Irish mammies are the thing I missed most in lockdown in Australia
En route home to Ireland after spending the last two years in Australia, what Hannah Kingston missed most about home was the infuriating, entertaining and affectionate Irish mammy.
I land into Naples airport dehydrated and puffy. Once I connect to the WIFI, my mom informs me that she missed the bus to greet me at arrivals and she’s so sorry and to get a taxi and she will pay for it. The WhatsApp incites instant regression and I am 16 again, remembering every time she was late to pick me up from primary and secondary school. Flying into a rage and instantly wanting to cancel the reunion as punishment, I start crafting, on retrospect, manic texts back: “You had ONE JOB…and you have FAILED.”
Shortly after, I remember that I haven’t had a coffee or a puff of my vape in 26 hours and I’m not angry at her, I’m just deprived of the things that keep me mellow (caffeine and nicotine, preferably at the same time.) I don’t send the angry message because I know how much that would hurt and us being together has been such a long long time coming. So long infact that I feel shy and weird about being together again, what will we talk about? What does she look like now? Will she notice/comment on the three stone I put on in lockdown?
It’s winter in Melbourne and 32 degrees in Naples. I am lucky to be here. I haven’t been able to be here in over two years between COVID and visas. I am almost “home-home” but my first stop is to finally meet the person who I associate with home the most and that’s my lovable, funny, high energy and slightly daft mom. I knock back an espresso like a shot of tequila and horse into my vape, calm returns, momentarily, before I realise that I don’t have a stable internet connection and I don’t know how to seamlessly get from Naples to Amalfi. Of course, I didn’t think ahead, the valium has worn off and left me in a fog.
As stress descends once again, a taxi man with gold teeth and aviator glasses practically lifts me into his cab and starts speeding off, muttering that it’s a public holiday but he will give me the best price despite this. The price is 200 euro, I don’t think my mom will ever recover from the shock of it.
The taxi man is speeding up and down the winding hills, bullying cars out of his lane. I of course, being of an anxious disposition, immediately believe that I am about to be sex trafficked. There are no signs to Amalfi, I have no idea where I’m going, he’s driving so fast my tote bag keeps falling off the seat. It’s reminding me of the Wave Rave at Ballinscarthy fun fair – I didn’t like it then and I don’t like it now.
I look to my right and the window is cracked. Obviously, this is a previous victim’s failed attempt to get out of the kidnapper’s van. I didn’t even check if he had taxi credentials because I am too spaced out to think of safety.
I keep trying to connect to 4G which is impossible to get on an Australian sim. He hasn’t even put the address into Google maps. These mountains are a prime spot for brutal murdering. My mom will feel so bad for not being at arrivals when I, her, charming, hot on a good day, intelligent on a better day daughter will be found dumped on the side of a coastal road. “I’ve had a good life” I think to myself as the taxi man breaks suddenly to avoid maiming a teenager on a Vespa. “This is a pretty beautiful backdrop for death,” I murmur under my breath, valium wooziness washing over me and making it difficult to decipher between verbalizing and inner monologues.
“Scuzi Donna?” He says. “Oh, it’s a beautiful day for a swim,” I say in an Italian accent. Side bar: Why do we think if we speak in an accent but in English, other cultures will understand what we’re saying? It is horrendous.
Ah yes, you are from the UK, Scotland? He purrs. Ireland I say. Ah Ireland, so beautiful, so green! Look madame, there is Mount Vesuvius! Ed Sheeran begins to play from his speakers and he starts to sing along and I do too. I’m reckoning if I can endear myself to him, he will not murder me. Next up is I Believe in Miracles by Hot Chocolate. We are both belting it out and I realise that I will not die today and I will live to guilt trip my mom for not being there.
My gold-toothed pal flings me on the side of the road after we have had a long discussion on why all other drivers bar him are idiots and he explains Italian grammar to me. I am belissma but he is belissmo. I stand in the square where my mom told me to meet her and there is no sign of her. Violent moodiness descends once again until; “Oh my god, it’s you!” I turn around and there she is. I grab onto her and we sway from side to side. “My baby!” she shouts. I’m almost 28 but I still think her doting is dotey. She steps back and looks at me closely. “Jaysis what happened to your eyebrows?!” (I got brow lamination!) “Nice to see you too!”
My mom may have failed at Arrivals, but I failed at reading the small print on our Air BnB listing, which sits at the top of a hill, 502 steps of different heights and textures to be exact. As we lug 30kg of sequined kimonos, leather sandals and 14 pairs of socks up said stairs in the midday heat, I realise that she has won the humility award for the day. She complains about the situation but not the weight of my bags. She complains about the lack of crockery in the house but not that I have poor attention to detail. She huffs and puffs with my suitcase but between pants, she tells me that she is so happy to see me. My cup is full and it feels like no time has passed at all.
Things I missed the most about being near my Irish mammy; 1. She is unrelenting in commenting on the price of every single thing and it both infuriates and entertains me 2. She waves at anyone who makes eye contact with her excitedly as if we are driving down our country road 3. She smiles wide at all children 4. She talks to strangers with genuine interest, as if they are a long lost friend 5. She instantly forgives me if I get in a 30 second bratty huff 6. She says sorry when she’s wrong but takes the absolute piss out of me when she’s right 7. She talks me up to strangers as if she’s my wing woman and it’s 3am in Coppers, whether or not said strangers want to hear about what a great success I am in her eyes.
The thing I have missed the most is being around the person who has known me the longest. A slight tilt in my voice and she knows I fancy the Italian dude we just met on the ferry. I’m encouraging her to go for a nap on the off chance I’ll bump into him on the cobbled streets and be more able to flirt. She knows this but she doesn’t comment. She goes and naps, and I purposely bump into him. “Where is your mum? It is so special you have this time together.” “She’s napping but we’ll be back together soon.”
That’s the beautiful thing reader, no matter how far or how long, we’ll always be back together soon.