Sunday, March 14, 2010

Mum's the word

It's Mothers Day in the UK today. Another day when the flower sellers and card makers expect you to buy something to show you love someone you actually love every day of your life. As a feminist I baulk at the idea, we are all parents aren't we? As a non-believer the fact that it is really Mothering Sunday and the something Sunday before Easter means nothing but the historian in me likes the idea it was the day girls in service were allowed home with their Simnel cakes and I hope they enjoyed it and today me and my Birmingham based kids will do something to celebrate the fact we love each other even though we feel it every day.

I no longer have to not by flowers for my Mom as they are a rip off but instead find some knick-knack she will like; she died five years ago. Now I am amazingly grateful that I don't have to burden her with my news. I feel for my fellow sufferers who still have Moms that are alive as I am not sure I could have borne her sorrow. She already had one child who died, my brother Johnny at aged 9 and she and I were not just mother and daughter but best friends as we grew older and I just couldn't have done it to her.

Reading back over the blog I see that my Mom comes over as rather harsh so I need to put the record straight. OK, she was harsh, harsh about rudeness, unkindness, injustice and the worst crime of all "having a bob on yourself". So yes it was her that taught me to be self-deprecating, that I wasn't pretty like Lynda ten doors down or tidy like my cousin or clever and neat like Anne over the road. It sounds terrible I know but that is the way it was; it wasn't just this horror of breeding a bighead that she had but also some deeply felt suspicion that if I got "built up" the Gods would intervene and I would disappear as my brother had done before me. Luckily I knew she loved me as it was pretty obvious but funnily enough after I had one of my own kids and she realised I wasn't going to make a complete hash of it and she could let up a bit, she got her best friend, my Aunty Vi, to tell me how proud she was of me. Mind you when about twelve years later I landed the job that doubled our income and set me on the path of my future career, she said oh good and then asked me if all the others had turned it down.

Alongside all of this placating the Gods of humility malarkey she was the kindest, funniest and bravest woman alive. She used to make plans to have a laugh and then hoot and guffaw with whoever was along for the ride. She put herself out constantly for other people. When she was in her 70s she would visit less well off relatives weekly, not just ours but Stewart's as well and still find time to come to my house, do all my ironing, pick up my kids from school and peel the spuds for our dinner, whether we wanted them or not.

She was a deeply instinctive egalitarian and brave with it. The best story, although I still shrink with fear at the idea, was when she was on the top of a bus with a fair few people, including a load of skinheads and one Asian chap who was being abused by said skinheads. For my overseas readers skinheads were a particularly nasty aberration of the 80s, people with heads like mine but by choice, ridiculous short trousers and bovver boots (Doc Martens). Their raison d'etre fell into line with the Klu Klux Clan and they had equally unpleasant attitudes and habits. Well everyone was studiously looking out of the window while these bovver boys shouted and threatened the one black person on the bus. All except my Mom who went and sat next to him and turned to this gang of racists and told them that was what they were and that this was a bad thing and didn't they have any humanity or feelings for their fellow man, how would they like it etc etc. I don't think she clipped them round the ear but the threat was probably there and miraculously they quietened down; if they hadn't she would have just carried on till they did.

And then before she was a beautiful young woman, an orphan or worse really, motherless with a father who left her to be raised by a Dickensian type aunt who just treated her like a slave; only to meet and marry my Dad who was the best Dad in the world but the worst sort of philandering husband. Thank goodness for Fred who gave her a proper marriage 30 years later.

So that was my Mom and I will think of her all day today as my children and their children celebrate motherhood; and we will give our old friend the elephant a piece of the pineapple upside down cake I am just about to make, because I can and want to and maybe he will let that be bribery enough to his Gods and go away and let me be and let me feel pride in what me and my Mom have achieved and keep me doing it every day for a very long time yet.


  1. This is just an incredible piece of writing, Jean. A lovely tribute to your amazing Mom. xx

  2. thank you for writing about your mum. I'm sad to confess, my mum died nearly 4 years ago and I never contemplated celebrating her memory... until right now after reading your post.


  3. Adrian.Culley@btinternet.comMarch 15, 2010 at 8:31 AM

    I've just discovered a new favourite writer, and its you Jean!

    As I bounce around the world I'm going to savour catching up on your past works, and very much look forward to reading all those to come...

    Love to you and Stewart both..

  4. Dear Jean
    That brings your mum back beautifully. You'll have to do one on the 'the old man', as Stewart used to call him!).

  5. what a namesake she was, you are just like her and I recall you chasing a BNP canvasser up the road shouting "take this filth up your own end" while wearing your dressing gown. Although I am sad to say that you failed as I and think all your children have a bit of a bob on themselves!

  6. Over here from afteriris... Beautiful tribute to your mom. Read with tears in my eyes, especially the verbal bum-kicking of skins. The world needs more people like her and you.

    Thanks for sharing your memories.

  7. Here from after iris. What a beautiful, heartfelt and honest tribute to your Mum. Aspects of her rang true to me - my mother also lost a child, and the way you describe her subsequent reaction to you is familiar.

    Loved hearing the story about her standing up for the Asian guy on the bus.

    Wishing you well