It’s Mother’s Day. And it’s my first Mother’s Day without a mother.
Generally I would have spent the week leading up to today scouring the shops for pretty things; sparkly things with glitter, glittery things with sparkles.
My mum died last summer, a few days before her birthday. I still have the sparkly flip-flops I didn’t get to give her, wrapped up.
We’re the same size so maybe at some point, if I ever need a pair of sparkly flip flops myself, I might unwrap them.
I hope you can see from the photo above that she was beautiful. The twinkle in her eye is clearly discernible.
She didn’t actually need added sparkle.
She was a good looking woman all her life and she enjoyed looking good. If that meant spending the family allowance in Biba, taking ‘diet pills’ (for which read amphetamines) and brushing her teeth with hydrogen peroxide, that’s what she’d do.
She was totally confident in her attractiveness and used it wherever she thought it might play to her advantage.
Growing up, I was aware that she was different from other mothers.
Most of my friends’ mothers didn’t work. None of my friends’ mothers picked them up from school in hot pants and false eyelashes.
When I was eighteen, she took me to Cyprus to get over the stress of A levels.
We sunbathed together (she was an expert), drank cocktails around the pool (again, she was an expert) and socialised with the family who ran the little hotel we stayed at.
One evening, I agreed to let one of the waiters show me the night life. (I know, right.)
When I’d seen enough of it, I returned to the hotel and was surprised to find our room key still on its hook in reception. At 3am.
I lay on my bed in the heat, wide awake, wondering what had become of her.
At 5am, the door opened. She tiptoed in.
“What the bloody hell time do you call this?!” I shrieked. “I’ve been worried sick!”
God alone knows where she’d been, but she’d clearly had a good time.
Having a good time was a key part of her skill set. There wasn’t a single occasion I didn’t look forward to seeing her.
And she’d have a good time even when the odds were stacked against her.
She suffered from chronic asthma. The NHS had kitted her out with inhalers, nebulisers and an emergency kit to be carried at all times.
In 2016, she and I flew to Jersey for a weekend to attend a wedding.
After we’d settled into our accommodation, we went shopping. She bought five pairs of shoes in the sale at Beghin’s. But the shopping took it out of her and she’d become breathless.
Naturally, she’d left the emergency travel kit at home.
“I wasn’t planning on having an emergency!”
“But that’s the thing about emergencies, Mum. You can’t plan them!”
The wedding the following day was an elegant affair with cocktails in the sun and champagne in the marquee.
Mum’s breathing worsened. She medicated with more champagne.
Note: champagne is not a proven treatment for asthma. In fact, evidence suggests the histamine and sulphites in it will trigger or exacerbate symptoms.
At 10.30pm I was acquainting myself with the Reciprocal Health Agreement operating in the Channel Islands.
Mum was in A&E in her wedding outfit and flip flops, straight from the dancefloor.
I went back to our B&B while she spent the night in the hospital.
The following morning I went to collect her.
“I didn’t get onto the ward ’til 3am,” she said. “And I was so desperate for them to leave me alone!”
“I wanted to get out of my underwear.”
I must have looked puzzled.
“It was one of those Trinny and Susannah high waist thongs. They get uncomfortable after a while.”
I don’t think you’d find many pensioners bothering with magic underwear.
I’ve never referred to my mother as my ‘friend’ as some do. I have lots of lovely friends whom I hold in my heart and cherish.
But I only ever had the one mother.
And I loved being her daughter. I loved being spoiled by her and chastised and hounded and cheered on and cheered up.
I liked feeling that she had answers to problems when I didn’t, even if that answer was invariably ‘take no notice.’ (That seemed to work for everything from bullying to tax demands.)
There’s nothing like going home and shrugging off the responsibilities of adult life for an afternoon. Mums can do that for you.
My mum was so proud of me.
When I was young I was embarrassed at all the showing off she did about me.
As I got older I came to realise that, just as my lovely boys are my greatest achievement, I am hers.
I miss her today and every day. I’m not ready to be the grown up.