Here’s Looking at You, Ma


mateus-roseLast week I saw some long lost photos of my family circa 1978. We are not a photo family; my parents’ house has only started resembling a family art gallery since the arrival of the grandchildren; when we were growing up the walls, sideboards, and mantelpiece were photo free. As a result these photos were long consigned to a box in the loft and only get an airing every decade or so.

One of the photos is a picture of my parents with my brother and myself at around the same age as my kids are now (my sister came much later), so of course I made the obvious leap to compare my life with theirs. The parentals look good; young, fresh faced. The fashions are atrocious and yet somehow current (apart from my brother’s patterned shirt and tie combo) but what drew me to the photo was the image of my Mum;  the woman she was in the picture, not that much younger than I am now. I don’t remember the woman in the photo I was too young, I remember her as she was a few years later, she looked very different – with the 80s came the perm – and she was older and had another child and life had moved on.

I’d like to have known my Mum as she was then, stocking up on superfluous orange and lime tupperware_1green storage containers at the Tupperware party, checking out the neighbour’s house as a member of the babysitting circle, having a chinwag over a glass of Mateus Rose. I wonder if we would have liked each other? I’d love to hear what she said about her 2 small children and to hear her gossip about her husband – actually maybe not the last bit. Like all grandmothers she now says we were model children; we ate what was put in front of us, we slept through the night from 6 months etc etc She professes to not remember us giving her any trouble at all. The memory can do amazing things over time right?! More likely we were also snotty nosed, non-sleeping, fussy, noisy, fear inducing toddlers; most toddlers are, albeit to different degrees.

My children at 40 won’t remember me exactly as I am now, possibly a good thing – sleep deprived and battle weary. They will remember the Mum of their teenage years and the old Mum they will know as adults. 
It would be wise not to forget the people we were when we were young and u-hum carefree, (although I am not sure I was ever carefree, it’s just not in my nature), whether you have children or not. Youth is indeed wasted on the young and as Mr Robbie Williams quite rightly pointed out ‘before you know it, it’s been and gone too soon’.
So in lieu of finding the car from Back to the Future and meeting my Ma from the photo, on today’s to do is to up the Skype activity with the parentals, book a trip back to the UK and recapture some of the pre-children Katie for my childers to meet, I think they might like her.


2 responses »

  1. This post of yours brought to mind one of my favourite poems, by old sour face Carol Ann Duffy. Basically a love poem to her mother.

    Before You Were Mine

    I’m ten years away from the corner you laugh on
    with your pals, Maggie McGeeney and Jean Duff.
    The three of you bend from the waist, holding
    each other, or your knees, and shriek at the pavement.
    Your polka-dot dress blows round your legs. Marilyn.

    I’m not here yet. The thought of me doesn’t occur
    in the ballroom with the thousand eyes, the fizzy, movie tomorrows
    the right walk home could bring. I knew you would dance
    like that. Before you were mine, your Ma stands at the close
    with a hiding for the late one. You reckon it’s worth it.

    The decade ahead of my loud, possessive yell was the best one, eh?
    I remember my hands in those high-heeled red shoes, relics,
    and now your ghost clatters toward me over George Square
    till I see you, clear as scent, under the tree,
    with its lights, and whose small bites on your neck, sweetheart?

    Cha cha cha! You’d teach me the steps on the way home from Mass,
    stamping stars from the wrong pavement. Even then
    I wanted the bold girl winking in Portobello, somewhere
    in Scotland, before I was born. That glamorous love lasts
    where you sparkle and waltz and laugh before you were mine.

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