March; the time when mums are most in my mind.
Not because it’s Spring and there’s nesting going on. Not only because of Mother’s Day coming and I have lovely people in my life that I am mother to. But more because it was the day before Mother’s Day and in her favourite season that my own mother died. Unexpectedly.
When we discovered her, my own two girls and me, she just looked as if it had come upon her, unexpectedly. And she’d sat down in the chair irritated by the inactivity. She had her gardening trousers on and would be going outside as she did most days. Even at eighty five.
But not that day. In the split second I looked upon her silent face I knew that she had left, even if her outer shell in gardening trousers remained.
What I didn’t know at that shocking time was that although her soul had left, she had left me much behind.
She had left me and my children that innate capacity for giggling and mischievousness at times.
She left us with a slight sense of rebellion against fitting neatly into round holes. In fact neat was not much in her vocabulary. She taught us that creativity was more important than neat – or convention – and busy was more important than tidy. That being yourself was more important than image and not to be too precious to have a wee behind a hedge when necessary. A mouse in the living room didn’t matter too much as nature had a license to be here too; we didn’t always have to tidy it away.
When I was little she walked me round the city on Spring evenings to listen to the bid song. And when she moved to her rural idyll she proved that contentment came from an inner source not an outer trapping. It’s being resourceful that creates solutions – they don’t always have to be bought.
She left us knowing what it was like to have a rotund tummy to hug and what it felt like to be unconditionally loved, thus teaching us how to love in return. She left us with a compassion for all living things, even those that frightened her to death flapping round the lampshade whilst she hid under a tea towel.
She also taught us that the beauty of a person comes from what’s in their heart not what’s plastered on their face. And even at eighty you can stand up straight and not give in to the conventions of age.
But by far the most wonderful lesson my mother left me was a lesson that didn’t need to be taught at all. That the way to pass things onto your children was not to ‘teach’ but to be what you believed in. And the way you demonstrate which thoughts and actions you believe are right and good and useful comes from the way you are and will be passed on that way. To be a loving mum was more important than anything else you could teach.
And now I see her in my own two lovely daughters through a smile or a gesture or their wonderful loving minds. And know that as a mum I am still truly loved as she loved me.
(If you’d like to read a little more about her she features in my book ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ with gardening, mouse in the house and all!)