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Umbrellas and other small things

umbrellaHappy days, it rained this morning! Slightly less happy was that it rained as I was doing the school drop, which meant trekking two boys and their kit across the parking lot and across the road in the rain. Hardly the stuff that builds character I know, but enough to add to the chaos of the school morning (individual cooked breakfasts anyone?). The boys stayed dry, courtesy of the umbrella I handed each of them. Me? The one dragging their school bags behind them? I got wet. I saw the crazy of it in the eyes of a stray dad who took in the picture, laughed and said “What kind of creature are you?!” I’d had a faint whiff of the ridiculousness of it all before his existentialist question dropped from the sky but, same as with the rain, I shrugged all three off with a laugh.

I’m a mother. I’m that kind of creature.

Tell me you’ve never done something for your kids that someone somewhere has rolled their eyes at? I’ll be willing to bet good money that you have. Mothers regularly do things that have more than a whiff of the ridiculous about them. We don’t think about it, we just do it. I think it happens more with the small things, like umbrellas, than with the big things, like not working at school or university or the great beyond. Don’t sweat the small stuff some say. It’s not important they mean. I don’t know about the no sweat part but this morning got me thinking about mothers (granted, fathers too, after they have had their morning coffee) and the small things that we do that are ridiculous to others. How it’s done with varying degrees of cost to the mother. And how that cost is something the child is mostly forever unaware of.

This morning I just got a bit wet and looked a bit stupid to a stranger. Not a big deal. (Spoiler alert! I’m getting a bit philosophical now so you can skip back to Facebook if you want!) But I started to wonder if the small stuff we do without thinking is perhaps the important stuff. It is after all exactly the small stuff that has been sitting in my heart since my mother died a month ago, since she could last talk to me two months ago. It’s as if my grief lives in the small things; things we both did without thinking, some of them faintly ridiculous for sure.

Like phone calls. My mother was very specific. She liked me to call her at exactly 10 in the morning on weekdays. It was her tea-time at work and she filled at least 15 minutes of talk time with a report back of all her activities and plans. I could call at 1 but she didn’t really like it then – she wanted to do her prayers and I was holding her up. Her evenings were full she said so she didn’t like to chat then. It was always 10 that was the favourite time. And that’s when I called. A small thing but I think of her every morning when the time creeps to 10.

I have a million memories of small things. Another is Animal Print. Yes, I have it in capitals because my mother loved Animal Print on anything. Loved it. I was a teenager when she had a whole lounge done up in it for her and her friends to hang out in. She called it her Animal Room and nearly everything was covered in print, even the tea cups (honestly, not my thing, but actually not as bad as it sounds). In my twenties, I moved back home suddenly for six months after getting divorced; and I crashed on a single bed in the spare room where all the other odd bits and pieces were stored. One day I left for work and by the time I got back she had emptied her beloved Animal Room. She’d set up a room in there for me, unpacked all my clothes, put in a double bed with new duvet covers and curtains. No trace of animal print (she knew it wasn’t my thing) only some of my own furniture so that the room felt like me. And she did it all after her own day’s work, even though I was already a proper grown-up and shouldn’t have been back home at all. At the time, she said it was a small thing, and it didn’t look like she was bothered by it much. I think now that she gave me her umbrella in the rain without thinking once about how wet she would get.

If it’s the small things that grab my heart the hardest then maybe it’s not so unimportant. Maybe one day my children will also remember the ridiculous things I did and they will realise that, regardless of the big things that we may have lived and fought through, I would always give them my umbrella. Even when I got wet and looked stupid and a stranger laughed at me!

Much love, rain and ridiculous umbrellas to you all

Q

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