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A STEADY HAND: “The Irish Mammy is a recognisable species, a voice of sanity amid the madness of the world,” says Colette.
A STEADY HAND: “The Irish Mammy is a recognisable species, a voice of sanity amid the madness of the world,” says Colette.
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Missing my mother - a comforting and reliable rock of sense

IF my mother were alive, she’d be looking forward to a Mother’s Day lunch on Sunday at my sister’s house with maybe a few cousins invited as well.

Not that my mother really approved of Mother’s Day, of course. While she always appreciated being served up a meal, she disapproved of the commercialism of that day in the year when we honour our mothers. She’d dismiss it as an American import, designed to make you pay ‘good money’ for cards and gifts.

“I don’t really need anything,” mum would say. Coming up to Christmas, you’d make the usual inquiry as to what she’d like as a gift and she would reliably say ‘hand cream’. And she didn’t mean fancy stuff costing a fortune. My mother was most undemanding.

The Irish Mammy is a recognisable species, a voice of sanity amid the madness of the world, and the subject of books and tea towels, such as Colm O’Regan’s series of humorous books.

Where would we be without the influence and good sense of our mothers? She is the one who never forgets to turn off the immersion and tries to pass on that tip. I have inherited that vital habit, saving me a fortune in electricity bills. I also recycle tin foil and never throw out a chicken carcass, diligently making stock out of it, to be used as a base for homemade soup. (I’m almost making myself sick here.)

Can I just add the things I fail to do so that you won’t think I’m a rock of sense? It doesn’t cross my mind to polish the silver. I can’t make gravy. White sauce is also challenging. And I’m bad at spotting cobwebs. All the things my mother had no problems with.

When I was a kid at primary school, I used to occasionally fake sickness so that I could stay at home and receive my mother’s full attention. I used to love those ‘sick’ days although I didn’t quite understand why my mother would hoover my room prior to the doctor calling to see me.

Those were the days when your GP called to check your temperature. I don’t know how I played it when he came into my room with stethoscope around his neck. I think I spoke in a faint voice and went on about pains in my stomach.

My mother played a blinder on these ‘sick days’. She would serve me arrowroot biscuits (apparently, health enhancing), grapes and Lucozade. Mothers today wouldn’t entertain such indulgence. For starters, they’d probably be out at work because now, it takes two people to make a living for one family. And even then, the mortgage repayments can be crippling.

The idea of a kid pretending to be sick just wouldn’t be tolerated. Now, it’s more a case of being dropped off early at school, even before it opens, because a parent has to make it to work prior to 9am.

We walked to school. Our mothers worked in the home. My mother was always there when I came home from school. It was one of life’s comforting certainties. Heck, she might even be baking. Talk about halcyon days!

I didn’t know I had it so good until now, looking back, I can appreciate the sense of security I took for granted.

Life was much slower back in the day. You had dinner in the middle of the day and your lunch break was for a whole hour. Now, kids bring their lunch to school in Tupperware boxes. Many of them are latchkey kids with both parents out working. Their main concern is wifi availability, their phones and their friends who they connect with via technology.

We played outdoors with friends calling to the door asking if so-and-so ‘is coming out to play.’

Technology and my mother were incompatible. She and my father had a bog-standard Nokia but she never mastered it. It only ever came out if my mother had to go to hospital and needed to be in touch. But she never cracked texting and could just about receive a call.

On the subject of hospital, my mother was a great believer in having new pyjamas and a ‘decent’ dressing gown put aside, just in case you had to go in.

She believed in ironing pyjamas, something that I find unnecessary. I am not a great housekeeper. I don’t know how to make a bed with ‘hospital corners.’

My mother was interested in what I do for a living and sometimes came up with good ideas for me. She was a dinger of a newspaper reader. Obviously, she was never going to read the news online. She missed nothing in the papers and often cut out articles and posted them to family members.

I’ll miss her this Mother’s Day.