The stick of blue eyeshadow rattles around in the bottom of a fishing tackle box.

The one I had used for my make-up as a professional stage actor. It held so many memories I didn’t want to get rid of it, although that part of my life was long gone.

My mother had passed down many things, that stick of eyeshadow amongst them. If only it didn’t make me feel so sad for all the loss she has endured.

They came to this new country, this small nation at the bottom of the world, for a change, an adventure, an education.

They had an agreement, my parents, that this was to be a three year sojourn on these small islands in the Pacific.

If only, I opened the stick and looked at the beautiful colour.

I remember my mother using it before she went out to an art exhibition or a concert.

My mother was the artistic one; it was she that took me to the theatre and stood patiently waiting as I met the actors after a show.

It was she who introduced me to the writing of Conrad Aiken. It was she with whom I listened to the songs of Bob Dylan: Odetta; Joan Baez; Peter, Paul and Mary;  dear old Burl Ives; and even Yurtle the Turtle.

The recorded voices of our America. If only we had been there, been at home.

My mother had been a woman who loved art and music, poetry, theatre and dance.

Her broad interests took her from Connecticut to New York, where she entered the orbit of intellectuals. She was intelligent, beautiful, and vibrant.

Initially, her life in New Zealand consisted of the PTA and a kindergarten group.

If only her beautiful American life wasn’t on hold, her beautiful American shoes and clothes weren’t put away, If only the only thing left wasn’t just her total disregard for convention.

She wrote to a particular artist in prison; his return letter began, “Dear Madam.”

She would not be thwarted, and in the end, became close friends with a brilliant artist and unrepentant imbiber of drugs.

We would visit him in his funny little rented house, before he became famous.

Once I was bored and ate all the cookies with a food colouring X on the bottom of them. At 13, I was flying high. If only.

We frequented Art Galleries and went to openings of exhibits. The visual arts and its creators became an ordinary part of my young life; budding artists would drop in to see my mom on their way to university for a cup of coffee and a dose of her charm. Our ex-state house became an interesting art salon of sorts.

My Mom still had hopes of going home. If only she had, they were becoming fainter, but she held tightly to them.

My father then left us in a blaze of media attention.

He had never intended to return to America, content with this small version of his hometown, Chicago. A flat city with grid-like streets where he could feel both comfortable and, suitably, forever remain alien.

But, the inveterate liar that he became, that rewriter of his own history, that precursor to fake news constructing a fake past, would not even acknowledge his home state, claiming to come from New England. Stealing every aspect of her identity that he could.

My mom took to wearing sweatpants and unlaced shoes. The North American Society folded.

My mom built walls of newspapers to keep the now unwelcome world out.

if only, if only, if only…

My Mom has passed down many things, a love of poetry and painting, of theatre and dance, and a great aching longing for home.

The problem being, I no longer know where that is.

I snap the little stick of eyeshadow shut.

After my father’s embarrassing public display, which he told me later was a necessary ploy to keep his job, we should have gone, my mother and I. But I was in the grips of my first major depression. My mother not much better.

All sorts of anxieties hidden in the folds of the sweatpants and sneakers crept out to fasten themselves on her vibrant soul.

Of course she took the dissolution of their marriage as a personal failure, what else was one to think as a woman of the 1950’s?

A black man called Leroy had been her friend in the U.S. and sometimes visited while my father was at work. She told me he roared into the apartment complex in his old jalopy, to the shock and certain consternation of the white middle class community in which we lived.

So, she was liberal in her views, but she was still a woman of her time, and she had believed that she and my father had been in love.

Perhaps they had? Who’s to know after all these years? All I have left are photographs and diaries, and there is little truth left in these artefacts of a life.

How she regretted that decision to marry.

Suddenly, they had matching rings and a double bed, and she had a different name. For any actor, a new name requires a new persona, and this one was linked by the strength of naming, to this man she barely knew, and who barely knew himself.

They were looking at what they wanted to see when they exchanged those golden bands of forced and false intimacy.

She had been forward in her thinking, and had wanted an abortion when she became pregnant with me.

My father had protested. He wanted a child.

So, they married, as was the way, back in the day.

But, of course, it was all left to her, she who had not wanted to bind herself to the responsibility of parenthood.

They themselves were children of their time, no matter what fabrications were created later, and caring for children was women’s work, along with all the household responsibilities. Their gender differences were well-defined and closely followed, enjoyed by one, the other…trapped.

This is a sad story but not unusual, and I have had passed down to me, along with the great inexhaustible yearning for home, the recurring theme if only. This is also, of course, a common enough refrain.

So my Mom withdrew from the small artistic world she had created around her, many of the participants flocked now to my father as a new and interesting sideshow, in a small town still strongly bound by convention.

My mother was left dealing with a distraught daughter, with a handful of helpless friends.

If only, I repeat to myself in retrospect, if only she had gone home.

My mother has passed down to me a certain understanding of the human psyche; she was a natural empath, as many actors are. It is not surprising that she grew to doubt herself in the face of my father’s—obvious to us now—Aspergers.

We didn’t know then, did we?

Even in their good moments, she would be longing for spontaneity, and bereft of the ability to sail the emotional sea, he would counter plaintively, but with an overriding and maddening arrogance,

“But that’s not logical.”

Their marriage was a neverending battle between Captain Kirk and Spock, with none of the respect between them.

It was never going to work. It had been doomed to failure. Scientist and artist, poles apart and moving ever further.

I look sadly at my mother’s American shoes which I have kept; the “Marilyn” shoes; the white stilettos.

I have a longing to redress her life.

If I could somehow turn the hands of time and change her decision, I would happily not be born.

But, I wonder, how much of what took place was in some way inevitable? I have a locket in my jewellery box from her engagement to another man. A lovely man, a gentleman, perhaps a little short. But really what does that matter in the long run?

If only she had married Pete. Why? Why hadn’t she?

She had a firm belief that she was somehow unworthy of real love. So, in a way, the final pairing was the perfect one. The woman who didn’t deserve real love ran off into the sunset with a man who couldn’t love, not really…

How do these feelings and ideas lodge themselves in young women’s minds?

My mother had, for some reason, as yet undiscovered in my investigation of the past, wanted the approval of her father.

Had I unwittingly inherited that as well? Had my lovely mother passed down her injuries and weaknesses? I know she stayed, believing I had a “good” relationship with my father. An idea that was dashed to pieces and betrayed in dazzling fashion.

How sand-like then, that firm rock she had constructed her life upon.

So, by the careful copying of behaviour I acquired many parental failings. It could not be helped.

One has to be oneself, and a lone child in a secluded family will look to her parents as guides for the adult world, whether those parents are capable of navigating those choppy waters themselves, is sometimes only clear in hindsight.

Not all inheritance is bad. A valuable thing my mother passed down to me is how important kindness is. So I look kindly on the woman, who once she had me, loved me with the absolute of motherhood.

But, no matter how much I love her back, and no matter how kindly I feel toward her, whenever I visit her, or think of her, which is very often, I still croon in the quiet of my own mind,

if only, if only, if only.