This day, the 28th of August, will only ever have one significance for me, as it’s my mother Dawn’s birthday, or Mum, as she was, as she’s been gone for four years now, but while we didn’t always saw ‘eye-to-eye,’ I do miss her so much.
I know. In the great scheme of things, the global scheme of things, my Mum’s achievements are of no moment, and she never changed the world in the manner of say... Joan of Arc, who gave life to a revolution, but she was always a hero to me. After all, I’m no ‘oil painting,’ as they say, and am the son, “only a mother could love,” as has been chortled a thousand times, but she would have given me the very shirt from her back.
She was a brilliant cook, not in a Jamie Oliver, or Master Chef way, but in being able to always dish up high quality meals, which for the first twenty years of my life were cooked on a coal-fired range, or in its oven, with none of today’s mod-cons like temperature gauges, multiple hobs and ovens, as everything was done by ‘feel,’ ‘experience,’ and certainly, through need. Dad was a fisherman, so Mum had to know, or learn, how to cook a hundred varieties of seafood, and probably had twenty or thirty different recipes for cooking mince.
But what I most remember about Mum’s cooking was not the quality and variety she would serve up for us every day, but rather the little things, like coming out to the kitchen on a cold morning to the smell of porridge simmering on the range top, the crispy smell of toast ready for jam and marmite, and the ever-present teapot on the side of the range, in the days before tea bags, when the tea was hot and strong, almost stewed, first thing in the morning... the perfect pre-school starter.
Mum would have the toast, porridge, and tea ready for us, and we kids would feed ourselves breakfast, while Mum made and wrapped the school lunches. We all had our own unique lunch packs, but with sandwiches or pieces of pie, a piece of fruit, and a couple of biscuits, home-made cookies of course: Ginger crunch, peanut brownies, choc-chip cookies, or a slice of cake, and a bottle of cordial. They were healthy lunches before Jamie Oliver made them a ‘thing!’ And on Fridays, we got a shilling each (about 5 baiza), to buy a fish’n’chip lunch from Girvan’s Chip Shop.
Then after ‘brekky,’ we had to wash our hands again, comb or brush our hair, and be inspected to make sure we were clean, tidy, Mum would give us a wee peck on the top of our heads and send us off to school. She walked to the gate behind us nearly every day, as we would be off, helter-skelter, to get to school, if I turned around, she would always be there, waving us bye-bye. She was never not there... and like all Mums, was always watching out for us.
She cooked, she cleaned, she washed, she ironed, she sewed, knitted, darned, and made do... and still had time to be the parent who went to talk to the teachers at school report times. She taught all of us kids to cook, she taught me to dance so I wouldn’t be out of place at the school dance, two left feet and all. She got me my very first job but encouraged me to be what I wanted to be as I grew up, even when I didn’t know myself, and was my most enthusiastic supporter.
I treasure my memories, as Mum suffered from and eventually succumbed to dementia, and I cherish those memories just in case she couldn’t. The motherhood, al’umuma, is a gift from God, one which Mum would be openly skeptical of if she were here, but would behind the bluster, appreciate anyway... Rest easy Mum... Dawn... it’s your birthday... and you don’t need to be an angel for it to be... your day.