The theme of mothers and daughters seems to run through my books: Angie Winkle reflects on her relationship with her mother in The Borrowed Boy. Bea has a difficult relationship with her mother who is overprotective but also her biggest champion, in Just Bea. I am currently writing Misdirection and again this important relationship between mothers and daughters is emerging.
I had a close relationship with my mother. Although she died seven years ago, I carry her in my heart. She is my inner voice giving her guidance, blessing, and reminding me what is important and what is not. Just as she did when she was alive.
The loss of any loved one is hard to bear but losing a mother brings a special kind of grief. They are a source of unconditional love. A childhood nightmare of being separated from your mum becomes a reality and you feel as bereft and cut adrift as if you were that little child. Until I lost my mother, I did not fully comprehend the enormity of this loss. It doesn’t matter how old you are – male or female, it is devastating.
In the early days of my bereavement, two thoughts comforted me. I had a strong sense of my mother; we had shared so much in my lifetime – part of me was her. In fact, when my mother knew she only had days left to live she said, ‘You are me now.’ What she meant was, I now had the responsibility of taking on her role in caring for the family – holding us all together.
When I was grieving, I imagined a cherished shrub in the garden. It never died because when it started to die back there were always new shoots. Like that shrub, my mother continued to live through me. I came from her and she would always be a part of me.
The other thought that comforted me was something I read. The grief of bereavement is an expression of our love for the person who has passed. Love is good. It is a positive emotion. When I thought of grief as an outpouring of love it felt healing and I welcomed it instead of fighting it.
On the evening that my daughter was born when I had slept off the trauma of giving birth, I asked a nurse to bring my baby to me. I held that tiny girl in my arms and felt something within me unfurl, like a flower opening up to the sun. It was a part of me that had been lying dormant. I did not even know it existed. Now I felt whole.
Soon after her birth, my husband gave up work to be a stay-at-home dad and I took on the role of sole wage earner. This was not a terrible hardship as I loved my work but I also loved being a mum. As soon as I got home from work each evening, we played together. My daughter would be waiting at the window or door to greet me and we were off – no time to change or have a cup of tea, she would lead the way to a den she had made with the bedclothes, or tell me the part I had to take in a play she was producing with her dolls. I was fortunate because my husband prepared the evening meal and so I was free to play. I loved those imaginary games. I always have. I would lose myself in the game in the same way that I do in writing a story.
This wonderful relationship with my daughter may have confused her because she drew a picture of two small stick figures holding hands and a bigger one who she said was Dad. Then, there was a time when she was about twelve and I was reprimanding her about something. My other half came up the stairs saying, ‘What’s going on?’ to which my daughter said, ‘It’s not fair, he always takes your side. Just because you’re the eldest.’
Today she is thirty-one and we continue to be close. I am incredibly proud of her and all that she has achieved.
The relationship between mothers and daughters is not always smooth, especially when daughters are in their teens and trying to break away to establish their own identity.
My mum gave me a little book compiled by Shelley Klein called Mothers and Daughters: A special collection for That Special Relationship. It is full of wonderful quotes. This one is from Charlotte Church.
‘My mum is one of the most courageous women I know. She’s so strong. She’s emotional and passionate about everything in her life. Sometimes we hate each other and then sometimes we love each other so much it’s ridiculous.’