Summer in Mudgee | What I Learned From My Mother

On Wednesday, February 28th, I’m hosting the Mudgee Readers’ Festival event, What I Learned From My Mother, at The Cellar by Gilbert. Authors Lauren Sams and Meg Mason will be joining me to discuss motherhood, writing, and where the two intersect. As the date draws closer, I keep thinking about my mom, Donna, and what I’ve learned from her. From her sage advice about relationships (She says not to fart in front of each other too soon) to her tried and true ways of parenting (never break a child’s spirit,) she’s been extremely influential in the way I live my life.

My favourite thing Donna quotes is: “There’s no evidence that life should be taken seriously.” Not taking myself too seriously is the reason I write. Finding the humour in life’s awkward moments makes all those mishaps or predicaments we find ourselves in all the more bearable, which is why I want to thank Donna for giving me the following story to write about.

In November 2013, my daughter, Daisy, Donna and I trekked out to Botobolar Vineyard with my dog, Cooper, for a walk with our dear friend, Trina. Since it was almost summer, I spent most of my time trying to will my ponytail to act as a horse’s tail so it could swat my face, neck, and ankles because flies were everywhere and about to make me snap. (I was only three weeks postpartum after all.)  

After blowing the 111th fly out of my nose, we went to the dam on the property so Cooper could have a swim. As I watched Coop blissfully splash around and retrieve sticks, I began to panic because it looked like he was getting stuck. His little head was barely above the water and his doggy paddle was proving insufficient. Since I had newborn Daisy strapped to my body, Donna didn’t hesitate when she volunteered to go into the dam to save Cooper. Before I could even form my next thought, Donna was HIP deep in mud. Apparently the shoreline was NOT as solid as it appeared. Donna’s leg disappearing act happened so fast you’d think it was sorcery. Even more panicked because now two people (well one person, one dog) I simply can’t live without were stuck in a dam in country NSW.

Luckily, in the 30 seconds that Donna sank into the dam’s trap door, Cooper was able to save himself and immediately began to circle her. So much for needing our aid. To be honest - I wanted to go and help, but couldn’t stop laughing because the sight of Donna waist deep in mud was rather entertaining. Plus, I had more important things to do - like get my phone out to document the entire thing. Trina managed to get down and anchor herself at a safe distance to lend a hand. My mom hesitantly reached out her mud-covered fingers, but knew that Trina couldn’t offer the strength of a crane.

Donna was laughing to the point of tears. As was I. (I was also worried about a situation happening south of my belly button because like I said, I had just given birth and there was a good chance that I was going to pee my pants. Clearly, my pee stained leggings weren’t an issue compared to Donna’s mud bath.

In between Donna’s attempts to rescue herself and Cooper’s confusion that she wasn’t trying to play with him, I watched in awe at Donna’s ability to laugh about this potentially terrifying and embarrassing situation. As Donna slowly worked her way out of the mud, I momentarily wondered if the core of the earth was trying to swallow her whole. Finally free, she crawled up to solid ground and we continued to laugh until our abs were sore.

Once we got back to Trina’s house, Donna hosed herself off and we put a towel down for her in the car. (I tried to get her to ride in the back with Cooper so that I could take more pictures….) But no, she sat up front with me and expressed her true concern that we might have had to get an actual crane to help her out. She said she felt like one of those horses you see on the news that gets stuck and need an entire fire department to save them. You want to know what I learned from my mother on this day? That she’s an absolute legend.  

Summer Land is a contributor for and author of Summerlandish: Do As I Say, Not As I Did. You can get a signed copy of her book from or download it for Kindle or iBooks.