I’m up too late again: it’s not quite midnight but will be by the time this is posted, thanks to the heinous installation of British “Summer” Time. The coinciding of both our annual celebration of motherhood and the moving of ‘time’ so that children under the age of 12 will be simultaneously exhausted and up earlier (5.45 am anyone?) is in poor taste. I’m grateful that for us at least, there will be no mad dash to get to school for 8am, as neither Wee Bear or I are larks.
Since my mini-me won’t be here, my Mother’s Day present this year is a chance to attend Matins and the full Liturgy in our local Church. I will wake up, say my prayers, walk briskly the two miles through a beautiful part of our city and (I hope) get there in time to enjoy the hymns for St John of the Ladder, as it’s now the fourth Sunday in Lent.
I did fail, however, to post my own dear mum’s card in time and have failed to be inspired (or have time) to make her something to hand over. I know she says she doesn’t mind and that she knows how much I appreciate her, but I’m not sure it’s possible for such a modest, unassuming person to realise just how much she means to me and of course Daddy Bear and Wee Bear. I looked in vain for a poem or verse that would be able to express what I feel and none can.
Here are a collection of my precious memories of her, shared with you (mostly for her) and given as a gift for those whose mothers are gone in body, because we know they never leave our hearts.
- Mum sitting on a bench, knitting a mohair cardigan on a very windy daffodil covered hillside as Dad flew a radio-controlled plane. Boiled eggs may have been involved as snacks, much to my disgust.
- Mum and I taking a rare chance to make pretend cakes from sand and leaves by a river – I think we had visited a shop or something far away, it was somewhere with a sort of glade nearby.
- The tireless hours she spent lighting fires, cleaning ice from inside the windows, running baths in front of paraffin heaters, cooking endless meals, providing blankets for tents in our garden without sighs or complaints (that I can remember).
- Holding me while I cried my heart out, having realised that death was inevitable and one day, one terrible day, I would lose her and the rest of my family.
- Birthday parties where she spent a whole day baking astonishing cakes and treats for me and my friends to enjoy: so much more special than hiring a trampoline centre *cough*
- Using the treadle sewing machine (which I wish I’d saved somehow) to sew both a bridesmaids dress AND my favourite skirt of all time: pink floral cotton dirndl, that I wore out one summer. It felt so old fashioned, feminine and pretty. I could tell that it was difficult to make but I realised that we could MAKE CLOTHES…
- teaching me to knit, almost by osmosis. Lending me needles, wool, patience, teaching me the peace that comes with paying attention to a pattern. And, of course, the jumpers that held me as warm as her hugs: I’m thinking particularly of the icelandic wool one, made in natural tones of wool and as thick as a yak hair blanket. We wore them to see the Edinburgh Tattoo one year, and didn’t feel the freezing wind after the sun went down.
- Always having to wait for chips on our “Around Scotland Tour” in a minivan one year: chips formed a staple of our evening meals and whenever mum went in, they had just put on a new batch. This meant that they were fresh and piping hot. I now realise it also provided her with ten minutes out of earshot every day, not to be a dismissed lightly either.
- Listening to my endless tortured ramblings about weight, food and boys for at least ten years. Or more. Never complaining or advising, just listening, sometimes trying to guide but never laying down the law. Or not that I can remember…
- Being with me almost every day after Wee Bear was born. She made me endless tea, scrambled eggs, brought me cushions, held me gently when I was too sore to hug anyone because of the feeding hell that was a baby with undiagnosed tongue tie and poor supply, brought me food and sympathy for the week we were in hospital with a staph infection of Wee Bear’s belly button, even when she was utterly exhausted and worn out. When my PND was crippling and I couldn’t be on my own with a 4 month old baby, she and my dad took me in. They looked on as I struggled back through the black swamp, gave me space for my head to recover, didn’t comment on my spiralling upward weight (the outward sign I’m not really coping btw), bathed the baby, changed her, took me out for walks… It goes on, to this day (thanks for doing that mountain of ironing my dear, you know how much I hate it).
What I’ve come to realise, having been so fortunate to have a mother who is still only in her early (muffled digits), is that she’s a remarkable person in her own right and I’ve got time to get to know her as an adult. I have all these memories of her but so do others. She’s a stalwart friend, sister, wife, aunt, daughter; she taught me the power of gentleness and love, the strength of gritting your teeth and going on, with a smile and a hug, the dignity of bearing ill-health without complaining or asking “why me”, the compassion of coping with the depression of others without shaming or despairing.. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her despondent in my life, even if, on rare occasions, I’m allowed to see her feeling vulnerable. She doesn’t have a glittering career, a huge social circle, her own business or whatever you’d think of as worldly ‘fulfilment’ or success… what she does is so much deeper and more significant.
She’s a mother.