1. She has always been stylish (and occasionally groovy). I have always felt like I had a cool mother. It also means that her photo albums serve as a one-woman timeline of late-20th/early 21st century pop culture.
2. When I was seven months old, she loaded myself and my older siblings onto a plane in Glasgow and flew to meet my dad in London where they would raise us for 8 years, far from the support of life-long friends and extended family. I didn’t really appreciate this until I attempted to do it myself. But I never doubted I could, because I’ve seen it done, and done well.
3. When she was in her thirties she learned to drive so that:
4. When I was went to school, she could go to teacher training college. Over the next three years she got a lot more homework than I did, made a lot of young friends, did projects after we went to bed, and earned a Bachelor’s in Education. Just like that. (With a pre-Father’s Day shout out to my Dad who became my role model for what a husband and father should be, in these years, which are my earliest memories.)
5. She perfected the “mother’s hard stare”. Looking back, I have no idea what I thought was going to happen if I defied it, but…
6. She played keyboards for our churchless, small-town Catholic Sunday-masses-with-a-borrowed-priest for about 10 years (or more) even though she hated it, and got so nervous she felt sick. Every. Week. I loved the fact that it gave me and my dad a chance to bang on our guitars and sing our hearts out every Sunday. (I was a callous child.)
7. Our friends have always loved hanging out with her. Always.
8. Last year, after kindly letting our local hospital save her from sepsis in January, she went home and spent six months recovering, but by November was back on stage with the local amateur theater company…tap-dancing. TAP-DANCING!
9. My mother is a reader (both my parents are) and in our house, you were more likely to find them curled up with a good book (or a trashy book, for that matter), than staring at the TV. This has an impact on kids.
10. When we went to Tesco, she’d let me push the trolley.
11. She taught me the silly, Glasgow words for bodily functions that her mother had taught her, leading to confusion and hysteria when I got out into the world as a small child in other people’s care 🙂
12. She taught me how to peg up the washing on the whirligig, after letting me do it on my own once only to find I’d hung all my dad’s shirts up by their shoulders, so it looked like a crowd of vultures had landed on her washing line.
13. She took me to piano lessons and horse-riding lessons and, briefly, dancing lessons, because I was interested, and even when I wasn’t.
14. She let me borrow her car all the time, even after I crashed one.
15. She was extremely cool about the fact that I called from America to say ‘hey, want to help me arrange a wedding?’ in spite of the fact that she hardly knew the guy I wanted to marry.
16. When her parents came to visit us in England they would all sit up together, playing cards and telling stories, long after we were (supposed to be) in bed.
17. Her 8th birthday present was…a younger sister. She was not best pleased at the time, but I think it’s worked out OK over the long term.
18. When I would visit her school in the late 1980s, boisterous kids barrelled down the hallways, letting doors slam in people’s faces, and generally being unruly…until they saw my mother. Then, they snapped to attention, held doors and gave a meek “Good morning, Mrs McCarroll”, which would be met with the nod of approval they were craving.
19. She once coolly shepherded my brother and I (still wrapped in towels) out of a swimming pool, and drove us home, after someone called in a bomb threat (in the 1970s, near London, when things were being blown up with some regularity).
20. When I made a big effort to tidy up my bedroom, one time, I gathered a bunch of boxes in which to corral my stuff. Spent all day, putting things away and labelling them. When my mother walked in, the first thing she said was “Oh my goodness! You’ve spelled ‘pieces’ wrong on that box that says “bits and pieces”!”. I think this is hysterical, and says a lot about both of us.
21. When my future husband met my mother, he raised an appreciative eyebrow, apparently reassured that I wasn’t going to morph into an old hag by the time I was in my fifties…
22. She has always had friends to laugh with, and interests of her own.
23. When any of us (her children, her husband, her grandchildren) are competing or performing, she gets horribly nervous…but just you try to keep her from turning up!
24. My father adores her.
25. She has always let me leave, which means I’ve always wanted to come back.