"You must be missing Jack something fierce Auntie....." I started to say. "Now don't you sound just like your mother Anne. " she interrupted me. "You always were the one to take after her. Oh and how I still miss her. Her and me, we played together as children. And the no-good we got up to, well you wouldn't believe it if I told you." After spending half an hour crying over memories of my mum who'd been gone these past three years, I hung up the phone and just stared at it. Bridey had done it again, she'd avoided talking about Jack. My Auntie is a master at avoiding uncomfortable questions and she never argues, she just "talks her way around it" until you've forgotten the reason you called in the first place. So today, I thought I'd share a few stories about my mum, since I spent the weekend thinking of her.
This is a picture of my mum in Edinburgh in the 1950's. My mum was a Catholic, but my father was a Protestant (no arguing in my home). After my youngest sister was born, my father decided he was done having children and got a vasectomy. As I was ten years old at the time, I didn't know what that was, let alone that he'd had one. This is how my mother dealt with it.
"Now children, you're poor da is sick and he needs his quiet, so leave him be." As a kid in rural Ireland, having a parent who'd been in hospital was a big deal. It was a story you could tell your friends so you could feel big. "Ah ma, I can tell he's in a bad way. Did he have an operation?" I asked, hoping he'd had a really good one. "Oh he was mighty sick he was. It was his kidney, it was so infected it was near to exploding. When the doctor took it out, that kidney burst right in his hands. If the doctor hadn't gotten it out when he did, your da would be dead right now." Well this was grand news indeed for me. It was a major organ (the heart would have been better) and he'd almost died, I was cock of the walk for a good few days after that. My mother had brilliantly turned a sin into a benefit for all of us children.
Another time when I was in my early twenties, I scared the life out of my mother by not calling her for two whole days. I was living in Dublin with two of my best chums and we girls were living the life. I had a boyfriend and a job. I was the perfect daughter. One night I went to the theatre with my boyfriends best mate whose girlfriend had just dumped him. The next day I called off work and decided to stay home and catch some sun on my tiny terrace garden. I was sitting there sipping a gin and tonic, reading a book, listening to music and feeling very modern and grown up when I heard a knock on the front door. I put down my drink, slipped my feet into my sandals and went to answer the door. On the other side of the door stood a police officer wearing a huge grin on his face. "You'd better ring home Miss, your ma is worried about you. She seems to think you've been kidnapped and may be tied up in a basement somewhere." So I rung my mum up, ready to give her the what for. "Oh Jesus, you're safe child. I was so worried, I thought ya might be dead." were the first words out of her mouth. "Put my father on the phone ma" I said, knowing we'd just end up in a screaming match if I spoke to her at all. So my father gets on the phone and explains to me that when I didn't ring mum up for two whole days, she called my boyfriend whose flatmate said he was out of town and said that I had gone to the theatre with another man. The next day mum calls work and they tell her, I'd done called off sick. The only logical conclusion was that I'd been kidnapped by some strange man and was being held in a basement. And my father ended the conversation like this "None of this would have happened if you'd just rung up your mother like your supposed to. You brought it on yourself."
Now you would never think it to look at her, but this is the face of a devious criminal. My Auntie told me this story. Every year mum would fly over to the States to visit her sister and they'd have a grand time together. What I didn't know was that my mum was a smuggler. It seems that every time she went over, she filled her purse, her coat pockets and her on-board luggage with sausages, cheese and whiskey from Ireland, all of which is illegal. Bridey said she'd barely wait till she'd cleared customs before she'd open her coat like a flasher and start showing off her latest "haul." I've tried to imagine what would have happened had she ever been caught. Most likely the custom official would have been made to feel guilty about something he'd done as a child and let her go while promising to ring up his own mother straight-away.
Now I can promise you all that I will be late getting to read your posts today and late to dealing with comments. As my friends in Twitterland know, I'm down with a cold. I finally got time to tweet and you lot were setting off fire crackers and burning staw men in bonfires, so I left most of you messages. Hope you all had a great Guy Fawkes Day and that nobody got their fingers blown off.
I'm off to the land of nod. Nighty night.