I've been thinking about my Mum again, perhaps because Mother's Day was last Sunday in Ireland and the UK, but there were other reasons too: sad news about other people's parents and friends, and the screening of a new version of the Cornish historical drama Poldark, that I couldn't bring myself to watch, because I watched the original series with my Mum in the long ago 1970s. She sadly died before this blog was born, though we'd been losing her one memory at a time for a number of years, and while the grief was knife-sharp at first, it has faded over time to a dull ache. But now and again something happens that makes it flare up and catch me unawares.
"Your lovely Mum", was how so many people described her, well before that adjective became overused. And she was, in her own quiet, elegant way. We clashed as I grew up and away, I was so different to her and she must've found me quite challenging to parent. For many years I mostly ignored her values and her lifestyle until I became a mum myself. And so it's over the last 20 years or so, that I've really absorbed some of the things that she tried to teach me.
1. Value the little things
My Mum taught me to value the little things, years before all those annoying internet memes. A light in the sky, the smell of baking bread, a reunion with a long lost friend. The unremarkable and the everyday. She adored the spring months and immersing herself in the thrill of new life and growth in the garden and the fields. I used to enjoy the heat of the summer break, then the colours of autumn, but now it's the promise of spring that I also love the most.
2. Pacing yourself
My mum worked hard, but she knew that life is more of a marathon than a sprint, and understood the importance of taking breaks during the day: I always remember her relaxing for a few minutes after lunch with the newspaper and a mug of coffee. Whereas I lived life at 100 miles an hour when I was young, packing as much into every day as possible. Sleep was a nuisance, to be avoided by keeping busy and ingesting large amounts of caffeine. That does not work when your life is under the control of two children with additional needs, and so I reluctantly learned to slow down and pace myself, and now I take breaks too - with coffee of course. Without them, there would be no blogging.
3. Reinventing yourself
My mum had her three children close together, so once we became teenagers she had a bit of free time and I remember her going to different evening classes. Then she discovered yoga and everything changed. Over the next 20 years the house began to fill with yoga books, her wardrobe with leotards and leggings, and her days with learning and practice. She became a much loved and well-respected yoga teacher in the town until she retired - still able to do the splits - in her early 70s. She was living proof that yoga really makes you look and feel good as you get older. And that's why I'm doing it. But I'm still looking for a way to reinvent myself. More of that another time perhaps.
4. A thrift too far
The war years and rationing had a profound effect on the thinking of my parents, especially my Mum. Even when they were living a comfortable lifestyle, my Mum was never extravagant. Clothes were from M&S, holidays were self-catering in the Lake District and plastic bags were never, ever thrown away. I feel a little sad that she felt she had to constantly wash and reuse plastic bags: such a messy time-wasting chore - I've tried it. She certainly taught me that you can take thrift too far.
5. The wild places are healing
Many of my childhood memories involve being reluctantly dragged up mountains bribed by the promise of a Creme Egg. At the time I was not impressed, yet now it's the sense of well-being and well-used limbs that I remember. I learned that a walk in the wild places, where the weather and nature is king, puts most problems in perspective. Why do you think I run off to the sea whenever I feel overwhelmed?
6. Mums understand Mums
As a teenager I was so angry with my parents, and now I wonder why they weren't angrier with me! Raising my own children has totally changed my understanding of what my parents did. My relationship with my Mum was completely healed after Angel was born. She never interfered or offered unwanted advice, even though I didn't breast feed. She was a wonderful Granny to my daughter, and a supportive mother to me, even though the Irish Sea divided us. I just she'd been around for longer to see her grandchildren grow up. I think she would have been very proud.
7. It's not a sin to say "no"
Another lesson that I took a long time to learn. But my Mum was courageous and said no throughout her life to people, requests and conventions. She and my Dad married very young but waited ten years to have children, because they wanted to travel and have fun during their twenties, before settling down - as they saw it - to start a family. Later she refused to allow any of the ageing grandparents to move into the family home, because she knew she would not be able to cope. There were many other things too, they were not done selfishly, but instead of doing what was expected, she looked at what would be best for her and for her family. And I think she was absolutely right.
Reasons to be Cheerful - Happy Mothering Sunday #R2BC - Lucky me, the girls made me breakfast in bed Happy Thursday friends, How are you doing? I'm having a funny old week. there is nothing particularity wrong...