Pauline, my Mum, was a wife, mother and grandmother, but there was so much more. My cooking, poetry, love of learning and love of life all come from her.
After she died, many people made a point of telling me how much fun Mum was to be with, how stylish and trendy she could be. She was widely read, and a member of several book clubs. We were known in the neighborhood as the house with all the books —and the house where you could eat foreign food.
On my wedding morning, Mum led a party of my friends off to decorate the church with flowers from her garden. And from the gardens of many of her friends. The end result was lovely, illustrating Mums skill as gardener, an organiser and her sense of style. One of my friends involved in that still cannot explain how my Mum got her to flower arrange for the only time in her life —and actually enjoy doing it.
Mum could certainly organise and enthuse – and also find novel solutions to problems. When my first baby was born she turned up at our house with an entire suitcase of hand knitted baby things. I was amazed, she loved knitting, but this was a huge effort surely? She smiled and said that she’d been very busy lately, what with being Chair of the Townswomen’s Guild, so she had organised a knitting competition in the Guild, and here were the results!
Mum always loved to dress well and she & I shared a love of pretty shoes. We often shared the actual shoes, long after I left home. Sometimes, it wasn’t sharing however — Mum was not above purloining a pair of my shoes when she fancied them, sometimes right under my nose –although she always paid for them. I once only realised that my new grey court shoes were missing when the cash to buy another pair arrived in the post. At one point, if either of us bought shoes we’d buy 2 pairs as we knew the other would want them. Only 4 weeks before she died, Mum was coveting my red Mary Jane shoes.
Mum had a great sense of fun. She would sing operatically whilst washing up, she always told people that she had 3 children, one of each —leaving my brothers to argue over who was the boy and who was the monkey. She would play elaborate April Fools jokes. She thought my brothers fake fur lined car was a scream (but never let him find that out). She loved Pigs, and had a bedroom of piggy soft toys.
In fact, Mum loved to sing. Anything phrase you said, any situation you described, she could remember a song for and would then sing it to you (loudly and repeatedly) until you pleaded for her to stop. I cannot pick a berry, without singing ‘In September when the grapes are purple Margerita picking grapes with me’.
She had a fear of heights, but that wouldn’t stop her climbing to the top of a lighthouse –although her fear of confined spaces was never quite conquered.
She loved to dance. I remember her wonderful evening dresses when she and Dad went to dinner dances in the 1970s. She and her friends and sisters walked miles as young girls to go to village dances in wartime.
Mum had a great sense of family and hid heartbreak when she and Dad didn’t have children during the first 8 years of their marriage. In her typical fashion, she made the best of things and was earning two times more than Dad when the first baby finally came along. After 3, she decided it was time to stop, however. She was delighted when each of her four grandsons were born and then at last she got a little granddaughter, although so far away in Canada. Mum was always there when we needed her and she turned up immediately when I needed her help with a constantly screaming baby. She was the first to hold my second child when we brought him home 4 hours after he was born and I treasure the memory of the delighted smile on her face.
Mum was a poet. She told me as a child that she had had a book of poems published in the 1950s. But she would never speak of that again.
Tragically I have none of my Mums poems.
And also tragically, this eulogy was very difficult for me to write, as Mum and I grew apart over the years until —in fact, she pushed us apart. I wa never good enough for her it seemed. Thus, as she entered her final illness, it was not her daughter she wanted at all.