Tomorrow is Mother’s Day. Normally I’d anticipate it coming but this year it just hit me out of the blue. ‘Happy Mother’s Day!’ shrieked Alison on the way out of school on Friday afternoon, waving yet another piece of brilliant artwork. And it is brilliant; you can see the improvements in the detail of the people she draws. They’re no longer stick people, they have trousers and dresses, eyelashes and even bracelets. She’s growing up every day, because of me, or in spite of me – I’m never sure which.
We spent the whole day in town together, and after the two hours in the park decided to pick out something for her two nanas’ graves. We eventually found something vaguely acceptable, but as I surveyed them, something sank in my stomach. It’s not only the feeling of loss that comes with every Mother’s Day when your mum passes away. This was a very real but unreasonable sensation. I’ll try to explain.
Every Saturday if the weather’s good, Ali and I will go for lunch, a kind of mother/daughter bonding activity. It’s become a habit, a ritual, one I used to look forward to (I love cooking but hate the clean-up after). Now, however, the novelty has worn off and I’ve started making dinner at home more. My cooking is nice, but also there’s nowhere in the world that will ever serve food the way mum used to make it. Sausage stew, roast pork, ‘twice-baked’ spuds filled with ham, onion and cheese, cheesy veg, lasagne (I’m salivating here and it has nothing to do with my Cerebral Palsy). I know it sounds ridiculous but even if I followed recipes the thought of never eating her food as she cooked it hurts. I’m hungry for the nice food.
And as with every Mother’s Day, I’m hungry for her.
I’m hungry for the ridiculous fights we had on countless Mother’s Days when she used to insist on cooking dinner (probably for the same reasons that I can’t seem to find a nice restaurant these days – she liked her own food) after which she would moan incessantly about how nobody helped her even though she liked doing things her own way and she had previously insisted on cooking alone.
I’m hungry for the ridiculous squeals of appreciation at presents we got in the Pound Shop that she’d probably given us money to buy (wow, just what I need! A stuffed penguin!) and the feeling that no matter what you got her it would never compensate for the job she did as a mother. And her smiles as she opened the cards and cooed over our artwork.
I’m hungry for who she could’ve been, whether that might’ve been a famous interior designer, a ‘hip’ nana or a grumpy curmudgeon and I often wonder what she would have made of JP and I having Ali, and whether she would’ve insisted that she wasn’t an on-call babysitter with one breath and threatened to adopt my daughter with another. I wonder if she would approve of my choice to leave a paid job and enter the murky world of freelancing, or if she’d be embarrassed by my seeming laziness. She certainly wouldn’t approve of the wheelchair, but I also know that she kind of, sort of, trusted my ability to make sensible decisions.
I’ll never know what she did and didn’t approve of. I only have one regret, and that is how hard I was on her, how much I expected of her. Being a mother is hard work and scary sometimes, and sometimes she had bad days like us all, which she tried to hide from us. When I was small, I thought my mum was invincible, and even when I was told at the age of twenty-five that she had passed away, I said ‘no, sure try waking her again, she’s just a very heavy sleeper(!!!) (She slept through a bomb which demolished some of her house in Cookstown at the age of fourteen). I, like all of us, took her death hard, and when my own daughter was born three years later, I panicked. How was I going to do this without the support of the woman who had such a major role in who I am today? And yet, I did, sort of. Call me crazy but during that time I had to believe she was close by otherwise I would have crumbled altogether.
Now, my grief is more reserved, but it won’t stop the tears on a day like tomorrow. Yet tomorrow too will come and go, feelings of happiness and sadness intertwined with begrudging acceptance. I think one of Mum’s favourite country and western singers, Kathy Mattea, puts it more eloquently than I ever could:
‘We’ll never know what could have been, but looking back we see
What could have been, and never was, was never meant to be.’
Now there you go mum, your own Mother’s Day blog! No ‘I wish heaven had a phone’ memes for you! xxx