A few months ago, a milestone in my life passed, unnoticed by everyone but me. It is one that colours all aspects of my life and the most important role I hold. I am now not just a motherless mother, I have graduated into “blind mothering”. By blind, I am referring to the fact that all my daughters have now passed the age I was when my mother died. Happily, they’ve all been able to keep hold of a mother more successfully than I, although they are somewhat shortchanged when it comes to my maternal capabilities.
Parenting with no reference point is unsettling. Even if one’s childhood experiences have been exceedingly crappy, one still has a point of reference from which to navigate, even if that journey takes you to the opposite end of the scale to ensure history is not revisited upon your own children. My own father was exceptional in being a single parent. He worked so very hard, all the time, and created a home full of love for all four of us, his children. If I ever thought I made half as good a job at parenting as he has, I will go to my grave very happy. His strength and calm exterior was always balm to my soul and I truly believed there was nothing outside his capabilities that he couldn’t sort. The example he set, always portraying an aura of unassuming, quiet confidence, stood me in good stead for the news of Pumplette’s diagnosis. I knew he wouldn’t flap in the face of such a task, and that gave me the belief that, given time, this would be doable. The examples of his competence are writ large across my entire back catalogue of memories, enabling me to face anything which is thrown my way, as the foundations of childhood are so very solid.
But. There are some things that only a mother can bring to the table.
Cat wrangling with my mother
Throughout my daughters’ lives, I’ve strived to fill their childhood with all manner of memories. Not just the spectacular, but also the spectacularly mundane too. For the memories I carry of my mother, and the kindness and love with which she cared for me, are the every day things. The sharing a bag of popcorn (if we visited M&S) or bacon frazzles (if it was the supermarket shop) in the car on the return journey home. Happily, I have imposed my love of bacon frazzles and toffee popcorn onto my girls, and these tend to be the go to snack of choice when on a road trip.
The biggest hole for now, though, is the granny my girls never knew. Oddly, I don’t feel I missed out on having a mother through my childhood, its been in adulthood I have missed her most. Not being able to cross reference my daughters’ infancy and childhood with her experience & memories of mine & my siblings is something I feel keenly. Although my father was present for all my formative years, he has never shared or, probably more likely, remebered, those pieces of my early years that would have been indelibly etched on my mother’s soul. I remember accidently stumbling across the information that the general anaesthetic I needed when I managed to seperate myself from the ends of my index and middle finger on my right hand as a tiny toddler, very nearly killed me. Twice. I am certain I would have been privy to such a story far earlier than my mid 30s had my mother still been around. However, as my father is such an excellent racontour, I doubt her telling, or impression of the Irish anaethetist, would have been anywhere near as hilarious as his rendition!
I’ve now chalked up 30 Christmas days without her and 30 birthdays have been celebrated without one of her exceptional chocolate cakes festooned with jelly tots. That is a lot of gaps in photographs. It is a lot of wisdom, care and guidance that is absent. I really wish I had been able to know my mother as an adult. I’ve been told we share mannerisms of which I have no recognition as having belonged to her. I’m reliably informed we share a similar sense of humour too, although I think my love of the Anglo Saxon repetoire can, absolutely and unashamedly, be placed at the feet of my father. My mother was far too puritanical to utter profanities. She would be so very disappointed!
I know she would have been the most exceptional of all grannies. I can imagine her reaction to the multiple A&E visits we’ve had to make for the girls (& husband) through the years. She would flap a little, then pull the show together, before telling me this is karma for all the trauma I subjected her to during our brief 12 years. (And she wasn’t even there for the Understudy vs car on pedestrian crossing incident!) At little more than 5ft tall, she may have been small, but she was certainly mighty! You always knew when she was present. And if you had been trying to sneak one extra biscuit. I really wish I had inherited her biscuit accounting skills. That would have been a useful addition to my repetoire!
Alas, I have spent my parenting life always being numerous biscuits short, but left with the amazing foundations she laid in my early years. The childhood I was blessed with really has been a huge benefit to me as our family faced the path that has coloured my parenting style and the girls’ childhood. I am very lucky to be one of the four who got to call her “Mummy”. She may have missed 30 years of Christmas stocking wrapping at 2am & washing up at 4pm, but her impact on our lives is still very much in the present, helping me anchor myself a little as stumble through the teen raising years.