Picasso's Rebel

By Julie Hale, @@

They entered the cafeteria where everyone was to meet and waved over to this one and that one. She didn’t really get too involved with the other parents and carers…as her own mum said, ‘parents with special needs children are all nutters’ – the implication being that she was included in this assessment of fact. She could see that they were looking at her girl with eyebrows raised, passing judgment on the green haired creature.

Her son was standing with his team, preparing to go to the locker rooms. They nodded to each other and smiled. They got a coffee and settled down at a table for the long wait until the event started. She looked at her girl and drank in the sight of her. A warm fuzzy feeling that she had felt for the past 31 years washed over her and she sighed with happiness. A day with her two babies, her favourite state of being. Even though they both were now older than she was when she had them.

The daughter took her jacket off and the mother noticed some of the parents staring at her yet again. Surprised screwed up faces with big- eyed communication going on between them. She was aware that they did not approve. The daughter’s whole arm was covered in tattoos.

The mother reflected that her daughter had always been a bit of a rebel. Even when she was in the womb, she created merry hell kicking her constantly when she needed to sleep. She arrived into the world two weeks early after a 13-hour labour. At ten months old, the mother found her unscrewing the screws of the panels of her cot. At age nine, she discovered they had a family pet in the guise of Samantha the centipede, who lived in a matchbox under her daughter’s bed. At age ten, she came across her daughter knocking on doors in the street next to theirs: unbeknown to her and her husband, their daughter was selling rhubarb from their garden.

The daughter passed her Highers with flying colours and celebrated by getting her belly button pierced. Each year of success at uni was celebrated by an extra piece onto her tattoo ‘story’ and the mother felt a little sad each time. The daughter refused to attend the school prom because the King and Queen of the prom had been chosen by the teachers, not the pupils. That approach did not coincide with her world view of things.

As soon as the daughter was able to, she lived on her own, needing to be free from the constraints of having a sibling’s special needs constantly ruling the daily rituals of what to them was family life. Who could blame her for that? This freed her up to be like others in her age group. She has finished University for the second time now, has a responsible job and has had her heart broken.

Now in her thirties, the mother worries that the daughter needs a life partner, someone who sees past the green hair and the ode to Picasso on the arm. Someone who sees how much this girl loves her special brother and how she supports all of his endeavours and how she defends his right to live a full life with all her might.

The daughter smiles benignly during these conversations. Yes mum, I would like to meet someone special too, but I am probably too fussy. She shrugs, her chocolate brown eyes twinkling and says that in the meantime, she will build her own wardrobe and fit her own washing machine and live her life as she wants. Exactly as she wants.

The mother is proud of her attitude. She is proud that her daughter is such a rounded beautiful person. She smiles faintly at the other parents and carers as they continue to stare, wryly thinking how surprised they would be to know the real person under the green hair and ink.

family, mothers and daughers, teenage rebellion