It would have been my mother’s 84th birthday tomorrow and I wonder if I will always see February 9th and think: my mum’s birthday. There was the terrible year when I had sent a gift with the card wrapped with the gift and for some reason was unable to telephone her on her birthday. When I called the following day she was very frosty and it transpired that the package hadn’t arrived and it was assumed, by both parents, that I had forgotten my mother’s birthday. ‘Not even a card!’ my father complained. A sin of epic proportions despite my mother claiming not to care about her birthday at all. Finally the gift arrived three months later having done the rounds of sorting offices in the Australian town of the same name to the one my parents’ lived in.
Nowadays I don’t really miss my mother and I think of her a lot less than I did. Sometimes I struggle to remember her voice and the annoying laugh that she had whenever she was stuck for something to say. Yet I still hold my first memory of being in a forward-facing pushchair being pushed down a steep hill, turning around and there was my mother smiling down at me. She had a big, generous smile; she smiled a lot and tended to see the funny side or the joyful side of whatever happened. Perhaps that makes her sound like a Pollyannish sort of figure, but she wasn’t at all. She just wasn’t particularly cynical and she loved life.
She taught me to read but more than that, she taught me to enjoy books and reading. She also gave me the gift of independence and how to think for myself. If you compared my childhood, and that of my contemporaries, with children of today then you could imagine that we were all raised by wolves. Yet we had freedom to go out and play, to roam the countryside, to do things that weren’t organised for us by our parents. I was very lucky.
I believe that by talking about those who have died, by saying their names, that we are keeping them in the world that little bit longer. At Christmas we talked about various members of my husband’s family, people whom I’ve never met yet know quite well through the stories that get told. It keeps them in the family and so I’ll continue to remember my mother’s birthday and talk about her from time to time and keep her memory in this world a little longer.