By Vanessa Gordon

I have three mothers. Yes three mothers. My father loved three women. Now this is not one of those stories of me being raised in some seventies hippy commune.

My father was married three times. And to clarify again he was married three different times. The women he loved loved me.

They willingly nurtured me through three different stages of my life. They loved me as if I was their own and I loved them back as they were my own.

There’s my Hawaiian mother who raised me during my early childhood and formative years. And there’s my African American mother who raised me through the awkward teenage years. And then there’s my biological mother my Melanesian mother. Today’s story is about my her.

My parents met in Papua New Guinea in the seventies. My father the young adventurous New Zealander found himself trekking through the different provinces. He fell in love with the country, the people and with my mother. She was a flight attendant when they met. One of the first “national” flight attendants recruited by an Australian airline. That was the politically correct term at the time to describe a Papua New Guinean.

“National” was nicer on paper than what nationals were referred to off the record. The other term was natives! My father was often kicked out of white only clubs and associations for his irresponsible fraternising with the “natives”. He would fervently refute any caucasian that showed any sign of racism towards his Melanesian friends. God forbid if anyone commented on his interracial love affair that would send him into an outrage.

It was the seventies it was pre independence. Together they went to discos and drive ins. They showed off their bell bottoms, afros and sideburns. Despite the racial tension it was a great time to live. They loved Boney M, Creedence Clearwater and each other. The result of this summer of love was….me.

I came along and then a few years later they fell out of love. Times were changing. It was almost 1980. The Village People’s YMCA became a smash hit. Boney M were about to drop their 20 Golden Hits album and my parents decided to call it quits. A year later my father was engaged to my step mother and within another year we moved to Hawaii.

Hawaii was a long way away from home. Hawaii was to become my new home.

Thanks to Detective Steve McGarret the six year old me was prepared for the migration across the pacific.

I was a long way away from my Melanesian mother. The six year old me felt heartache for the first time.

Alas the six year old me grew up. Oahu was now my island home. Hānai is a term in Hawaiian culture that means an informal adoption of one person by another I was blessed to have a step mother that loved me like her own. I also had an extended family of hānai cousins, aunties and uncles. It felt like home but there was always a part of me missing.

The missing link was across the pacific. She gave up all her parental rights so that I could have a better life in America. I grew up resenting her for letting me go. By the time I decided to venture back to Papua New Guinea I was well and truly americanised. I had a twang when I spoke. I was outspoken, independent, strong willed and free spirited. I was secretly a hippy at heart. I was on a life changing mission to get in touch with my roots. The twenty something me was confused as to why my Melanesian mother didn’t hug me and show me affection. I didn’t understand that there was a fifteen year gap between hugs. Her maternal instinct ended when I boarded that flight bound for Hawaii.

The thirty something me was a struggling single mother living in Australia. My relationship with my Melanesian mother evolved. The more I learned about her culture and the Melanesian way the more I understood her.

I was a mother now. My struggle was real. Tuna was our friend! A struggling parent sure can get creative in the kitchen. We had it every night for dinner.

There are only so many tuna dish variations that a child can endure before there is a revolt!

We would wait in car park outside the supermarket just before closing just so I could buy fruit, vegetables and bread at half price. Occasionally I would have to walk ten kilometres to work because I couldn’t afford fuel or a bus fare that day. It was demeaning. We survived final notices and eviction notices in the hopes that no-one noticed that I was falling apart for ten years.

Long story short I survived. I earned my stripes. All in the name of love.

The resent towards my mother kind of lingered. I wanted to know why she didn’t do the same for me in the name of love. Was I not worth the same struggle? It wasn’t until I became a mother that I truly understood why she let me go. That kind of love that kind of sacrifice that kind of pain. It was not a temporary arrangement it was long term. My Melanesian mother knew that letting me go was in fact permanent. I was to be raised by another woman. In another country. Another culture. A different language. A different dance to a different beat.

Today the forty something me experienced a pivotal life changing moment. I saw my mother in a new light. I had to wake her up early in the morning. I walked into her room and found her fast asleep. She has aged. She looked so fragile and peaceful so tiny curled up. At that very moment my heart softened. It shattered a little then softened. I had to check myself and examine my heart. I roll my eyes when she tells me to slow down and spend more time with her. I get irritated and feel smothered when she hovers around and leans in to find out what I'm doing.

She is actually taking an interest in me.

She is doing exactly what I have wanted her to do thirty six years ago.

This is the defining moment I have hoped for growing up.

This is our moment.

Me and my Melanesian mother.