Bonus Life Lessons: Inspiration From Some Pretty Cool Parents

My mum and dad are still in love. As my sister and I drove haphazardly around the streets of Noosa last Christmas, looking for our little holiday unit where Shane and Angie Baxter were waiting with a spread of exotic dishes mum had painstakingly prepared, we received a text, urging us to quicken the pace. It said, “Hurry up, your father and I are mastering karma sutra in every room of the apartment. Love Mummy Bear.” We hurried. It was a joke…I think.

Last night on the phone to mum I cringed with envy as she relayed to me the series of events that coloured their Saturday night. They are so cool. And not in a kitschy, dorky, ‘so offbeat it’s on’ sense, but in a genuine, ‘please be my best friend, and teach me how to be like you’, cool.

Mum calls me ‘minga’, which I love. It reminds me not to take myself so seriously, which sometimes I do. There’s a voicemail I’ve saved, which I would equate to a warm hug. She requests ‘RING ME BACK MINGA!’ in shrill tones, most likely recorded while also chopping veggies, jotting down ideas for fund-raising events and doing squats.

I believe she heard me use the term, once, and now she’s very nearly ‘killed’ it, as my brother has told her, often. My brother was once incredibly fond of the Presets ‘Talk Like That’, which our Mum used for an aerobics class.  As the ‘uh oh’s from the chorus ensued for a month throughout the house, I’m now forbidden to share with her any song my brother is even mildly attached to, for fear she’d irreversibly taint its cool. Why do some youths think that ‘adults’ instantly devalue something? How about those that recoil in disgust when someone says how alike their mother they are?

I adore how Mum expresses her excitement for something boldly and unashamedly. I think too often people suppress excitement for fear of their opinion not being widely shared by those they look up to. Mum will spy a button necklace at the markets and then, without consulting anyone, wear one she’s crafted herself, consistently for a month. And rock it.

And she thinks we’re cool, my brother, my sister and I. Her awe is genuine as I relay descriptions of a really incredible derelict building I explored one night after crawling through rust-ridden chicken wire. I’ve witnessed, and perhaps you have too, a selfishly laconic response when a parent merely wants to know the detail of their child’s experience. Perhaps they don’t realise how it would be savoured.

My father is effortlessly cool. I stop in at record stores to check if they have this one Randy Newman album ‘Sail Away’ that he mentioned he wanted, once. I want him to think I’m cool. I love that I have to convince him that not flying to Mexico for a wedding would be fatal, or that an outfit I’m wearing is actually not a costume, and that a vegan meal I’ve cooked is worth the risk of taking a bite.

He’s a teacher with unfailing patience, and merely shakes off comments that for me would invoke a fit of rage, followed by loud sobs. Friends of mine, inebriated, have professed their deep respect for him, despite their juvenile actions to the contrary when they were his students. In these instances, I’m kindly reminded of the thankless tasks my parents perform each day, as parents and teachers.

And so on the Saturday in question, Angie and Shane Baxter ventured to a strip of clubs in Nth Qld, and following a series of events, namely a failed attempt at a conga line, and numerous Mt Gay rum and cokes (a text from her read “hey Gemmy, I’m turning gay again…” Oh mother, I hope I’m the only one you share this with), the bouncer kindly suggested to my dear sweet folks that they eject themselves, and find another venue in which to exhibit their line dancing and pelvic thrusts (it’s genetic).

If someone approached me and said I reminded them of Mum or Dad, I’d beam with pride.


  1. Kate says:

    It’s pretty incredible how impassioned they are about life! I think it’d be inspiring to anyone! I hope one day to make my kids roll their eyes at all the love W and I have for one another, and that we continue to unabashedly dance (however poorly) with one another! Thanks for sharing Minga… I mean Gemma!

    • Gemma says:

      HA! I’ve no doubt some young sproggets will fake barfing noises as you and W snog in a park somewhere – and my general rule is ‘dancing is always the right thing’. x

  2. Dimity says:

    Fantastic post Gem, great to read that behind closed doors your parents really are as happy as they seem to be in public. None of this “smile for the locals, dear, we’re being judged” charade business, they actually still like eachother after years of marriage!
    Also happy to say that I am one of your enebriated friends that has expressed my affection for Mr Baxter’s maths (and life) lessons, even if I was sent out of class on a weekly basis for talking/singing/fly kicking fellow students.

    • Gemma says:

      Thanks DimSim! Haha you’re wonderful – I’m sure my father enjoyed teaching you thoroughly – such an energetic and brilliant gal. “fly kicking” CLASSIC.

  3. candy says:

    Gem! i wanted to read more and more and more ! What a fantastic piece, and so very real. mighty proud parents i would say! loved every morsel of it XXX

  4. Shelley says:

    Ditto gem – even tho I know ur mum n dad well (lol) I wanted to read more. U have captured them perfectly in words and u made me lol ! If I felt so proud of u whilst reading it I can only imagine how Shane n Azzy feel. xxx

  5. Justine says:

    This is a great read, Gemma! Just like everybody, I wanted to keep reading it. Although I have never met you, I now have a strong urge to meet your family!

  6. Angie says:

    Oh Gemmy…………. you are a sweet and talented girl. It is us that are in awe of you….. thanks for being such an amazing gift.

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