For many years Mothering Sunday never really registered. The moveable date in March held no meaning for me. In the corner of the tiny country where I grew up bank holidays and celebrations were linked to the holy days and Mother’s Day (15 August) was no different. Nevertheless, today has a certain poignancy for me.
I first became aware of Mothering Sunday in 2006. It had barely been a year since mum had died and my emotions were still brutally raw. Window displays advertising cards, flowers and other trinkets for Mother’s Day would trigger the floodgates. Unwillingly tears would stream down my cheeks at the sight of tacky cards for a day I did not even celebrate. It took nearly six years before I could pass a card shop in the weeks after Valentine’s Day without bursting into tears. And just as I was adapting to the new reality of life after mum, I lost my father and the wound left by death was ripped open again.
In the haze of grieving for dad, I seemed to lose mum for a while. Her memory seemed to recede as I struggled to work through the sadness of dad disappearing overnight. Or maybe mum was just doing in death what she had done in life: put her children’s needs first, even if that meant taking a back seat.
In the past year, however, mum has returned from the shadows in all her formidable glory. As I have slowed down and tuned into the routine of my daily activities, mum has been ever-present. And as I have immersed myself in my studies – experiencing anger, despair and hope at the injustices and possibilities in this world – mum is there, cheering me on.
Whilst I may not celebrate Mothering Sunday (a commercial invention of which mum thoroughly disapproved), mothers could and should be celebrated any day of the year. So, on this grey Sunday, I am celebrating my mum, the myriad of things she taught me and the 101 ways she lives on in me and my siblings.
Mum, the list of things I want to thank you for is endless but here are just a few:
- for introducing me to the joy of reading: my life would have been very different without words, ideas, stories…;
- for cooking and baking from scratch: by growing up with pots on the boil and the oven in daily service, I learnt that a kitchen is the heart of healthy and happy home, a place of creativity, alchemy even;
- for sewing many of my dresses and secretly knitting clothes for my dolls after I went to bed: as I child I learnt that love and quality come in many forms, and rarely in a shopping bag;
- for making me abide by the household rules: I learnt more about devising and implementing efficient and effective procedures and systems from your way of keeping house than from any management courses;
- for giving me and my siblings a childhood full of innocence and wonder: rationing television time, limiting extra-curricular activities and sheltering us from encroaching consumerism allowed us to play and let our imagination run wild in a safe space, where adventure and magic could lurk behind every sofa, trellis or shed;
- for your love of gardening (and annotating your gardening books): when I smell sod under my fingers or discover I am potting up a rose you marked up in Dr Hessayon’s Rose Expert, you are at my side;
- for teaching me at age 4 that often life just isn’t fair: knowing the difference between truly unfair and merely inconvenient or unpleasant saved me lot of unnecessary battles and allowed me to keep my powder dry for the ones that really mattered;
- for your dignity and humanity: your ability (right up to the end) to see the person behind the act remains inspiring, something to emulate; and
- most of all, for your endless love that nurtures me still.