Every night of every week built to the crescendo of Sunday’s Masterpiece Theatre with Alistair Cooke. Well before the Elgar welled up to announce his imminent arrival to our screen, my mom and pre-pubescent me were in position, cuddled up in her waterbed in front of the telly. Alistair would sit upright, fireside in his leather wingback in his mahogany-panelled library, we would be in her Brady Bunch high 70s boudoir with the lurid splayed nude that made me blush and look away every time I came into the room.
First up was War and Peace with young Anthony Hopkins as Pierre. Prince Andre was so beautiful- and doomed- I had to read ahead and back and forward again between instalments. At the first whiff of interest, Mom made sure the Penguin was on my bed when I came home from school. Next was Brideshead Revisited and once again the book appeared as if by magic. To my horror it was a relatively slight volume; she and I flew through it too fast (she likes to do things at speed) and for once wallowing was better-suited to the box.
That’s her- always armed with the right book (or the right craft project) for her wards at the right time. And always up for period drama.
My mother and I share a love for night trains and sleeping in couchettes. A distinct memory I have of my mum is from when I was 14 and lived in Rome. Mum let me take a few days off school and we went to Venice on the night train. We had a real Venice obsession back then, fuelled by novels probably. I remember in particular visiting the Peggy Guggenheim Museum that weekend and then going to the cinema because it was raining and because we felt like it. I also remember mum bringing me to a rally while we were there to commemorate the end of World War II, and marching with the local Communist Party who seemed to be having a fight. We were passing by and she thought it was the right thing to do, also because she’s of that persuasion anyway. We got another night train on the way back, a tiny couchette just for the two of us, where I had the top bunk. We’ve always been excellent travelling companions.
For as long as I can remember, my mum has been looking. When no one in our small town had ever heard of veganism, mum was baking strawberry tofu cheesecakes; before I ever knew what ‘mindfulness’ was, our bookshelves at home were heaving with guides and encyclopedias on deep meditation and ‘the power of being’. On sunny autumn days when I was very small, we would stuff a backpack with chocolate and fruit and in our green, muck-encased wellies, trek (dogs in tow) deep, down into the woods, where mum would point out birds, bees, mushrooms and leaves. She’d point out every shade of grey in the little stone wall, train our noses to smell the faint aroma of garlicy fern, and listen to the birdsong way above. She sees everything. All of the beauty in the silhouette of a tree, every fact in the last chapter in her new favourite book, nothing gets past her beady eye. She sees the good in everything, every plan that goes AWOL, every relationship that misses the mark, mum can always make out a little light in a pitch dark tunnel. This becomes an issue when you’re 16, sneaking out to meet a boyfriend and she sees your furrowed brow and lying eyes, or when you’re 25, running out the door to a friend’s party when she spots a small stain on the collar of your dress. But mostly, she has a vision, an all-seeing eye that never ceases to amaze me, and it’s one of the things I love most about her. I hope she never stops looking and seeing – the endless seeker that is my mum.
As a teenager my mom told me that if a boy breaks my heart, by all means, go home and cry my eyes out, but never cry in front of him – I might have a broken heart, but I will still have my self-respect.
Think twice before you write anything on paper, once it is written it is there for anyone to read. 20 or more years later, this is still a very valuable lesson, even more so with social media.
As a teenager, my mom, according to me, could do nothing right and I constantly looked for arguments with her. In anger one day she shouted at me that she hopds my daughter would give me as much grief as I gave her. I mentioned this to her recently, saying that it is pay-back time (my daughter is only 8!). She couldn’t remember saying it to me, but we had a good laugh about it.
My mum, Deirdre O’Reilly, is one of the most incredibly selflessly devoted people one could come across. She is a dedicated nurse and a loving mother at the same time. The one person that I know will always pick me up when I fall and who has done just that, time and time again. My guardian, my friend, my everything. I love you mum and if I turn out to be half the person you are, that will be more than enough.
Look at all that late 1980’s beige décor. I was born the tail end of the Eighties. Mammy had a chronic perm, Charlie Haughey had a load of fancy shirts, my baby self had a shiny face and apple cheeks. When I was mere days old, or so the story goes, my mother decided to jump back into her skinny high-waisted jeans and head up to Dublin see a Neil Diamond concert.
Whatever generation you’re born into, it’s always difficult to imagine your parents as youngsters never mind hipsters. Those fuddy-duddy stick-in-the-muds that won’t let you leave the table before you finish your greens couldn’t possibly have watched the sun rise while swigging a bottle of fortified wine, lied about their false ID, done the walk of shame, or inhaled, right? But this fact is particularly resonant when they were born in a time BI – Before Instagram. While the next generation will have no problem showing their own grandchildren what they looked like as soon as they ejected the womb – an HD smartphone having monitored its every daub of vernix– anyone born before the 1980s has just a few faded photographs to draw from, their edges yellow from adhesive photo album corners.
So I cherish the relative few, mostly black and white, snaps I have of my young parents: my mum as a Swinging Sixties bridesmaid, a cigarette wielding teenager with pal in Venice’s St Mark’s Square, on a beach in Jersey with her fantastically swim-suited girlfriends, and laughing with my dad on their wedding day in 1967, pictured. They offer tantalising glimpses of her private histories before my sister and I turned her life upside-down.
My secretary mum gave up work for some 14 years to raise her two children; I’ve never so much as given up chocolate for Lent. My dad was a policeman so, while far from being an absent father, he worked antisocial hours, and missed a few Christmases. Mum was the stalwart, juggling work and household with childcare, step aerobics, tap dancing classes, and dinner parties.
A grammar school student, she taught me the importance of correct spelling – and, more fun, how to jive, in the comfort of our kitchen where she refined the ‘Indian cooking’ she learned at night school in the 1980s. I unequivocally have my mum’s legs, but I hope I’ve inherited her generosity and caring – and a knack with a recipe book. (Alas, it appears I prefer to eat than cook).
I’m glad I worry less than her though. But then I’m not a mother, and that’s what the best mums do. Always looking out for us, no matter what our age. ‘Don’t talk to strangers,’ she’ll still say, half in jest, but I know somewhere in there she still sees me as a toddler skipping over the water sprinkler in our garden, or a tween putting on plays for my grandpa.
We don’t say ‘I love you’ in our family. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s an English stiff-upper-lip thing? But better late than never. Happy Mother’s Day – I love you, mum.
Nathalie Marquez Courtney
My mother Carol has led an extraordinary life – travelling the world as a circus performer, sharing a ring with elephants and lions, learning the trapeze in her 20s, being a ringmistress – but it’s the most ordinary acts of loving motherliness than stick with me the most. I don’t think I will ever full grasp just how much mum has sacrificed for my sister and I. She left Mexico (sunny, warm Mexico where she had lived for years and made a life) to return to Ireland (early 90s Ireland, grim and grey, still in financial crisis) so that my sister and I could go to school. I tear up just thinking about how tough it must have been, being a single parent to two boisterous, often scrappy little girls, who didn’t even come close to understanding just how hard life was for her. Every pound she earned went to making sure that we got the quality education that she had missed out on due to travelling. It meant sending us to boarding school from age seven, and trying to fight back tears as she waved goodbye, sometimes not seeing us for weeks or even months.
While our carefree summers on the circus were spent jumping on trampolines, learning dance routines, and earning pocket money by selling souvenirs, hers were spent working tirelessly in the circus shop, cleaning candy floss and popcorn machines, being the circus ringmistress, hand-sewing elaborate costumes, and saving so that we could have books, shoes and a new uniform come September. These days, I tease my mum a lot. At a family fancy dress, I joked that she should go as Cinderella, because she’s always cleaning (on a recent visit, we woke to find her washing our walls). Working is hard-wired into her being, and it’s not easy to get her to stop and relax.
I’m often told that I’m very like my father – a lover of photography, history, and language. But being raised by mum has made me who I am. Without learning a thing or two from her insane work ethic, drive and determination, I know I wouldn’t have gotten very far. Her selflessness leaves me teary eyed and humbled. Happy Mother’s Day mum, I love you.
Words are totally inadequate, but here goes …
You never cease to impress me with your wit, intelligence, and capability.
You are effortlessly beautiful and elegant, and I think most of the time you don’t even realise it.
You have never let me down.
Your ability to be a fantastic mother (to four of us), wife, friend and sister, while still remaining very much your own person is awesome.
You have a great sense of adventure.
Your style rocks! I struggle to remember a time when you weren’t in heels.
You try (and excel at) almost anything, from re-wiring plugs to making dresses to hovercrafting.
You’re really good fun.
You have great legs.
You’re a class act.
I love you.
My mother has spent her life juggling single parenthood with a career as a high-flying diplomat. Over the years, she struggled to make it to school plays, ducking out of the auditorium between performances, mobile clutched to her ear whilst the soccer moms passed judging looks.
There was the time she was in negotiations with the Chinese, and the musical ‘Ariel the Little Mermaid’ doll (which she’d bought for me as present in the airport), accidentally got knocked in her handbag, subjecting a room full of ministers to a lengthly rendition of ‘Part of Your World.’ Mortified and feigning innocence, it was only at the end of the meeting that a male colleague gave her a knowing look, and unzipped his own briefcase to reveal several ‘My Little Ponies’. A severe chocoholic, as a child she appointed me as her ‘Diet Patrol Officer’, and I recall chasing her down the hallway as she manically laughed whilst scoffing a KitKat whole. For most of my life it was just the two of us, shacked up together first in a flat in Paris and then our rambling house in Edinburgh.
My parents split when my brother and I were young (mum ought to have known it wasn’t going to work out; for their first date, dad took her up a mucky mountain in her suede heels, and promptly hang-glided off a cliff, leaving her stranded for several hours) and my brother chose to stay in Dublin with my dad. Oestrogen levels were high, so there were plenty of fights and tears over the years, but through it all she has been both my rock and my best friend.
My Mam, Marian, is a nurturer. This innate instinct sees her protect everything around her, not just her own family, but all living things, so much so that a family of mice may have *knowingly* lived cosily in the garden shed for a few days such was the desire not to harm them. Birds especially are a passion. Her garden is full of the little feathery creatures all year round. When I look out the windows at home I see them feeding their babies, bathing in clean water and stocking up on nuts and seeds. They love our house because my Mam cares for them as she does our whole family. Even now, as adults, things haven’t changed one bit. My brother and I are still her little kids, we’re still learning from her, still being welcomed and waved goodbye to at the front door, still being worried about and watched out for, which brings me back to the birds. Beware cats to our garden; you are the only animal that’s wholly unwelcome. I have personally witnessed a strategically placed hose or a flying clothes peg, as brilliant a Mam that she is, she’s also a very efficient bird bodyguard. Thanks for everything Mam, love you so much, Happy Mother’s Day xxx
As one of six children my Mother used to tell me that I was her favourite but not to tell my brother and sisters as they would be so upset. For years I kept our secret, that I was in fact her number one.
Many years later I found out that each of my siblings had kept the same secret!
My mother had incredible style and elegance. A natural beauty, with a smile that could mend most childhood hurts.
I miss her…
There are countless fabulous memories I have of times with my mum; waking me up at midnight and bundling me into a dressing gown to watch the fireworks show; finding thoughtful notes in lunchboxes, pencil cases or notebooks (and more recently cards sent by post) to let me know she’s thinking about me; patiently teaching me how to tell the time; animatedly reading to us while we fell asleep every night – to name but a few!
Chanel No5 will forever hold the top spot as my favourite fragrance as it reminds me of her. A beautiful woman with an even more beautiful heart, my mum continues to be a constant support to her six children and we know that no matter what the situation, we can get through it with her by our sides.
Ah Mum, A novel could be written about her and all her wonderfulness. With four children and a full time job running a business, the potential was there to grow up feeling distant from her. This was and never will be the case. She made sure of that. Along with zillions of other things, she drove us, and our friends everywhere, making sure were safe…and later admitted to enjoying being in on the ‘gossip’. Car journeys make for great chatting time, which is why she still offers to chauffeur us about at times. Time is precious, yes, but when you love someone, it’s never an issue. Mum is 100% there for us, as is Dad, and for this I will always be grateful. When mum says, ‘ah, this is nice’, we smile – even if we’re huddled together, frozen on a pic-nic bench!
I couldn’t imagine being without my mum. We text each other every day, even though I still live at home and she is the first person I go to when I need advice on any matter – except maybe fashion. I’m the one giving advice in that area, so she can avoid ever buying a pair of knee-high purple suede cowboy boots again (yes true story, she once owned a pair). Her greatest quality is her quirkiness. She is “as mad a box of frogs”, and I could have sworn she coined that phrase as she says it every day – to describe herself mostly. It’s an apt one at that – she is a little mad and I little crazy but I love her for it. At my 18th birthday party, she decided to get up on a chair in the middle of my friends and dance to Prince’s, “I could never take the place of your man.” I might add that it was only eight in the evening, not a drop of alcohol had been consumed by anyone yet, but still she got up there and wowed the room. Wouldn’t you think her teenage daughter would be absolutely mortified by this? Not one little bit! I loved her even more for it, maybe because secretly I am exactly like her, cut out of the same cloth and I am damn proud of that.
Here we are on my wedding day, in September 2000. That’s me, wearing the dress my mother wore decades before. And that’s my mum, dancing her heart out. She’s the woman who inspires me most. Truly giving to a fault, she always worked through Iout my childhood until she retired only seven years ago, yet she still baked cookies and was always there for her four children. love you more than you know. It may not be Mother’s Day where you are, but I’m thinking of you today as I do every day.