I’ve been umm-ing and ahh-ing about this one for a long time now. Last year I wrote this about my dad turning 60 and it caused a bit of a stir amongst friends and family, it was supposed to be a gentle poke at the fact he was about to qualify for his bus pass but turned into an emotional and heartfelt tribute. This year, it was Mum’s turn to reach That Age and while I wanted to do something similar for her (even though she probably won’t thank me for splashing her age across the internet), I wasn’t sure I’d be able to match the tone I used before. I wrote about Dad while I was in a hotel room in Helsinki. It was a whim, spontaneous. I didn’t set out to get as emotional as I did, it just sort of… happened. It was organic. I’ve been worried that if I tried to do the same thing about Mum I wouldn’t be able to do her justice, that I wouldn’t be able to start in that same light-hearted way because it would feel forced and false. So how do I do it?
The only way I can think of is not to try. I didn’t think about any of the stuff I said about Dad first so I need to talk about Mum in a different way. If Dad is my hero then Mum is my base. Mum is where I come from, literally and figuratively. She’s the one I get my values from, why I always check behind me when I go through a door so I don’t let is close on someone, why I don’t put my elbows on the table while I’m eating and why I still say “Thank you for having me” when I stay at someone’s house. She was the one who taught me ‘Please and thank you cost nothing and hurt no-one’.
But that’s not the only thing she taught me, while Dad is what I aspire to be as a good man, Mum is everything I try to be as a good person. Kind and generous, tolerant and patient, gentle and dignified. I’ve never known her to close the door on anyone, it doesn’t matter who you are, what colour your skin, your sexual preference or any of the other million things people get worked up about, as long as you’re not doing anything that hurts other people you’re welcome. When me and my sister were teenagers our house was always the one that was full of people on a Sunday morning after a Saturday night out and Mum would make every single one of them a cuppa and a bacon sandwich, she was part of the gang too and the reason our house was the cool house. Whenever friends have needed somewhere to go Mum has offered to put them up without us having to ask if it was possible, almost before we’d thought of it ourselves sometimes. It makes me very proud to know that and it’s how I try to treat other people, if I treat someone badly it’s always the image of her giving me the tight-lipped shake of the head and deep inward sigh she does when she’s disappointed that tells me I’m in the wrong.
It’s from Mum I get my artistic side and patience. Looking back to when I was little she always helped with art and craft type projects from school, I remember her making a shoebox replica of my bedroom once which must have been a nightmare as it involved putting in a false cardboard wall on one side to allow for the alcove my Tom and Jerry poster was in. These days Mum’s hobby is building dolls’ houses and the attention to detail she puts in to them is incredible. Several rooms in one house have patterned wooden floor tiles in them and Mum cut I don’t know how many lollipop sticks to size and shape and put each tile in by hand. My dedication isn’t quite up to that but she showed me the patience that sees me sitting down for hours at a time with a pile of paper and an origami book folding elephants, rabbits, giraffes and intersecting cubes. I take pride in a clean fold but my talent is far outweighed by hers and she continually outdoes herself but it gives me something to aim for.
Dad might be the one I go to for advice but when it all goes horribly wrong Mum is the one I go to for help and she is always there for me. Always. I am who I am because of her and it will always be her who guides me through my life. Thank you Mum. I love you too.