I remember . . . .
The first Christmas I was old enough to actually know what Christmas was all about. Mum’s voice saying, “She’s waking up!” as she and my siblings stood beside my little bed.
A white, fluffy angora bolero and matching muff, a pink dress spotted with tiny white flowers and edged with white lace, all made by Mum. Shiny black patent leather shoes and white ankle socks. I felt SO pretty.
The clothes Mum made for my dolls.
Going through the French doors, into the garden, standing with Mum as we picked raspberries for breakfast, or walked the hedgerows, looking for blackberries or mushrooms.
Mum taking me to town on the bus, even though she knew I was always travel sick and would throw up.
Mum holding me while I sobbed, my heart broken when a car ran over and killed my cat.
The time she confronted a teacher who bullied the children in her class, and made the mistake of smacking me on the head.
Another day when she got on her Moped and chugged off to the next village, to “have a word” with a woman who had been saying less than nice things about me.
I don’t think they are especially significant memories because they popped into my head when I woke this morning and remembered today is Mother’s Day in the UK. Or is it still called Mothering Sunday? We were just an ordinary family, nothing extraordinary happened to us.
But Mum . . . nothing ordinary about her. She’s something special, at least to my mind. I think you would agree with me if you knew her.
March is also Mum’s birthday month. She will be 89 this year. Moving around grows more difficult with every passing year, due to her age and injuries suffered during an automobile accident. We tease her because she has so much metal in her body, but it’s not really funny. She is blind in one eye and vision in the other is hazy. She once sprayed weed killer instead of fertilizer on her tomatoes. Sometimes she misses the edge of the table so her dinner plate ends up on the floor. Happily, she has a marvelous sense of humor and can laugh at her little accidents.
Not much stops Mum from carrying on as always. She lives in a tiny cottage with a huge garden and manages to take care of the garden despite her infirmities, much as she always has. She has always had a green thumb and still wins top prizes at the local village fete for her flowers and produce. Almost every day, she takes the bus to the nearest small town to shop for groceries, and goes to a large town such as Devizes once a week. Visitors to her cottage are not surprised to find her standing on a table as she paints the ceiling, or up on a ladder papering the walls.
Very often she cannot tell if she is approaching a step, a hole in the road, or a shadow. She often falls. But she picks herself up and continues on.
That sums up Mum’s entire life. She always picked herself up and carried on no matter what life threw at her. She truly is a woman of her era. Stiff upper lip. True grit. That’s Mum. I have seen her cry only once, outside the church after my Dad’s funeral, and she stifled it very quickly. Because women of her era do not weep in public. Deeply emotional outbursts are something done in private.
I didn’t know she is terrified of heights and scared of thunderstorms until the 1990s. She refused to let us see evidence of her fears when we were children because she believed if she did, we would fear the same things. Now that we were all grown up, she no longer had to hide her fears.
Now that we were all grown up, she began to tell us of her early life, just a little at a time. If her life story were a book, it would read like a Dickensian novel. What she endured makes my heart hurt.
Mum is an incredible woman whose life has been one of hardship and heartache, but we didn’t know the half of it until recent years when she finally started opening up. She kept her fears to herself because she didn’t want us to grow up sharing those fears. She kept bad memories to herself because she wanted our memories to be good ones. And they are.
From Mum, I got my love for birds and animals, the countryside, silence; respect for all living things, appreciation for fine food, friends, and kindness. A love of reading, crossword puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, anything that engages the mind.
We (her children) think her mind is still so sharp because she has always challenged it.
She’s a financial wizard – we’ve always said that if Mum ran the country, it wouldn’t be in debt. Not that she has much in the way of financial support; she’s just very good at managing it.
Do you know When I am an old Woman I Shall Wear Purple? In her younger days soft-spoken and polite (if people mistakenly thought she was meek, boy, were they wrong), Mum has grown cantankerous. She doesn’t wear purple and a red hat, but she does what she wants and says what she thinks, and does not hesitate to give anyone a piece of her mind. She would wear purple with a red hat, press alarm bells, and run a stick along public railings, if she wanted to.
Eighty-nine years old. We’ll hold a big birthday bash for her next year, over which she will preside like the queen of all she surveys.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mum. I love you.