It was my mum who brought up the subject. I’d just handed her two bunches of daffodils (£1 each) when she declared: “That reminds me, there’s to be no big gift on Mother’s Day.”
There are two ways of looking at this: first, she was cutely flagging up the date to ensure a decent present, or second, she actually meant it. Knowing Mum, it’s the latter every time. Like most mothers, she genuinely doesn’t want much. Probably, now that Dad’s gone, our time is the most valuable gift we can give her. And yet that’s so easy to give since she’s such good company. It’s so little for so much. All the support through school and university, sent back to Belfast every Sunday night, weighed down like a pack mule with food and clean clothes. Even though I’ve a home of my own, still begging me to bring her some washing. (“Sure, you know, I iron things right” Er, what are you saying there, Mum?).
Her stew. And soup. And Pavlova. The July night when I was 15 and she stood beside the tennis court until 10.37pm, willing me to victory. Replacing a zip in a skirt in just 12 minutes before I headed out. Always managing to get tablets into even the most wild-eyed cat. Rescuing the begonias. Comforting me when she was in hospital (“There, there, I’ll be alright...” I know, not good).
Fools dismiss Mother’s Day as a commercial exercise, but actually Mums don’t get appreciated enough. All that hope, worry, fear, multiplied many times by raising a family during the Troubles.
It’s funny. When you’re younger you think your parents haven’t a clue, but as you get older it dawns that they may just know what they’re talking about.
My Mum has a deep well of ancient sayings which sound bonkers until you realise they’re shot through with a steely truth. Like her (jocular) advice to enjoy life: ‘To hell with poverty, throw the cat another canary’ or her take on lazy men — ‘Lying up the range like a parlour tom’.
Hence when wise woman says it’s Mother’s Day on Sunday... I’m heading to the shops.