Saturday, March 14, 2015

Love on Mother's Day

It's the nature of my writing that I often reflect on what's gone, rather than what I have in the present.

That often causes confusion for people. 

They read a blog that was written in a moment of sadness about a world event and assume that I spend my every waking hour in tears. I don't. I am blessed in my life, my family, and my friends, and I appreciate every moment. 

But I also have empathy for those less fortunate, and those to whom life suddenly throws a pile of crap. I've had my share of the latter, but nowhere near as bad as other people. Then again, it's not a competition. Pain is pain, emotional and physical, and you have to be where people are. Judging them is irrelevant; offering unsolicited advice, ignorant; arrogant, actually.
I have written a great deal about my father on more than one occasion. He was/is in my memories, a wonderful man, and I miss him every day, even though it was 25 years in January since he died.
But tomorrow is Mothering Sunday and I want to talk about my mum, because I love her just as much as I did (and still do) my dad, and often we don't tell the living how much they mean to us while they are still around to hear it.
Where do I start? I could fill books with the happy memories I have of my mother. The trips to the beach, when she packed the car with enough stuff to have taken us on safari for six months; the late night whims cooking pasties or toffee, that, to a kid in a dressing gown, were the height of decadence; the play time with the LancĂ´me beauty case; the first time she plucked my eye brows (less happy - AGH!); the Kardomah cafe in Newport, where, after a rainy Saturday shopping expedition, she stood at the counter while they ground beans and put them in a bag for us to take home. 

It was all terribly glamorous to me.
I never had the right twigs and branches for nature classes in school, but when it came to fancy dress, Mum excelled herself. One Saturday morning in summer, she realised she had left it way too late to get me a fancy dress costume for the local summer fete, so, looking around the house, she grabbed the sheepskin rug in front of the fire, wrapped me in it with safety pins and put the sign The Abominable Snowman on me. I came first and won 50p (never mind that I nearly expired in the 85 degree heat). My brother was less successful with Charlie's Aunt, but then Coity, the village where we grew up just outside Bridgend, was to progress what beach towels were to Noah's Ark.
On my first day in the small village school (we had moved from Newport for my father’s job), Mum sent me off in a psychedelic crimplene mini dress and a cow bell round my neck. She was a Sixties mother. Alas, Coity had barely caught up with the end of the Second World War. Actually, make that the Wars of the Roses.
When I went to Brynteg Comprehensive, Mum had another idea to try to throw her very reluctant daughter into modern life and gave me a Michael Jackson frizzy perm. I spent the whole of my history lesson with my duffel coat hood up and went home in tears at lunchtime, when Mum removed the frizz with the lotion that had given me the damned busbee in the first place. It would not have been a shock if she had made me black up, just for authenticity's sake.
Which reminds me of another story. My Auntie Audrey, Mum’s sister, had been to India, and brought me back a gorgeous sari. At the end of term party in Durham Road junior school, I was therefore very well prepared for the fancy dress. Except that Mum decided to mix cocoa powder with water to my face and neck so I would look like a real Indian. I spent the party crying in the toilet and was taken home, sobbing, with my now zebra face.
My mother was a hairdresser for most of her young life and she was (and still is, actually) a damned good one. She went to college relatively late, trained first as a social worker and then went to university to further her education and train as a therapist. Her work with young people in particular and the disadvantaged and disenfranchised in society is something that makes me in awe of her every day. She cares. Really, really cares, and has changed lives: so much so, that some of the people she has helped in their young, difficult lives, are still in touch with her, many years on, and with families of their own.
I saw her help and support my father through the very tough time when he lost his business during the country's horrific Three Day Week. I saw her constantly visit and support her own mother following the death of Grandpa. I have seen her battle breast cancer without ever once complaining. I have also seen her battle through two Apple Macs and an iPad (about which, I confess, she has complained).
My mother always looks immaculate. She loves her clothes and make up and never looks anything less than perfectly turned out (unlike her daughter). She takes everything that life throws at her with extraordinary courage, good grace and equanimity. She has never moaned about or criticised my tendency to up sticks and go to live in foreign places. "I always wanted to give my children wings to fly," she has always said - only once adding, when I decided to live in Los Angeles: “I just never expected them to fly that far." That’s another thing, by the way: she is very, very funny.
I am never more at ease with anyone than I am with my mother. We have had arguments over the years (who doesn't), but I know that there is no one who knows me better. She may not know the most about me, but she knows when I hurt, and she feels my pain; she is the person who, when everything else seems to be crumbling around me, is the one who lifts me up, carries me through, and quotes the Bear Hunt Song: “Can't go under it. Can't go around it. Got to go through it.” 
I get through all of it because of her. 

Happy Mother's Day, Mum. 

I love you.

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