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Mum, forever my road trip buddy and muse

Story by Briar Pomana (she/her) Illustrations by Yi Jong (she/they)

I’m my mum’s passenger princess. She travels lots for work and I’m on a mission to find the best fried chicken and chips in rural NZ. We make an excellent team. Our journeys tend to begin the night before. She’ll pick me up from my flat with my bag packed to the brim. She hates the way my second-hand gym bag squeaks under the pressure. Heading back to her house, I lie on her bed as she lazily packs her flash overnight mini-suitcase. Her bag is bright orange so she isn’t worried it’ll go walkies on her. Mum does her job reminding me of our schedule and what time she suggests I rise from my sleeping chambers, which is usually her mint green couch. The morning is a whirlwind. For some reason, I’m playing music at 5am and my mum is rightfully telling me to fuck up. Bags are rolled by the door and bottles of water are pulled from the fridge. Mum likes to travel as early as possible, so we are almost always out the door by 6am. Being up early enough in Auckland when you can dance along the motorway is like slicing butter with a hot knife - you become one with the inner city. Our travelling traditions consist of Mum and I stopping at the bakery on Mahia Road in Manurewa and getting a snack box with a Live+ drink. I always make Mum go inside and get it because they just seem to make it better when she’s the one that orders it. Near the Bombay Hills, we crack open our drinks and do this weird rejuvenation ritual after the first sip. It’s an extremely unhealthy energy drink and is probably tearing our guts up, but it feels like a boost - so it’s become a staple on our journeys.

Mum and I can talk for hours and these trips are perfect for that reason. I rarely fall asleep as passengers tend to be infamous for, just because my mum is too bloody funny and interesting for me to ever tire of her. We talk about our childhoods, people we’ve lost, our future plans, our jobs, our family, our gods - the list really goes on. As we avoid potholes and dodgy detours, Mum and I cry, laugh and sit in silence comfortably. Sometimes we call Mum’s mum, my Nanny, and play our parts in what has now become a three-woman show in which the same lines are read and performed every time. The tie between this specific line of whakapapa is funny and endlessly interesting to me - our laughs fit comfortably together in sync.

We have a running joke that we judge small towns off their toilets and how attractive we find the townsfolk. So far we’re brutally let down every time. Nevertheless, it’s a fun game to play as we do the frantic fast walk through playground car parks and gas stations. I’ve become somewhat of a DJ when it comes to controlling the bluetooth situation in Mum’s truck. It’s a 2021 model so the tech is pretty flash, yet absolutely brutal if you don’t approach its system with humility and the understanding that we as humans are by far the inferior - particularly when Mum is answering calls from her two differently branded phones. These lessons have prepared me immensely as I navigate my office buildings, printers and security practices.

The other things I’ve learnt about my mum on our car trips cannot be measured in everyday terms. My life has been profoundly shaped by the conversations shared with my mother in her car hurtling at 100km- plus speeds. There have been moments of triumph, regret, grief, reconciliation, but mostly joy. Our relationship is defined by these moments and I can’t help but feel pride in this. Our connection is something that has been passed down through generations, and it’s a project we have committed to for life. The journey of mother and daughter is one of the most complex in existence. My mum is the love of my life and the only person I am equally terrified and inspired by. My only hope is that our chats in her car on our way to strange places never end.


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