It’s Mother’s Day on Sunday. A day full of memories. I never really quite understood how the date was decided when I was little and I was usually quite surprised by it, sometimes only really twigging when we went out to Sunday School to be met with tables heaving with daffodils ready to be tied into little bows of three and handed out to all of the ladies in the congregation at the end of the service; that damp wet floral smell mixing with the wood polish and dust in the air. And as I got older, the day was full of the rip of ribbon being curled by my scissors, and the soggy patch on my knees where the flowers had soaked through while I was tying them up.
I have memories of planning wildly elaborate schemes to treat my Mum that were so wild and elaborate they never came anywhere near fruition, and of course the year I phoned and told her that I’d bought her some chickens, only after the “you’ve done WHAT!”, explaining that they were going to a family in Africa via the Mothers’ Union and not turning up on her doorstep. I so should have sent her a fluffy soft toy one shouldn’t I – this is what I mean about wild plans!
And now that I am all grown up I have memories of my little trio of daffodils from the mother’s day service when I was expecting Kitty (the Church of England is nothing if not consistent when it comes to flowers), brought home and stuck in a vase on the windowsill, tightly furled green heads relaxing and opening into yellow blooms that felt like a promise that this baby too would grow and flourish. I have all of the cards that the girls have made me over the years, tucked up in a box on my desk. Cards full of first scribbles, pictures, handprints and even some wobbly writing, and if the gifts Kitty and Elma made me last year at nursery were swiftly reclaimed by their creators, I do at least know what it was that I was made (little heart shaped painted boxes).
I shared two mother’s days with my Mum and this will be my third as just a mother and not a celebrating daughter, and it still feels not quite right. For starters it feels completely wrong to me not to be sharing the fun with someone else; Christmas is a big family party, Easter we celebrate together, and H and I have spent every birthday together since we were 19 (same date of birth – great fun for confusing people with forms), I’m just not used to doing things on my own (seriously, if you wish me Happy Birthday I’ll say it back, my brain has rewired to think it’s everyone’s birthday!). And while H’s mum is dear to me, it’s not the same, there isn’t that back catalogue of shared moments and inside jokes built up through a lifetime together that means you can joke about chickens and still be baked chocolate cake.
I’m not writing this looking for pity, the raw grief circles at a distance now, only occasionally coming in for a bite, and I’d need all fingers, open toed sandals and a whole heap more to count the things for which I am truly thankful, and we have a happy, contented and peaceful life. I won’t be spending Sunday hiding in a corner or refusing to acknowledge the day; I shall be surrounded by my wonderful children and revelling in their company. And I know I’m not alone in finding myself a bit lopsided on Mother’s Day far far much sooner than I would have expected. I think I’m simply acknowledging that in the merry chaos of being a mother myself, I haven’t forgotten that I am also a daughter, even if the celebrating happens in my heart and in my memories.