What I don’t understand is this: As in most households, Mum is the anchor, always there and doing most of it too. Yet I can’t conjure up the same magical memories of my mum as I do for my dad. I can’t think of a list of special smells relating to her so spontaneously and this gives me cause for shame. As I grew up I treated her poorly, visited her less often than I should have, and failed to repay her with my focused time and love as she deserved. I wonder if I am on the verge of getting to the root of why the paternal as opposed to the maternal is so dominant in many societies and cultures. I did love her very much but I was so up my own Ars and self-centred that I could not show it AND I ALLOWED MY FORMER WIFE’S WISHES NOT TO BOTHER WITH HER TO CLOUD MY JUDGMENT AND BEHAVIOUR. .
In those days she was little and slim and I loved to cling to her before bed and feel her let-down hair and sniff the remnants of today’s perfume. My childish memory of her is that she was attractive warm and loving. Dad had fetched her from Blackpool in his motorbike and sidecar after a holiday romance. But the happily ever after story did not quite work out, I don’t think, in her case. Of the five children borne to her, two died at birth and three had very significant sight loss, with apparently no previous family history of such troubles. We tinies knew nothing of all this, it goes without saying.
By the time I was on the scene, her days were fully occupied. Cooking Dad’s breakfast at six and sorting us out for the day. Lots of visits to the Eye Infirmary and long waits on green benches waiting our turn to see the great man. Caring for Nanna Hinds who came to live with us as she grew more and more helpless and cantankerous. Reading endless stories to three children who could not themselves read. She spent hours with us in the kitchen so we could make a mess and learn to make jam tarts, Cocoanut Pyramids and Gingerbread men. And her cooking!!! The smell of liver in the oven all day; Cornish Pasties, stuffed with corn beef onion and baked beans, almost ready to eat; and chips and Sunday roast potatoes, my favourites, even though I hated the meat that others’ ate with them.
It was she who bathed our knees when they were cut with stinging yellow Iodine; it was she who took me to hospital when I tried to cut off two finger-ends in my spinning bike wheel; and day after day it was she who took three blind children on and off buses, out to picnics, fishing for tiddlers in the local park and always back to the safety of home where she seemed to have it all just so. We were experts in fighting, screaming and driving her to distraction but mUMs cope and, in her case, probably SHE paid dearly for her stress later in life.
Later you will hear how she played a pivotal role in my senior schooling and university education as a result of the hours of reading books she, and often I, did not really understand. She also had the guts to speak to me about the mess in my teenage bed.