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Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mothers' Day at Annie's house

Mothers' Day passes quietly in this house. My son is many miles away, and we've agreed that we won't subscribe to the Hallmark mentality; it's not necessary. I know that he appreciates me every single day of the year. He doesn't need to have a knee-jerk reaction to some randomly allocated date on the calendar to prove he loves me. Every time he calls me or pops up on my Gmail chat, it's Mothers' Day for me.

My mother
 And my own mother- well, I'm sitting here by the fire looking at her photo, which sits high on a shelf in the living room where she can seem to watch my life unfold, and I can pretend she's not missing anything. Her ashes sit on another shelf, but I know that's not really her. That's just the bit of her that grounds me, and reminds me that everything passes. She's more inside my head, or floating in the atmosphere of my home, than in that jar.

Marjorie Daw
She's more present in my old doll, Marjorie Daw, the one that sits up against that jar of ashes. Marjorie Daw still wears a hand-made replica of an outfit my mother made for me fifty years ago. I won a prize the first day I modelled that ensemble, strutting proudly up and down the catwalk feeling like a million dollars, my matching doll in my arms.

I always felt confident that I looked good back in those days. What a gift to give to a little girl.

I'm not a pastel person.
My mother is present, too, in the throws that cover my lounge suite, and in the cushions that are dotted across them. I made them myself, using the skills she taught me from the time I could hold a needle or sit at a sewing machine. More gifts from her to me; the gift of inclusion in real work, the gift of play with real tools.

She wouldn't have used those colours, mind you; she was a pastel person in decorating terms. But she would have let me choose them for myself. I think of my old bedroom, which she allowed me to paint black when I was a teenager. (And what a teenager I was. I was horrid.) The black walls ended up covered with white line drawings of my favourite musicians; it was quite a room. It was tiny, but it was MINE.

A talent for laughter...

It took her four coats of lavender to cover all that when I left home- FOUR coats- but she found that funny rather than irritating. I was always, always allowed to be myself, to express myself.

And there was always more laughter in our house than whining; mishaps weren't classed as disasters. Even today, it's easy to make me laugh at myself when I get cranky. That's a gift worth having, too.

...often at herself

Good choice, R!

My mother is here in the photo of my daughter-in-law, too, even though they never met. She died when my son was just two, yet enough of her remained in my son's subconscious for him to be attracted to a woman who had much in common with her. The dry but razor-sharp wit, the quiet intelligence, the ability to express difficult feelings calmly, the affinity for handcrafts and the ability to be completely happy in her own company- all these I recognise. Never believe a two-year-old retains nothing in his memory. At two, my gifted and very challenging son felt completely comfortable with my mother. At nineteen, he found the same atmosphere with another woman, and immediately chose her for life.

My daughter-in-law is a gift. How many women can say they genuinely love their son's wife?

My mother's chair sits in the corner. I hardly ever sit in it, but it's always full. It's bursting with memories. Mostly, I see her sitting there towards the end, in terrible pain but smiling while my little son tells her stories to distract her. Looking at that chair I can hear her voice. Voices are forgotten eventually, you know; the day you forget a lost soul's voice and can't hear it in your head is a dark day indeed. But between my son and that chair, the sound is still locked in my head 25 years later.

My mother's here in the books that are scattered through the room. Even when we were flat broke, somehow we managed to have books in the house. And those books were a symbol of time spent together. I remember going to the local children's library with her; what hours we spent there, browsing the shelves, sitting on the floor reading because we couldn't wait till we were at home again to open the book. I remember her sitting on my bed when I was deathly sick with rheumatic fever, reading the chapter of 'Anne of Green Gables' where Anne accidentally dyes her hair green while I laughed helplessly and forgot I was ill.

And she's right here in this computer, even though she never used one in her life. I tap away and remember how she let me use her typewriter to discover the joy of words. If my two-finger typing is faster than most experts' ten-finger efforts, it's down to that early start. And I remember the poems and stories we wrote together at that old machine, until I was good enough to use it to write up my own early compositions.

It's Mothers' Day- and though I haven't received a single card or present, I'm sitting here surrounded by gifts.


  1. Happy Mother's Day! Such a great way to go through life--daily reminders of all that was good! :)

    1. Thank you, Ayn. And the same to you- another wonderful, staunch mother.

  2. What a lovely post.
    Thanks for the personal stories.
    You all sound like an amazing bunch of women

    1. Thanks, Emmie. Oh, and do you have a Facebook page? Because if you do and I friend you, I can invite you into the book club I've joined there- someone has got round to doing what I never got round to doing! Send me a message on the Aunt Annie FB page, and I'll send you a friend invitation, and we can go from there.


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