My mother and I shared a kiss only once. It was the cold middle of my eighteenth year and I was in love. I had spent a week sleepless, my clammy fingers clutching the edge of my green floral quilt as my heart raced and I counted down the hours until I could see him again, talk to him, send him a message to confirm the reality of these fireworks deep in my ribcage. I could barely eat and my emotions were a car wreck. One moment I would be singing sweet in the bathroom and the next screaming at my sister that I hated her and she could never again borrow one of my dresses.
Coming home one night after an official first date on cushions in the window of a Thai restaurant that quickly descended into making out in the back of the car, I was flushed and elated, my silk dress a little askew. My mother was still up, her hair in the short, brown bob it had worn since before I was alive, and her faded forget-me-not dressing gown pulled tight against the bitter night. I could see her forcing herself to be normal when she was desperate to ask me, ‘how was it?’ She just smiled and I headed down the hall into my room. After a few minutes she came in and sat on my bed. She turned to me as I pulled on my flannel pajama shirt and finally asked, her sea-blue eyes bright with loving curiosity. ‘It was wonderful’ I consented in a rare moment void of biting sarcasm, and I fell down beside her on the mattress, my head still crowded with every moment of that evening, his hand on my thigh, his voice whispered in my ear, my lips on his a thousand times, and without a seconds thought I had thrown my arms around her and brought my lips up to meet hers. With the moist contact my illusion grew a hairline crack and I sat back, blushing lightly, and stuttered ahead with the conversation, telling her how much I liked him and what a nice night we had had. She never reacted and I wondered whether in her sleepy-eyed state she had even noticed our exchange, or ignored it to preserve some shred of affection bestowed from a generally surly teenage daughter. For it certainly wasn’t the usual in our very white and middle class Australian family to pash our family members.