I have had the wonderful privilege of being a mother – at times a great mother, at times a less than totally positive role model, and at other times, a downright failure as a mum when I focussed too much on my own problems and not enough on their needs.
It’s possibly the most difficult job in the world – and it comes with no handbook to guide you as each child would need their own personalised book anyway.
You learn on the job, and you learn from your mistakes. Yet sometimes because of me, and sometimes despite me, my four children have grown to be adults I am immensely proud of, and I spent this Mother’s Day with three of them at various stages of the day, and with my sister-of-choice and her daughter and fiance. I was given beautiful cards, flowers, and butterflies, candles and little books. Little gifts that mean the world to me because they come from the heart.
It’s the gifts that come with love attached that are the memorable ones. Yesterday, my youngest daughter treated me to lunch in a local hotel that’s been wonderfully refurbished; the Dumfries Arms in Cumnock is now well worth a visit! Jenni’s a student, with little spare money, so I really appreciated the fact she wished to spend some of it on me; I appreciated our time together as much.
The last time she did this, she was almost 12; and it remains one of my favourite memories. Unknown to me, she had gone without school dinners and saved her pocket money for weeks, (and did some classroom trading by buying sweets up the street and them selling them on for a profit), to get enough money to take me for lunch. Proud as punch, she took me to the lovely Failford Inn and told me I could have whatever I wanted (while secretly hoping I’d not go for the most expensive item), but then she didn’t know that mums know exactly what to do at times like these.
We spent time talking about that Mother’s Day Lunch – and how relieved she had been when I offered to buy the drinks and when I turned her offer of dessert down as I was “too full.” I doubt if there was a prouder, happier daughter that particular day – or a prouder, happier mum for that matter, given what she’d done to get me there.
My eldest daughter gave me one of my other memorable gifts. It came all the way from Korea where she was teaching English. I still have the little red box that had once held sweets, with its little handmade packets in it, each with a handwritten note.
“Coffee represents the energizing effect you have on me. You encourage me to follow my dreams. You also remind me that no-one ever remembers “weak coffee.”
A bag with a little silver leaf necklace:
” The leaf represents memories. Firstly, leaves remind me of how much you love autumn – particularly walking through the fallen leaves. Secondly they remind me of the docken leaf and its healing powers. I know how you’ve tried to protect me; but sometimes the nettle loves to sting me so I can learn my lesson. Finally, it represents me. I was attached to yu, but will always have part of you with me, no matter where life takes me. ” Autumn is a second spring where every leaf is a flower.” ” Our Lord has written the promise of the resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in spring.” I will always remember my mum.”
” The candle represents the light you seek me to seek. You are like a candle. You set others alight. You ignite passion. You raise the heat. Did you know that each candle raises the temperature of a room by one degree? “A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.” “It’s better to light a candle than curse the darkness.” You would always choose the candle. You are a positive influence.”
A four leaf clover:
“The four leaf clover represents luck. Sometimes we have to find our own luck. “Luck ain’t even lucky. Got to make your own breaks.”
A small lens cleaner:
“If you ever find happiness by hunting for it, you will find it, as the old woman did her lost spectacles, – safe on the end of her nose.” This glasses cleaner represents my gratitude for you teaching me to be grateful for what I have. Also for teaching me to see things clearly – from all viewpoints.”
A tiny paper clip:
“This clip represents the stability you help me retain. You help me hold everything together when times are tough.”
A black plastic ring:
“This ring represents our unity as mother and daughter. Our bond is never-ending. The colour black absorbs light. You always want me to look for the light – like a mole.” (referring to my poem The Mole in the Hole Who Lost Sight in the Light)
It cost pennies to make, but what price the love behind it? It remains one of my most cherished gifts. I think you can see why I know I am blessed.
On Saturday, I popped out to do some very necessary food shopping – and was nearly run over several times by trolleys pushed by people intent on buying flowers and chocolates for Mother’s Day, and oblivious to everything else. Harassed and harried, they didn’t see other shoppers, were rude to the assistants, and so many failed to have consideration for others around them. It was as good a day for trolley rage as I’ve seen. Standing back, I wondered if their mums would have been proud of the way they were shopping, and figured I’d much rather have nothing than have what was bought for me bought out of duty or after making others unhappy or angry.
Mother’s Day; it’s the one day in the year that a card really means more than a gift anyway. The day we celebrate mums or those who have nurtured us. I’d spent the previous weekend with my own mum, who is also known as Mrs Doyle for her persistent hospitality and offers of tea. I was able to ask her many questions about her childhood, a childhood spent in poverty and fear of a violent alcoholic father. It explained so much; her inability to sit down and relax (because her father never allowed anyone to relax, or read, they must always be working). It explained her anxiety and worry, and feelings of inferiority that at time I’ve been frustrated with; I now have compassion for that child who didn’t really have a childhood. I watched her at dinner and saw how red her hands were, from constant cleaning and from caring for others in a way that no-one really ever cared for her. And I can tell you now that I am so grateful that she is my wonderful imperfect, ever loving and supportive mum, and that I still have her with me, where many of my friends found Sunday such a difficult day because their mothers are no longer here.
Mother’s Day is, as one of my friends wrote, her birthed-me day; how can I not be grateful? What gifts can we give that ever repay a mother’s unconditional love? None that I can think of that merit trolley rage, only pride, joy and happiness.