The conversations that were filled with nothing, but meaning everything, began when I went to boarding school. I would gather the 20 cent pieces from the side of my school bag and make my way through the poorly lit corridors towards the office. When I wasn't ringing her, she was ringing me, a voice would carry through the stairwell "phone call for Kirsty Riiiiiiiiiiiiiice".
"How are you?"
"Did you manage to buy a new shirt?"
My questions in return were "how's the dog?" and "did we win the football?" All the while I'd be picturing my childhood home, my bedroom, the posters on the wall and the blossoms that would be in full bloom outside my bedroom window. My homesickness subsided with the feeling that I was there, I wasn't missing a thing.
A care package would arrive with a pair of wooly socks for the winter, a bag of lollies and a newspaper with the sporting results from the weekend. I'd scan all of the pictures looking for clues on the life that was going on without me.
When I finished school the phone calls continued. I began work and moved house several times, but the regularity stayed the same. Invariably I needed help, I was hopeless. Something was always about to get cut off, the phone, the electricity, the rent was overdue. The requests for help were staccatos in a banal chorus of "have you been back to the dentist" and "when does Dad get his new car".
When I moved interstate the phone calls were made late at night for cheaper rates. I would walk in to the bedroom with a glowing red cauliflower ear after talking for over an hour, sometimes two. With a look of disbelief G would ask"What do you two talk about?"
When I was completely lost, new in Libya without a car, a phone or a friend to talk to, she would send me emails to match our calls. She'd planted petunias, a tree had fallen down in the backyard, the dog next door had finally disappeared and Barry from work was going in for an operation next week. "Do you remember the Smith boy, he married the girl from Woolworths, they're having a baby." In the absence of care packages my news was now coming via daily email. She knew I was struggling, she knew I needed the ordinary, the everyday; nothing too deep, nothing to thoughtful, just enough to hang on. Keep going, one foot in front of the other.
Yesterday, after two hours and fifty two minutes of nothing but everything, I said goodbye. I had eaten lunch, gone through some paperwork and made a coffee while we chatted. And although it was nothing it was very much everything. She was right there, close enough to disagree with, close enough to giggle over the mispronouncing of a name. When you have lived with the distance, you understand how close it can make you feel.
After two hours and fifty two minutes, of nothing but everything, I forgot to say what I rang for.
Happy Mothers Day Mum.