Given the fuss we make about birthdays, I have been asked several times whether Ben and I are throwing a party for Ma’s 70th. We are not. I did ask her but she didn’t what one, she wanted to go to lunch at Hawksmoor with the adults of the family (Ben, Laura and me) so that’s what we are doing.
I could write lots of lovely things about Ma here (and as she reads this, she will be asking why the hell I’m not doing that!) but some things are not for sharing or become tired with repetition. What doesn’t become tired is how lucky we are to have her and her unapologetic cruel bracing and supportive parenting style (family in joke, can you guess which of us thinks which?)
Ma has never been and isn’t now a perfect parent, but she is the best parent for us. She’s never stopped caring and supporting us as much as she can while being very clear that she expects us to get on with it because that is what her children do.
Ben is still the only grown man I know that speaks to his mum a couple of times a week and I speak to her almost every day. The irony is that Ma has never been a the kind of parent that keeps us close, she never makes a fuss about us missing Christmas or birthdays or Mother’s Day, she just celebrates with us at another time. There is no passive aggressive guilting in our family. If we do something she doesn’t like we know about it and then we move on and vice versa. She hates sulkers.
She opened whole worlds to us when we were little, she used to take us around London because she wanted to show us the things she loved, she encouraged us to go away on PGL holidays and summer camps and times with our aunt. There were the books she bought us (ok I am more of a bookworm than Ben) and she taught us to find out things for ourselves. My grandmother died when Ma was 14, so to a certain extent, she didn’t have a model for being the mother of teenagers or adults. The same applied to being a mother-in-law because she didn’t have one of those either, I don’t know what it’s like marrying into our family but I know that Ma loves Laura loads and possibly more than she loves Ben and me!
Grandma is the other role she’s sort of making up, she does babysitting, not childcare (which is my job) Oli went through a phase of getting Grandma to chase him when he was little and she was his first choice in the ‘rescue’ game. The boys think of her as a very useful playmate, Oli and Ma like to play board games and eat sweets together. It’s lovely because Ol has just got to that really interesting phase that Ma really enjoys. J tells me off if I call her Ma and not Grandma and likes to take her water bottle away because it’s big and blue and therefore should be his!
We are the family, in the way we are because of Mum. The older I get the more I realise what an achievement that is…
Happy birthday Ma, to quote your grandson, only “30 years away from 100”….