The things you remember about your childhood don’t always involve being parented.
It’s quite odd. Sometimes the things I remember most about my mother had nothing to do with her parenting. I can recall how she’d cook and tidy up and read me stories, but what seems to have stuck in my brain are memories of her being herself. Here are a few of my favourite memories:
The time she joined a women’s group and had to speak to a crowd. She practised her speech to me over and over; a quaint reversal of her helping me to revise or listen to my orals. She was incredibly nervous and full of self-doubt. Unnecessarily, of course. She was an eloquent speaker
Our farty picnics. Those were the days when you didn’t buy a picnic, you made one, with sandwiches and apples and the ubiquitous hard-boiled eggs. Any outing which involved a picnic always drew sniggers and jokes from her sons as the car would reek with sulphurous fumes. She’d never have said “fart”
, though; she’d ask my dad if he’d “let off”.
The sound of her laughter. She’d laugh with her friends until the tears came. I can’t imagine living in a family where there is no laughter. Such passionate joy is infectious. It wasn’t so much a laugh as a whooping celebration of life. A massive gulp of fun.
She’d settle in a new town where she knew no one, and soon have a group of friends made up of neighbours, church people, bridge club members, library enthusiasts… I suspect that her friendliness was the catalyst to many other people becoming friends. Quite an incredible skill if you compare those times with now, where loneliness is commonplace and many friendships exist only online.
You didn’t tell her what to do. She was that determined that she’d get her way that she’d set herself crazy goals and achieve them. It was remarkable to watch, but not always great to be on the receiving end.
She wasn’t a passive observer. If she went to see a movie, she’d have an emotional experience while watching. She loved art, music and many other aesthetic pursuits. Although she didn’t paint or play an instrument, she could appreciate the details in a fine piece of classical music or the brush strokes of a painting. And she’d share that with her sons, helping us to become interested in the arts and encouraging our faltering efforts at participating in them.
The smell of her perfume on the rare occasions she’d go out without her sons. She loved Chanel No. 5, the tissues in her handbag would smell of it as she’d wipe my nose. For me it remains the smell of elegance and adventure as I’d pick up on her excitement at going out.
I suppose many parents fret about their parenting; whether or not we’re implementing workable strategies for bringing out the best in our kids, but we forget that they are watching us, building up a wealth of memories of who we are.
What are some of your favourite memories of your mother
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