”I love you across the river and over the hills,’’ Sam McBratney, Guess How Much I Love You


My husband wonders if I miss him when he’s away on his whirlwind round-the-world business trips. It’s a tricky question. I’ve been letting it roll around my neurons and synapses for a while.

With Mother’s Day this Sunday in Canada and Australia and other countries I think I may have the answer.

I’ve spent over two decades living in different countries and perfecting the art of not missing — how can I possibly undo that now?

Homesickness came in waves every three months when I moved to France in 1989 but I gulped it down and pushed it aside with a glass of Bordeaux and some fromage Etorki.

I focussed on the excitement of living in a different country, learning French, travelling, and that little hole of emptiness seemed to fade after the first few years.

It was easier in France and England when the return flight to Canada could be done in a long weekend. It isn’t so simple from Australia where it takes at least 13 hours to fly to Los Angeles and another five to Toronto. It’s more poignant now that I have children and I want them to have a lazy easy relationship with my parents and my family. The age of my parents sits heavily in my thoughts.

Missing mum’s butter- and onion-smothered pierogies and conversations at the kitchen table, missing the ability to phone and say ”Hey, wanna go out for coffee?’’ or ”Come stay with us for a weekend.’’ Missing those long dark cold Canadian evenings when Dad and I would solve the world’s problems over a bottle of wine. Missing my friends in other countries.

I stare at mothers and daughters and grandmothers shopping together in the grocery store and realise I’m jealous. ”Come on Dad,’’ says a middle-age woman with sun-creased skin. She pulls her elderly father along the sidewalk with tones that sting. I want to tell her to appreciate every moment she has but I stay silent. These are things we learn for ourselves. By listening to the heartbeat of love.
If I allow myself to really miss everything, I’m afraid I’ll be overwhelmed by a torrent of missing: not just family and friends but places and times and moments shared. So I keep it bottled up and pretend it isn’t there or uncork it just a little at a time.
The problem is that sometimes the cork just blows off on its own.So on Mother’s Day, I’ll be with my girls and we will let the cork out: we’ll be missing mum and Nana, who died almost a year ago, and my second mum, my husband’s mother, in England.I’ll be thinking of all my family and friends who can’t be with their mothers but keep them sealed in their hearts. And I’ll be thinking of you and your mother too — because everyone needs a loving mother. Not matter how old we get.

On Sunday, my girls and I will light a candle for the 234 mothers in Nigeria who are missing their young daughters, stolen from them.