The mother’s role is not created in the act of bearing a child, rather it’s in the nurture and raising of that child.
In a week when Seamus Heaney’s poem was chosen as the favourite Irish poem of the last 100 years, it’s a nice piece of synchronicity that it’s subject matter, the love of a child for it’s mother, chimes with Mother’s Day this weekend.
The role in our lives of the Irish Mammy has been a rich harvest for comedians, but the jocularity only serves to underline the fundamental, structural role of the mother to a child’s sense of self and sense of well-being.
And as our letters show, the mother’s role is not created in the act of bearing a child, rather it’s in the nurture and raising of that child. And as the grown child learns, (as is also shown in our letters), with the experience of parenting themselves, the innocent view of the immutability of the parent changes and with age comes a greater understanding of the role of the parent.
The most powerful message shown however, is that of pure, unconditional love — the love given, the love accepted; love shown and love lost — and the regard for a parent kept as a glowing ember over the years.
For all mothers, with love.
My Dearest Mother,
Yes it is that time of the year again, the time when children across the country appreciate having such amazing mothers, and of course I will be doing the same.
I feel over the past year you may have thought that I didn’t think you were a cool mother due to myself making a few viral videos about you, so I feel it is only necessary to use this letter to you to clarify a few things.
No, I do not think that you have slave written across your forehead and you pick my socks up from the floor.
No, I am a firm believer that money does not in fact grow on trees. And of course, I do believe that you didn’t raise a “delinquent” even though you strongly believe you have every time I leave the house with my hood up.
You’ve been through a lot in the past year with me— from buttering my bread to ironing my job interview shirt. I couldn’t ask for more of an amazing mother.
I know times can be hard when it comes to the money tree having no leaves left on it, but one day I hope to be able to stick some cheeky notes onto the branches for you to pick.
I hope you’re proud of me though, even though my education wasn’t what you’d call “tip top” and I know you said the whole “imagine what you would have got if you studied” but I’m not doing too bad for myself.
There are so many things I am grateful for though. Your ability to get up at 6:45 every morning and trudge to work to feed us is something everyone needs.
Your ironing skills are impeccable and I don’t think you realise how good you actually are at ironing, it’s genuinely impressive!
Your impressive skill of being able to dust, brush the kitchen and keep up with your soaps at the same time.
But more importantly, you show love to me, and you’re the best mother in my eyes.
I know sometimes I may be a big ball of stress to you but that’s just me being a typical young man. When you ask me to wash the windows and I may forgot 9 out of 10 times. Or when I forget to bring my plate down from my room.
I will love you forever and I know you know this,
Happy Mother’s Day Mom,
From your amazingly talented and handsome son,
Cian Twomey is a 20 year old student working part-time for Cork’s RedFM. In his spare time Cian creates online videos for Facebook, using everyday situations he encounters with his mother and grandmother. They have become so successful that he’s rounded up near 200,000 Facebook followers and a total of nearly have a billion video views. Honest!
Don’t think I’ve written you a letter since I was in primary school. So I want to take this opportunity to thank you for a few things…
First of all, thanks for my education and all the support through the years.
Thanks for always pushing me to do what I’ve always wanted to do.
Thanks for sending me out Freddo bars when I was in France.
Thanks for warning me not to get married ‘till I’m 30(!)
Thanks for picking me up whenever I fall down and for being there through the hard times.
Thanks for all the bedtime stories when I was younger.
Thanks for being the best hairdresser in Cork.
Thanks for passing on your wacky ways.
Thanks for my sliderobes, I promise I’ll clean the mirror. Thanks for all the best Christmases. We all love you so much, even when you fold the washing before hanging it out and even when you iron the underwear.
We even love you when you nag, nag, nag!
We know it hasn’t been easy, acting as both our Mother and Father all these years.
Never have we ever known any woman to work as hard as you do. Thanks for being the best Mum ever.
“Love you more than the existing one”
You used to tell me about when I was eight and reciting what I had learned in school; ‘the lamb comes from the sheep’s tummy, the calf comes from the cow’s tummy, and I come from your tummy’.
You corrected me, and reminded me that I was adopted. I sighed, and raised my eyes to heaven, saying: “I know that, but let’s just pretend.” You always said that if a person could remember the first time they were told they were adopted, they were told too late — you had to grow up knowing it.
And so it was with me. It was never strange to me. But now I have kids of my own I can appreciate how strange it must have been for you and Dad.
All those months after first applying to adopt, all the yearning, waiting, hoping, and then suddenly a little bundle is placed in your arms and you’re a parent.
But like the cuckoo, this little changeling doesn’t have your eyes or your hair; instead it comes with problems you didn’t create, and a story that nobody knows.
But you understood that I needed to know, and when I was old enough you helped me find my biological family, even though it must have gone against all your maternal instincts, and it must have felt at times like you were losing me.
But that was never the case: Although I get on great with my biological mum, she is always that -— mum with a qualifier, mum with an asterisk, mum with an explanation.
You were the one who wiped my tears, tucked me in at night, read me stories, gave me the best of everything in life. You are simply ‘mum’.
Eight years ago I held your hand as you passed away. It’s still hard to believe you’re gone — you were so determined in everything you did, you seemed unstoppable.
Only one of my children is old enough to remember you, and her memories are fading.
But I think of you every day, and my wife and I often talk about you, how you doted on your grandchild, all the adventures you used to have with her.
You said that when you adopted me, it felt a little odd at first, but when my daughter was born, you felt an instant connection with her — she was instantly familiar, one of us — her story was our story.
Thanks to you, I now know my story, and who I am — I am your son, and I love you. Bill
It’s that time of year again when I find myself thinking about you, and about us.
A lot has changed in my life since you left this world all those years ago and I would like to tell you something about where I am now and what I have learned through being a mother myself.
I think of you often and hope that wherever you are, you are understood in all the ways you needed to be, and the part of me that still feels sad that I couldn’t save you, really hopes you are at peace.
I’m older and wiser now, I realise that being a mother is for life, and that can be both a blessing and a burden, I know you were right when you said; “you won’t know what this is like until you go through it yourself”.
I know that when I thought you were being mean and unreasonable you were really trying to save me from being disappointed by my own expectations.
I know that our children can’t see us as we see ourselves and that sometimes that’s a good thing because sound carries better from the higher moral ground.
And I know, because I learned this lesson from my own children, that all of us are entitled to make our own mistakes.
I want to say sorry for lots of things. In my back-to-front life I did eventually go to college and get that degree, which makes me realise that what hasn’t changed is my ability to recognise an opportunity to gain your approval.
Being a Nana, I’m an important part of my granddaughters’ lives, but I’m not responsible for them, which is so much fun. They have a great Dad and a lovely Mum who is my precious girl. As she gets older she looks more and more like you. I know you are taking care of my lost boy because I trust that you are the one who understands him most, and believing that comforts me.
I miss you Mum as I sometimes missed you in life and I often wonder how we would have been with each other as we both grew older. Could I have gained the same insights in reality as I have in hindsight? I suspect not.What is unchanging is my gratitude to you for loving me enough to allow me to become the woman I am today.
Your loving daughter M x
A bit strange, really, writing to you like this, and it’s not because of post-its, texts and emails and the overall decline of pen on paper.
Remember back after I left school and went off for a year, and we wrote letters, back and forth over the Atlantic?
You always said that was the time we reconnected, forged bonds of understanding after the adolescence years — when you wrote 20-page epistles on Basildon Bond, and I came back with flimsy airmail replies about the world that was opening up, plus some dutiful postcards, and the odd, pithy riposte? Well, I’m back for more, only older, greyer, and a bit more in awe of you.
But, who delivers to the departed? I’d nearly be afraid of the response. Wherever you exist in the ether, I hope you’ve a great view, a Sky package for the golf and the soaps, endless fags (and matches and the girls over for cards).
That’s a vision of heaven, of sorts, for an older person, comfortable in their skin and wrinkles. For you, as you became after decades of grinding life, and some (but not enough) joys. I’m sure you had more exciting notions of an afterlife back when, oh, when you had no call to even think of it.
You’re dead eight years this very week, as it turns out, in the midst of days and drifts of daffodils which were always your favourite flower. They’re back this March in annual rude health. Unlike yourself.
When you were sick, and fed up of being so, you said you wanted to be up, gone and down, before the daffs went and you were good as your word; off you popped. Your acceptance of your end days was your final blessing and gift to us. You made it easy, still watching out for us, as you slipped away.
Not to be too morbid — though I think this is the way we’re heading, and you’ll tell me if I’m being presumptuous — can I believe you had a good death? You’d seen more than enough of it, professionally with your patients, and personally with your loved ones; family and friends, your own parents, husband, your own daughter, and not all of those in a natural order either. Death of one of us, one of your children, was abominable.
For yourself? You had a blasé acceptance of death, always said the fags would get you. Yep, right again, but it didn’t stop you smoking until you just ran out of breath to inhale…and even then you tried a sneaky one out the hospital window. Blow Mickey Martin and his smoking ban, you reckoned. “One last one won’t kill me?” Well, you always had a morbid sense of humour and reality and no self pity. Respect? Sort of.
Eight years gone, now? Well, that daffodil link still sticks with us — you have a memorial season, not just an anniversary and after you went, well, the next year or two, we planted hundreds more daffodil bulbs in autumn, partly with you in mind.
So, you get another burst of associations, ties in handily with your September birthday, coincidentally. As a result, I’ve no excuse for forgetting your dates, and I only did once or twice/ish. Life moves on, as you’d acknowledge yourself.
Pale things, though, dates. Memories are the thing, memories and, if one’s lucky, genetics. I only have to look at the female line of cousins on ‘your’ side of the family and at my own daughters to see that.
It’s just extraordinary how one of them can do or say something, or in a manner that’s pure you. Or comes zap — straight from your genetic strand. I do it myself, sometimes, know it, say it’s pure you, and that’s even weirder for a man, believe me.
Yet, not weird at all. Weirder if it didn’t keep going.
Those traits are great, mostly: they’d break my melt sometimes, but it’s you, acting the genetic maggot. I’m not putting you, or me, on any sort of pinnacle of perfection. We’re family, your family. It’s you, back in someone else’s guise, just to say: “It’s in the breeding. Like it or lump it.”
No one but you will get the irony of this: both my daughters, L & M, are like you in many ways: bright, articulate, independent and argumentative. M may even follow in your career path, (as I write this, March 8, it’s International Women’s Day: I know you’d scorn the notion of such a day, yet you worked for 40 years, balancing work and family commitments, decades before it became the issue for modern families).
Yet, son, S? He smokes and coughs and splutters, and every now and then I join him in a sneaky ‘rollie’ out in the back garden and if we’re caught his sister M (a sassier version of you, as you always hoped for) explodes at me: “who’s supposed to be the responsible adult?”
Really, really weird thing? That I know only you will ‘get’? I just know you’d be connecting, (or more covetous), right now with S, the person with the cigarette. If M ever decides to smokes, Mum, well, you have been reincarnated — only with a fresh set of lungs.
You had great genes, but you tested them with fags; they came to possess you, and it really didn’t bother you. Eight years after you went in a final puff, your three siblings are still hanging in there, in their 80s and various degrees of coping; your sister has the odd cigarette or cigar, so you could still be here, too if you paced yourself. Probably.
That wouldn’t be a bad thing. Love, always, miss you, especially when the daffs are out.
PS I’ll try not to leave it so long until the next time — I’ve loads more to say…
Funny, don’t think I have ever written to you before unless it was on a card.
Thought I’d drop you a line, mention some things I’ve been meaning to tell you and I have definitely thought about, but never actually said.
First, you were right — all those times you told me those things that at the time I didn’t want to hear. Yes. You were right.
If I’d only listened where would we be? But I think that’s what you get for teaching me to be strong, independent and not afraid to speak my mind (by the way thanks for that).
I think that, and the hormones, may have also been responsible for the screaming matches along the teenage years. (Sorry about that).
Take some comfort in the fact that it didn’t all fall on deaf ears, some of your pearls of wisdom have been securely stored in my conscious, and I have even let some other women in on those lessons and the advice.
“Wear shorts in summer — if you think your legs are white they will be if you don’t put on your shorts …who cares, nobody will be looking at you”
Secondly, thank you. If I start with all the things I want to thank you for, the letter would never end, but thank you. Thank you for always putting us first — in your mind, in your life and in your love. Sorry for all the worry and concern that goes hand in hand with that — but I hope you can see and are a little bit proud of what it has achieved. Thank you for being there at the worst of times as well as the best.
Thank you for the books — from the ladybirds to the novels.
Thank you for all the opportunities and unwavering support. Thank you for the chats and the laughs.
I love you. I know I don’t say it often but I do.
You are the strongest, most creative and beautiful woman I know.
I hope I can make you as proud of me as I am of you.
Thanks for being my mum.
A is in her early 30s and about to get married — this symbolic moving-on has prompted a letter to her mother, J.
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