Opa is 86, and lives his life in one small room of the house. He beams every time we walk through his room. He sings German songs to Elka and kisses me on the mouth three times. He can’t speak English or Dutch at all, but we understand his affection for us. He loves our little family, and is thrilled to bits that we are here. Gregor and he have always been very close. It is so special for him to meet Elka.
Of course, it is so special for everyone here to see Gregor and I and meet Elka for the first time. It has been over four years since Gregor last saw his father. There is a lot of emotion… In many ways, our transcontinental existence is so difficult, with half of our family living in Europe. We simply can’t afford to come too often, and nor can they to come all the way to Australia. But we manage. And in many ways, it is incredible how familiar everything is, even though we are here so infrequently. Within hours, Elka embraced her family members. She chats to them animatedly, hugs them and sings to them. There are no qualms at all when my husband and I take liberties such as having cake and coffee on our own. Surrounded by such love, Elka doesn’t mind a fig.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers who read my blog. There are times mothering can be challenging, but I am sure we all agree that the beautiful people we are raising and the love we generate between us far surpasses any challenging hill we need to climb. Love to you all.