Sunday, 3 April 2011

Sentimental Sunday: Mothering Sunday

Here in the UK it is Mothering Sunday (it may well be elsewhere too, I don't know) - not Mother's Day, but Mothering Sunday, when traditionally girls in domestic service were allowed the day off to go and visit their mothers. 

The dog thoughtfully prepared me a modern art installation in the kitchen using the handle of the broom and assorted laundry, all carefully placed in various pieces around the room.  As presents go, it wasn't the most welcome.  Things looked up when my daughter got up - she came bearing a gifts - chocolates, flowers and a card.  The real treat was inside the card where she had written "Even when I am old I won't be far away, our love can never be broken".  In recognition of their thoughfulness I rewarded both my girls - I took the dog for a walk and let me daughter stay at home for once.

As we rambled along the beautiful North Cornwall coastal path my thoughts turned to my own mother who died 12 years ago.  Her favourite Mothering Sunday present was a bunch of freesias, which I would buy on my way home from school on a Friday afternoon and hide in my room until Sunday morning.  I don't think I ever wrote anything as eloquent as my daughter wrote to me, but even though I am now quite old, she isn't far away from my thoughts and I still love her dearly.  Here is a bit more about her.

Noreen Toal was born in Cardiff in 1924.  Her father was an import manager for Fyffes, the fruiters and her mother had been a school teacher until her marriage.  The family moved to Bristol a few years later, soon after the birth of my aunt.  Both girls attended Colston's Girls' School and I was to follow in their footsteps. 

Bristol was bombed heavily during WW2 and after an incendiary bomb dropped on the family house, landing on my mother's bed while they were out, my grandmother decamped each weekend to nearby Weston-Super-Mare for one night's peace each week.  My aunt went with her, but my mother remained in Bristol with her father, an ARP warden.  I think this shows something of her character, as does the fact that she never bothered to mention the bomb story to me - my aunt told me about it quite recently.

My mother knew hard times.  Her first husband died leaving her with a young son and shortly afterwards her father died and her sister became a nun.  A lack of financial planning on my grandfather's part meant that my mother was now the sole support for herself, her mother and my brother, a role she fulfilled by working as a teacher.  Several years later, at a dance, she met a man, ten years her junior, who she said just wouldn't leave her alone.  At the age of 39 she remarried and I was born a year later. 

As a pattern for motherhood I can find no fault with my mother - she wasn't given to gushing demonstrations of affection, but instead exuded a warm, steady love that never left me (or my brother) in doubt about her devotion to us.  I am devoted to her in return.

She had always said that if she ever became ill she would prefer to be left in peace, she didn't want to be "messed about" by doctors.  She was, unfortunately, as good as her word and kept the symptoms of the cancer that was to take her secret from us until it was too late.  Like all good mothers she left behind a huge hole in my life, but it's her love and guidance that has made me who I am - I love you Mum.

So that's my Sentimental Sunday (and somewhere up above Noreen is rolling her eyes!)


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