Some time ago my friend, Shirley, sent me a writing prompt pamphlet, called Writing the Family Album. It wasn't until some after I received this kind gift that I actually opened it and read it properly. By then it was the week before Mother's Day and I noticed that one of the prompts was: write about your mother, and it occurred to me then that i had never written about my mother.
I've written about my past, either as fact or as barely concealed fiction, and I've used several members of my extended family in short stories and novels but I had never, in all that time, written about my mother. It surprised me and I decided I'd write something in time for Mother's Day. It seemed appropriate.
I should have thought it through; the fact that I'd never done it before should have rung bells. Procrastination stopped me beginning and stilted prose prevented me continuing. It took an enforced rest (did I mention I've been poorly?!) and a concentrated effort on my part to begin and, days later, to finish - and later still to publish - the words I finally came up with. I'm not sure if it's what I wanted to say but I hope it's honest.
At the end of the writing prompt pamphlet it notes, 'What you can't remember - invent!' I don't think I've done that.
It's longer than most of my blog posts so I'm starting it here as a taster for you with the option of reading it in full on my The bits that are too long blog.
My mother, my hero?
The question mark is important. As on my Finding Life Hard? blog title, leaving it out changes the whole meaning significantly.
My mother was tall. At nearly six foot, she struggled to find clothes to fit her and mostly shopped by post through a catalogue for Tall Girls. She enjoyed her monthly magazines. Not for her the likes of Woman’s Own though. She read She and then later a new magazine, Nova I think it was. Glossy and fashionable, the thinking woman’s Vogue.
I write in the past tense because my mother died when I was nineteen. Still, nineteen years of knowing her should give me plenty to write about, comment on, anecdotes to relate, family stories to tell. But I know more about her reading habits than I do about her.
Most of what I know of my mother I have gleaned from relatives and friends. A loving woman who enjoyed life, was good to her parents and loved her daughter very much. She must have done: she was a hero to keep me, her child born out of wedlock without a man on the scene. And this was the 1950s. Episodes of Call the Midwife have made me realise just what she must have gone through: the shame, the gossip, the turned backs.
She had to work to keep me. Financially I mean. I don’t know what if any arguments she had with her parents or whether she considered adoption – my great-auntie Grace wanted to adopt me I know. So she worked five days a week as personal secretary to the General Manager of South Wales Transport and was highly thought of by everyone. When she died we had letters of condolence from ex-directors and top executives. At her funeral flower tributes lined the long path to my grandparents’ home. One, a pretty posy, was sent from a woman who worked in the company canteen. On the card she wrote, ‘Goodnight, sweet lady. Sleep tight.’ It seems most people knew her better than I did.
No doubt that was partly because of the circumstances. Her long working days meant I was raised primarily by my slightly ferocious and very domineering grandmother but maybe she had to be after her daughter gave birth to a bastard child.