I’d watch with envy, as my friend’s Mum berated her for coming home late; imagining what it might be like, having my own Mum, lecturing me for breaking curfew as I begin to push teenage boundaries. I’d gaze in wonder as they talked about boys; cringing with thoughts of the awkward conversation I’d had with my step-dad, when the first boy I’d kissed dumped me for someone else. I’d daydream with melancholy, as her Mum handed her a box of tampons; envisaging having a Mum to talk to when I got my first period, instead of having to “Ask Jeeves” on the dial-up internet, whether or not it was ok to have a bath.
It’s been over 16 years since I lost my Mum to breast cancer. She died the day before my 14th birthday. So much time has passed since then and whilst I often think that perhaps I don’t miss her as much now, or the pain maybe isn’t quite so acute; I still found myself sobbing along to Paddington 2 this morning, as Aunt Lucy scooped him from the swollen river and promised to raise him. I think I’ve gotten so used to missing her, sometimes I don’t even realise the reason for my tears.
The thing with losing a parent is, it’s a double loss. You miss the person that has gone. Your Mum. Her voice. Her smell. The way she’d watch Dapple Down Farm with you on Sunday mornings. All the intricacies that made up the person that she was; the Mum she was. But you also miss the role they played. The woman that gave birth to you and nursed you and held you and wiped your tears. The one who watched your school plays and showed you the world. The one who offered you comfort and advice. That gave you a bollocking for winding up your sister. That tucked you in at night. That promised to support your hopes and dreams . I miss my Mum, but I also miss having a mum.
For so long, Mother’s Day brought me nothing but sadness. Envy. Resentment. And then, suddenly, I was a Mum. And Mother’s Day began to mean something different. It became something to celebrate. It wasn’t just about her anymore, it was about me too. Each Mother’s Day, I’m reminded of how incredibly lucky I am, that I get to be a mother of three amazing children. Yet I’m also reminded of what I’m missing. I’m hit with the realisation that she’ll never get to meet them. There’s no way she’ll ever be there to hold my hand as my heart gets broken in a scan room. I wont ever get to share my joy with her, if we’re fortunate enough to have another rainbow. I’m forced to face up to the reality that every single experience I have in my own motherhood journey, I will never be able to experience it, with her.
To follow in the footsteps that she trod before, but to do it without her guidance, it’s hard. To not have her at the end of the phone to ask “Did I do that too?” or “How did you deal with this?”. To know that you and she and your children have all lost out on so much because there was never the opportunity for her to be Grandma. I have support. I have a husband and I have a dad and I have grandparents and I have in-laws; but I don’t have a Mum. And that’s a pretty sizeable gaping hole in anyone’s life. Nothing will ever quite fill it. You don’t get a second chance with a parent. You don’t get healed by time, to a point where you feel ready to move on, to meet someone new and then what? Ask them to adopt you? It doesn’t work like that. You will always remain motherless.
You can be surrounded by people and yet, you can be painfully lonely.
This Mother’s Day, I’ll relish in the joy that my babies bring to me (most of the time). I’ll eat the cupcakes that they’ve baked (even though they’re gross). I’ll try not to count down the minutes until bedtime (for once). And silently, behind the smile, I’ll think about my Mama and how I’ve had to learn to live without her. How that is my normal. And how my normal is a world that will never be quite whole.