I miss my mum. Yes, I am a 29-year-old woman living independently in Sydney, and I just want to be held by my mother, have my hair stroked and be told that everything is going to be okay.

I moved to Sydney five years ago on a whim. I told my mum (who was not coping with the sudden decision) “Sydney is only an hour-and-a-half flight away! I’ll be able to come back ALL. THE. TIME!” Back then, this was all true. Flights were cheap, regular and, aside from some work-related scheduling, there was nothing stopping me from zipping up to Brisbane for a weekend. Until 2020, that is. The last time I was back home in Brisbane was Christmas, and now I’m the one who’s not coping.

It’s kind of a weird feeling for me – to be missing home. In the five years since moving to Sydney, I’ve never felt homesick. Going back to Brisbane has always brought a feeling of anxiousness. Right before I moved to Sydney, I came out as lesbian. I ran away from the person I was there and essentially started a new life here. Going back to Brisbane has always felt like returning to a closeted, repressed version of myself.

But when the borders started closing at the start of the year and a bunch of my friends decided to return to their family homes in Queensland to isolate, I made the decision to stay here for work. Then I had a moment of panic, breaking down in my share-house kitchen very dramatically, yelling “I just don’t know when I’ll see anyone again!” while my roommate looked on awkwardly and said, “I’m not sure how to help here.” I finally had that homesick feeling, because now Brisbane wasn't representative of my old life, it was where my family were – and where I couldn’t be for the foreseeable future.

It was my mum’s birthday last weekend. It’s my birthday this week. For both of us, birthdays are a big deal. I have always been obsessed with my birthday, so much so that I have a twin brother in Brisbane and people always forget that it’s also his birthday – because I don’t stop talking about mine. (Sorry Andrew, love you.)

My brother and I were meant to be born on mum’s birthday, but she told the doctor to change the date. My mum would sooner keep two human children cooking in her womb for an extra week than share her birthday, and I respect that. The next available date was a week later (we were a planned C-section, she wasn’t just, like, holding us in) so now we share our birthday with our Auntie Tracey (sorry, Auntie Tracey).

Waking up to pictures of my mum and brother celebrating over the weekend left me gutted. I craved the feeling of getting off a plane into Brissie humidity, complaining from the moment my feet hit the tarmac. I wanted to see my mum waiting at her car in the pick-up zone, already blubbering because I was home, promising she’d get better at not crying. I wanted to get home and have my family dog Charlie sprint towards me, remember he’s upset with me because I no longer live there, ignore me (only for a minute), and then plant slobbery kisses all over my face. It’s all the little moments I missed out on that I cried over that day.

I understand these restrictions are in place to keep us safe. I am not downplaying a global pandemic here. But the fact everything is happening for a reason doesn’t make the heartache any less real. Like I said, I’ve never been homesick for my home town – it’s always reminded me of a life I don’t miss. But I’ve felt it deeply this year, because while I might not miss the city, I do miss that real, tangible connection with family.

Now, I face the thought of a potential Christmas from afar. Currently Queensland has a hard border closure with Sydney, and unless the state lasts 28 days without community transmission that will be staying in place. As I write this, two new cases have been locally acquired. The chance I can fly to Queensland by Christmas without doing a mandatory two-week quarantine is looking slim.

I’ve long taken it for granted, but being seated around the big family table for Christmas – Charlie sniffing around my feet for sneaky scraps from lunch, mum documenting everything on her iPhone as though extended videos of me peeling potatoes is vital for our family history – is so important to me. That not happening is a foreign concept. What will my Christmas look like without it? I’ll probably do an “orphan’s Christmas” in Sydney with other Brissie friends who can’t make it home, and I’m sure it will be fun and special in its own way.

But still. Missing Christmas in Brisbane will mark a whole year apart from my mum. For me, that is unheard of, and I can’t help but feel frustration and heartache – regardless of what I think about Queensland’s decision to keep borders shut. It’s not about politics, really. It’s just damn hard emotionally.

Hopefully, I get the chance to see mum soon. When I do, I’ll be ready with the biggest, warmest hug – and I’ll even let her document it on her phone this time.

Jenna Suffern is a Sydney-based comedian, writer and actor. You can find her on Instagram and Twitter.