Yes I know it’s properly called Mothering Sunday in the UK – but that’s not the reason I loathe it.
It’s not the treacly sentimentalism and the cynicism of commerce – a lot of love is expressed through those pink sparkly bits of card and naff bouquets. Many people will share genuine affection in pub chain dining rooms – and I respect that.
It’s the assertion that mother-love is universal, a given, something natural and always to be found.
And when your relationship with your mother is different to this cross-cultural narrative, then the stream of tweets and posts on Facebook and the happy smiling families out to enjoy the day erode the scar tissue over your heart.
The memories of lost mums who were loving are worst. Especially if they are her age. Time is passing – soon there will be no chance to be reconciled, they say. And yet I am helpless. I cannot do anything to change this most fundamental of connections: she will not speak to me.
I’ve tried. Over twenty years I have tried. I do not know what I have done wrong – therefore I can never put it right.
Now people who come from normal families will assume I am partly to blame. Quite possibly I am. But I cannot do anything to heal a relationship with someone who never wants to see me again. You can’t say sorry to a closed door.
I gave up trying on my 50th birthday. I found out she was giving my father grief over it, so out of respect for him and sheer weariness, I stopped..
Just at this time of year stupid, callous hope flares up. I get glimpses of what it would have been like to have a normal mum. I’ve been lucky with both my mother-in-law and my husband’s step-mother. Both loving, ordinary mums – not faultless but kind and affectionate in their own individual ways.
For years, I’ve dreaded this time of year – and inevitably, like catching the inside of your mouth you’ve already bitten, as a teacher my class always did the Mother’s Day Assembly. I know and painfully love the things that normal mums do, that are truly worthy of celebration. I don’t want anyone to cancel Mother’s Day – I just wish it didn’t hurt so much.
There are many things I can thank her for. The love of reading comes first. I was safe when I read. It was an activity she approved of, and a vital means of escape. Then there’s music – a curious mixture: Mozart, Tom Lehrer, and Hollywood Musicals. I know far too many Rodgers and Hammerstein songs still. Shared enthusiasms for the Russian Revolution, Richard III and St Francis too. There’s Scrabble and crossword puzzles, and all the time spent with various relatives which widened my experience of Yorkshire. My deep, abiding love of the sea comes from all my trips to Scarborough.
I suspect I am still trying to please her, to do well enough that she will be proud of me. I can’t stop my mind’s eye flashing up the image of her coming to book launch or a prize or something. She never will – she wasn’t exactly known for coming to things even when I was little.
Yet still I have her to thank for being a writer. She won’t read this or even know about it – but still –