A Story of Bravery by Tahlia Briggs
My sister was two when she wandered off down the beach. My dad had taken her and my brother back down to the water to rinse off the sand. Instead of walking in a straight line back to my mum, my sister disappeared into the crowd and walked aimlessly down to the next patrolled beach. This was one of the most terrifying times in my mother’s life! Had this little girl been taken? Had she walked back into the water and drowned? My mother still remembers vividly the call to say that they had found my sister alive and well. Two years after this event I was born but the fear this event instilled into my mother affected her for nearly 15 years.
Although I learned to swim as a child and had many adventures in our back-yard inflatable pool, spending a day swimming at the beach was never really an option until one remarkable day, when I was 13 years old, my mother decided, out of nowhere, that she was not going to be scared anymore. My mum booked a motel right on the beach at the Sunshine Coast for a weekend away and together my mother, sister and I swam and played in the ocean all day.
I watched the waves wash over my mother as if washing away any fear she once had. As she took a deep breath and dove into a wave I realised that my mother was incredibly brave. Although the fear of losing a child at the beach was still there, and she panicked slightly when we were a little too far out of reach, my mother had overcome her fears completely independently. She never needed anyone to hold her hand, she simply found the strength within herself to not let her life be ruled by fear. As she came out of the other side of a wave she inhaled new life and as she smiled at my sister and I, I knew from this point life would be very different.
The next few years saw camping trips to forests and beaches unknown. Wading through thick seaweed filled waves reciting the mantra “anything that touches your leg is just seaweed”. We sang and laughed as we bush walked to waterfalls and mastered setting up a full campsite including having the kettle on within 20 minutes. Through these adventures, I always aimed to learn more about my mum as for the first time I was not just seeing her as a mother but as a fiercely independent woman who was much braver than she realised.
The more I learned about my mother’s life before children, the more I started to see glimpses of a rough childhood, the unwavering support of her siblings, a love of ‘good’ music, and a passion for ballroom dancing. As a young adult my mother even learned to ride a motorbike and went riding off-road through the bush with her brother and my father, yet she was still mortified when I got my motorbike licence.
When I was four years old my parents separated, and my mum raised the three of us by herself. My mother had no choice, she had to be brave. Brave for us. Through the horrors of homework, teaching children how to drive, dealing with the door slamming phase my sister went through at 16, and eventually watching us move away to start our own lives, my mother was our rock. She held our family together with such strength and courage, even when times were tough she found the strength within herself to be brave and carry on.
Through all the trials of raising three children independently, my mother after many years finally found the courage to be brave and start her own life again. Although dating did not come naturally to my mum, she managed to find a man who was not intimidated by my 6-foot-tall brother who loomed in the doorway before their first date. Like me, this man saw how brave my mother is and was captivated by her spirit and love of life and adventure. Together they found love and someone to grow old with. Now with a combined seven children and five grandchildren, my mother continues to be brave for all of us and is always there to lift us up as we journey through the issues that come with adulthood.
My mum and step father have continued their life of adventure for over a decade with trips to Paris, Turkey, Croatia, Italy, Singapore and more. Now on the eve of her 60th birthday she is adventuring through Canada and exploring the remarkable sights of Banff.
My mother sees her life as ordinary and unremarkable. Raising children, finding love and experiencing loss, my mother does not feel that she has accomplished much throughout her life so far, but what she fails to see is the impact she has had on everyone around her who she has lifted up even when she felt that she couldn’t.
As children we love, honour and respect our mother for the love and support she never ceases to give us, but as I reflect on that day I watched my mum wash away her fears at the beach when I was 13 years old, I realise that this remarkable, strong, adventurous woman made me into the kind of person I never expected to be. My mother made me just like her. My mother made me brave.