(This piece first appeared as a writing exercise on the above question in Frankie magazine.)

For me this question needs to be answered in two parts. I first became aware I was an adult at age twelve, and then again at twenty seven.

1992

The first moment was on a grey Sunday at Nan and Pop’s place holding Mum’s arms back to stop her from attacking Nan. She had reached the tip of the iceberg of her mental illness, and it was this moment that I was able to put a childhood’s worth of hyper awareness to use and intercept her anger. I was extremely adept at reading my Mother’s behaviour, and would know within heartbeats when she was becoming ill. Only now was I receiving a crash course in the true depth of implications.

I had been playing basketball in the driveway by myself, keeping my ears open between bounces for signs of trouble. Mum was particularly bad today, and reactions to Nan’s attempts to get her out of bed were becoming more and more volatile. Raised voices worried me. Long silences worried me. I was an audio lighthouse, and scanning the airwaves was making me dizzy. Sure enough, an argument emanated from the windows, led by Mum’s skewed snarls. I let my ball roll into a rose bush and sprinted inside, ripping the sliding door open like a toy.

Looking back, I’m sure my Mum would never have followed through, but at that moment she was standing in the kitchen with her back to me – arms poised, with Nan holding ground in front of her. It’s quite rare to act on pure impulse, but that’s what I did. I grabbed her shoulders, (with more force than intended,) and shouted at her to stop, (with more volume than intended.) I cut her off mid curse and knew that she was surprised. (This gave me a strange sense of pride – I wanted her to take notice of me. I was sick of her telling me she was fine and that I shouldn’t worry.) Her shoulders trembled as she lost her balance a little. The muscles of her arms were tense and straining against me, so I increased my grip. I would not let her go, and she knew it.

Nan later said she had seen a change in my Mum’s eyes when I’d grabbed her.
‘She wasn’t expecting you to be stronger than her. You weren’t just her boy, but a man.’

***

2007

It might not seem like much, but yesterday I said the exact sentence:
‘I think I’ve overdone winter vegetable, perhaps I should go back to Moroccan.’ What was I talking about? Velish brand instant soups. Why? I’ve gotten to the age where I’m passionate about soup. Lately I’ve been an advocate for Velish. As a nervy, working from home type, I’m constantly on the lookout for effortless yet healthy lunch options. Honestly, some days, if I could just take a tablet, I would. Velish soups don’t have any rubbish in them and they heat up in about a minute.

There was something about the comfort with which I spoke about the soup, in combination with the playful mocking from the wonderful company I was in, sipping a G & T in the afternoon Melbourne sun, that made it all seem so grown up. This, in the same year where my happiest purchase so far has been a font.

After an emotionally rough adolescence, and the artistic slog of my early twenties – talking confidently about soup preferences and buying typefaces somehow feel like defining moments – little victories.

It’s been a long round trip, but I think I’ve grown into the person I always was.