As Mother’s Day approaches I’m reminded of what I’ve lost, and found in my own Ma. Looking back over the years I look at what we’ve shared together. We were like two peas in a pod. We loved to go walking together until her arthritis won and walking became too difficult and painful. She would teach me the names of the different flowers that crossed our paths and from this I developed a love for gardening.
Growing up I wasn’t interested in cooking. I didn’t bother as the rest of the family were good cooks so I didn’t consider it necessary. When the family get togethers stopped, as people went their separate ways and got caught up in their own families, I started to take an interest. Dad, who was a baker by trade, and I would make Easter buns from scratch every year. I haven’t done this since he passed away.
As my parents aged I took over more and more of the cooking and started collecting cookbooks and hoarding dozens of pull outs from magazines. Ma and I would pour over the recipe books discussing the merits of recipes and what we were going to cook.
Recipe books are still something we share together. Ma can’t operate the stove and can no longer remember where any of the ingredients are kept but she can still sit at the table and help me cut things up. She can roll a mean Lamington in the coconut and help me with sausage rolls. We taste test and argue about what needs to be added. Her secret ingredient is Sweet Chilli Sauce for anything that just doesn’t taste like it should. It works! She has trouble knowing how to cut some things up and can no longer remember her tried and true recipes. I’m so glad I took it on myself to write my favourites out a long time ago, some of which I’ve shared on here.
We were cutting up onion and garlic the other day and I used the flat of the knife to crush the garlic so the skin would flake off, this was something she taught me many years ago. She told me she’d have to remember that trick for next time. That’s when you feel sad, sad for what she’s lost.
My Ma is a wonderful cook. Over the years I think she has managed to create a jam, pickle or relish out of any ingredient you care to name. The big saucepan was always bubbling away on the stove emitting odours of vinegar or the sweetness of sugar. Those jars were sold to raise money for various local charities. I now make Ma’s famous Tomato Relish and last year potted up a few jars of Strawberry, Ma’s favourites.
The Christmas pudding, cake and mince tarts are no longer part of her repertoire, I have taken up the mantle. Occasions like Christmas and Easter create a fixation and confusion in her. For weeks beforehand she wants to cook the Good Friday fish or buy the Christmas ham. It prays on her mind, nibbling away at her psyche until finally I give up.
The Mother’s Day and birthday cards I have given her over the years were from a daughter paying homage to a mother, supporter and best friend. Every card I used to give her would reduce her to tears. It was always my mission to find the card I knew would make her cry. Over the last couple of years, I’ve struggled to find a card to express our changed relationship. I can’t bring myself to buy the cards of old. Don’t get me wrong, I still love my Ma to the moon and back, it’s just that things have now changed, she is different from the Ma I used to know
I’m now more like the mother than the daughter. I now take responsibility for her health and well being. I now take her everywhere she needs to go. I now spend nearly every waking hour with her. So yes, I don’t feel like I can give those cards any more. I’m sad for the mother I’ve lost.
But I’ve also found another Ma. Over the years whenever I’ve asked Ma if she wanted to go out, 9 times out of 10 she would say no. Now Ma will nearly always go out with me. She is more outgoing. She asked me for purple highlights (we’re talking bright purple) before Christmas and has been rocking them ever since.
My Ma has never been very demonstrative. She hugged me the other day of her own accord for the first time I can remember. I was blown away. She now uses a term of endearment to address me… she has never done that. (Not sure whether it’s because she can’t remember my name or?) Anyway I’m basking in the glow.
While I’ve lost the Ma I knew, the new Ma is just as loveable albeit different. So this year the Mother’s Day card will be different from previous years and as always I will try and pick the card that makes her cry.