On My Mother’s Birthday

My mother would have been 76 today. Instead she has been dead for 20 years.

She missed out on holding three of my five children and watching them all grow up; on seeing me succeed despite the odds; on cossetting my sister when she got sick and on playing the piano with Andrew.

I miss her still and yet I wonder whether Brigid and I would be as independent if she’d lived. It’s not much solace though to know that we are stronger because of her passing when one is enviously watching elegant moms and doting grandmothers shopping together or celebrating Mothers’ Day at smart restaurants. Someone told me at the time that losing one’s mother is stressful because the ceiling in your life disappears. So true. It’s been a trifle drafty being exposed to the rafters of this world over the years. I can hear her laughing about ‘Think pink,’ the slogan for ceiling insulation in the eighties. That’s what she was: our shield from the harshness of life.

I know I would have apologised many times over to her, having heard her exhortations and chidings being vented from my own mouth, including things like: ‘You’ll get your comeuppance one day, young lady.’ And: ‘I hope you have a daughter just like you,’ How proud she would have been of the beautiful young women they are, inside and out. I’d give anything to hear her scold me once more or bask in her serenity and be enveloped in her ‘Mommy smell.’

I wonder what she would have made of social media and cell phones. She may well have surprised us all. And she would have been a blogger for sure. Her brief forays into the writing sphere brought her some recognition at the time. Perhaps she would have finished her degree or written that novel.

She would not have approved of gangsta pants, leggings without long tops or hair straightening. She would have snuck treats from Woollies past Brigid and told me to speak more softly. She would have had no patience with the EFF and been appalled by Lady Gaga, but she might have loved the MyCiti bus and definitely would have glowed with pride over the children’s achievements. She would have been delighted by Andrew’s wit and music and been furious at the poor driving in Table View.

It’s up to us now I suppose. Not to be her, but to recognise the transience of our time here on Earth; to remember to love deeply as she did; and to laugh loudly (as only Cancerians can). I plan to live long enough to be a problem to my children and to hold all the bebés one day. I shall have an ear trumpet and a stick, never mind sedate and decorous.

And one day I’ll get to tell her just how much it sucked being a grown-up without her.


‘You may first come across [her] when [s]he’s laughing the “crazy lunar laugh.”

It’s inescapably contagious. It runs up and down the scales with a deep, throaty

undertone. It giggles and gurgles, then finally erupts in a loud cackle that sounds

exactly like two hundred hens laying two hundred perfect eggs.’

Sunsigns by Linda Goodman