The inevitable has happened – I have turned into my mother
Someone said something in a shop the other day that reminded me instantly of my mother. It was rather shocking. I knew Mum was ensconced in her living room watching tennis on TV. More disconcertingly, the voice I heard – doing a pitch-perfect impression – was my own.
It had happened. The woman making conversation with a person she had never met before was me. Irrefutable evidence that I had, in fact, turned into my mother.
Let me get something straight. My mum is a wonderful woman. She raised me, cared for me and put up with me, particularly during my self-absorbed sulky teenage years. Stressed out by A-level revision in 1974, I withdrew £30 from my Co-operative Building Society, caught the train to Scarborough and spent five days eating comfort food at a B&B, swotting up in the library and taking windswept walks along the North Bay. I thought I was Cathy in Wuthering Heights. When I finally rang mum to explain where I was, she just said: “That’s all right.”
I could have happily spent my entire childhood with my head in a library book but, from time to time, my mum would insist on dragging me shopping up Mapperley Top in Nottingham. Spending time with her in public could be excruciatingly embarrassing. She would talk to people all the time – in the tiny library, at the chiropodists, in Judge’s bakery. It might have been about the long queue, the price of fish or the baby in the pram. She was simply unable to keep quiet.
There I was, Alice band in my hair, listening to her talk to anyone and everyone. I invented some coping skills. I smiled sweetly at the stranger, trying to make out in just one look that, yes, Mum was a bit crazy. Or rolled my eyes, hoping that with this one gesture, they could see that, yes, she was indeed my mother but I totally disowned her.
But what I didn’t realise then was that she was being friendly – and in doing so making lifelong friends. Not necessary close friends, but people she got to know over the years. It’s true what they say, neighbours used to talk to each other.
Fast-forward 45 years and Mum still has so many friends that a “quick” trip to the shop – with me now supervising – is impossible. People stop her in the street and ask after her. Her responses have all the warmth, generosity and kindliness that they always did.
So now I find myself speaking to strangers, too. In the post office, the phone store and the deli. If turning into my mum means honouring someone who, at 90, still wants to connect with the world, then I am going to embrace it.