It’s Saturday, race day for mum. She has followed the nags since moving to Rockhampton with her 5 children and husband John; it gave her an interest outside the house; and as she explained once: “It challenged my intellect with working out which weight, which rider, which race, who will win.”
For a Sydney-born woman who won a High School Scholarship at a prestigious girls school in south Sydney, I find this statement extraordinary. Intellect? On the horses? Still, once a form guide has been studied, there are a lot of variables, so part of me can see where she is coming from.
To me, looking at my mother as an art lover, lover of literature and classical music buff, horse racing seems to rate a very low rank – down there – on the scale of things I’d like to do with my life.
Each to their own. So anyway, I’m sitting there trying hard not to cough, keeping mum company as we watch Jessica Watson sail into mum’s beloved Sydney Harbour Heads. Uncle Alan has emailed her his racing tips for the day, and she sits and quietly makes notes. She asks me to place the bets for her when I go home. It will be my first time. This is the phone number, this is my code. Race 2, number 4, $5 each way to win.
The numbers are small, but it’s just an interest. As it turns out, the horse comes home and pays good money. She’s made a healthy win. For me – it’s cured me for life. I don’t gamble. I don’t buy a lucky ticket. I do buy raffle tickets from the Scouts, Lifesavers, and so on, but not Lotto or similar. Can’t be bothered. I am not a gambler. But mum is. She is gambling on getting out of hospital, of getting back onto her feet. ‘Dr says I’ll have a limp, but that’s ok,’ she tells me. What are the odds?
Home again to Carolyn, to slide the front door open and see mum’s empty ‘throne’. No one has sat in it since her hospital admission. No one sits in it anyway. Occasionally we kids challenge each other to do so: Go on Sis, sit in mum’s chair, but we dare not, we dare not. It’s mums. Respect.
The throne is empty. Long live the Queen.
To be continued…