My mum never cared much for Mother’s Day. She felt really, really lucky to be a mum, and she just wasn’t bothered about the hearts and flowers bit. She thought it must be a hard day for women who had wanted to be mothers and weren’t, or people whose mums weren’t around. Turns out she was right there.
I’m afraid I can’t look in the windows of card shops this week. I turn my head away and I walk past quickly. Because I can’t send her flowers or a card, I can’t take her for afternoon tea or buy her something lovely from Jigsaw. So I’m writing her this letter. I can give her my words.
This isn’t really a thank you letter. We said our thanks. And you knew. Think of it as a postcard. I just thought I’d let you know some of the stuff that’s been going on.
We were invited to the baptism of a friend’s daughter recently. Eve has never been to church, she’s not great at taking instruction (doing what she’s told), and she doesn’t like sitting still (unless it’s for Beauty and the Beast), so I wasn’t sure how things were going to go. Obviously I drew the line at taking the iPad to church with us. Actually, not obviously, I had to mull it over for several minutes. So I had come armed with all sorts of other kid-contraband: sticker books, colouring books, princesses, the Wise Old Elf, my actual jewellery, my actual wallet, hot cross buns, Smarties and Haribo. In that order. The vicar stepped up to the mic (it wasn’t a very pulpitty church) and began his opening address. Eve took one look at him and shouted, in her raspiest, most piratey voice, “Shiverrr me timberrrs.” And it went downhill from there, really.
She doesn’t like wearing any unnecessary clothing and had removed what she calls her “winter clothes” (like she’s in The Railway Children) on arrival. This is a ritual we go through whenever she enters anywhere she deems to be indoors. Like a bus. She will sit down just inside the doors, take off her coat and shoes, dump them on the floor and then stroll nonchalantly to the backseats. So she was already down to a flimsy cotton dress, and half way through 1 Corinthians she started to take off her tights, too. I tried persuasion, then bribery, then brute force, before I gave in and just helped her. Only, her pants came too. “Mummy, my knickers are coming off. Stop taking MY KNICKERS OFF! Get away from me. I want my knickers ONNN!” All around us people stared, shocked and appalled, at the mother who tries to pinch her child’s knickers in the middle of church.
During the hymns she sang Tale as Old as Time at the top of her tuneless little voice, drowning out anyone in her vicinity. I bypassed the sticker book and went straight for the big guns, threading Haribo into her mouth as fast as she could chew them. Until we dropped one and she insisted on scrabbling about on the floor, exclaiming noisily, “I’ve lost my fried egg!” An elderly lady behind us, clearly used to the riff-raff showing up for baptisms, kindly found the fried egg and returned it to Eve. Eve then entered into a game of catch with the lady, without actually telling her. So really that’s just throw. Throw your Haribo at the old lady. And after fielding the “What is God?” question for the 34th time, I eventually cracked and replied, loudly, “It’s just Dog backwards,” as silence fell all around. I’m fairly sure we won’t be asked back.
I’m running again. It makes me feel better. In body and head. The baby comes too and I think he likes it. And I went to the hairdressers for the first time since he was born last week (I know), clutching a Pinterest board chockablock with Jennifer Lawrence and her long wavy bob. Which was optimistic, I realise. But it actually looked quite nice. For the next 6 hours. What I should have asked is how it would look when I hadn’t washed/dried/brushed it for 3 days. Slightly less Jennifer Lawrencey.
Last week I went to a hip hop night with the nursery mums. No, really. I have no explanation save to say I am in way over my head with these girls. It was full of young people in crop tops. I lost my gloves and spent much of the evening worrying about that. They were so nice and you could text in them. I also took along Eve's birthday party invitations and I was waiting for the right moment to pass them round, but it didn't seem to come.
When I presented Eve (who eats nothing) with an Orange Tea the other night (fish fingers, smiley face waffles and beans) she commented, in her most affected Downton Abbey little voice,“Mummy, what a wonderful meal. Did you make it yourself?” I sometimes get the feeling she is mocking me…
Me and the baby have started swimming lessons. Because frankly I thought I’d better do something with him. Eve attended about 8 classes a week by the time she was his age. All I do with him is strap him to my chest and drag him along with us to ballet or softplay or drama (or coffee). It only occurred to me for the first time last week to put him in a swing. He couldn’t have been more excited if we’d taken him to Alton Towers. Poor grateful second child! But I have allayed my fears about depriving him of the stuff that she got by offering up excellent alternatives. Baby Massage: quick rub with vegetable oil before bed. Movers and Shakers: Radio 6 Music and a maraca. African Drumming: a saucepan and a wooden spoon. Sing and Sign: Mr. Tumble. Baby Sensory: The Tube.
I am still so sad that you are gone. That you are not here to love and be loved. How sad are we supposed to be three and a half years on? It’s not that I don’t feel joy, because I do. When Eve sings at the top of her voice in the back of the car, or calls her "Dog Film" The Hundred and Dal-One-Mations, or when the baby is asleep in the sling and I can feel his hot breath on my neck. I feel joy. A hundred times a day. But it’s an imperfect joy. Joy with a but. I miss your handwriting. I miss going home on a Friday night. I miss your soda bread. I miss hearing your keys in the door. I miss the five of us. I miss Dad.
Better sign off. Bottles to wash, butties to make, Duplo to chuck in its box. Happy Mother’s Day. Thanks for all the love.
3 thoughts on “A letter to my Mum”
Hi Helen, I just saw this because Vicky shared it on Facebook. I felt compelled to write as I don’t know how someone writes something so heartfelt and poignant without it being indulgent but you have and it is great and I’m so sorry for what you go through. I just sent this site to a friend who lost her father and that’s the first time I’ve ever done that. Anyway I haven’t seen you for over a decade (you played my dad in Anne Frank!) but you were a great dad so I’m sure you’re a bloody fantastic mum xx
Such a lovely message to get, thank you, Rebecca. And thank you for sharing the blog with your friend. I hope you are very well! x
Beautiful and touching Helen, as ever. I miss seeing you around and about too, I haven’t bumped into you in ages. xxx