Bu Ruth Foulkes


Being mother to these three is the greatest joy.

I have a mother who loves me dearly and always has, but a mothers love is hard to describe…only now that I have children of my own do I understand that deep visceral response that is deeper than my central core and a cross between an explosion and an ache…only now as I watch my own children can I gain a sense of what a mother’s love is. This could be the same as a father’s love, or a grandparent’s love, I do not underestimate that, but I can only speak for myself.

Growing up the best gift that we could give our mother, in our young and tender eyes, was breakfast in bed with a few spring flowers on the tray. Such joy and excitement as we presented her with cold rubbery scrambled egg and limp soggy toast…how hard that must have been for mum to stay in bed listening to the clattering and arguing in the kitchen below, considering the mess that was evolving, ( and my mum doesn’t like mess!)…and then eating breakfast as if it was a gastronomic delight.

Once as a child I was with my parents in London the weekend before Mother’s Day. We were at the ideal home exhibition and I had wandered off to find a gift to buy for my mother. I found a framed picture, probably no bigger than a postcard, of a cottage with roses around the door and a thatched roof, the garden full of flowers, nothing like our own home but carrying the perceived essence of happiness, and ours was a happy home. Looking back, it was a cheap print with a sort of shiny gold etched appearance in a white plastic frame. I bought the picture, I loved what the cottage represented, and as I headed back to our pre-arranged meeting place, the picture in a brown paper bag, a bomb exploded, shaking the building and sending crowds running and screaming in all directions. I found my family quickly and was ushered out the nearest exit where we seemed to have to wait for ever before being evacuated. On Mother’s Day, the picture of that cottage was put on the wall in our hall and there it remained until my parents sold their house some thirty years later. I wonder where it is now? I must remember to ask Mum when I next speak to her.

I asked my mother. It is in the loft with so much other stuff as she downsized from the family home. It is in the loft along with such things I expect, as a first lock of hair, baby photos…and a lifetime of memories.

Afterwards as a young adult I would continue the trend influenced by advertising, I would buy something I believed she really needed or wanted. Was I pressurised into giving? Was it that by not giving something I was giving a different message? Was it because I get genuine pleasure from giving to others? Was I simply following a trend with little thought? I cannot remember for sure.

As soon as I had my own home I began the tradition of making a Simnel cake for my mother. I remember grandma telling how when she was in service as a young girl, Mothering Sunday was the one day they had off to return to their family, often with a cake, and to visit with their mothers. Traditionally I believe it was to return to the mother church, the church of your family home where you had been baptized, to celebrate being together as a family and give thanks for family. I continued the tradition making first one cake each year for my mother and later two cakes, one for my mother and one for my mother in law.


With my mother and one of my daughters.

Now, living in New Zealand, where Mother’s Day is celebrated in May, no longer connected to Easter and old traditions, I find it to be more of a commercial venture.

My children recognize it with a card, good wishes and often a gift. As a teacher Mother’s Day featured on the school calendar along with Easter and Christmas and we planned some time to celebrate mothers, making cards which the children then hid in their bags on Friday to take home to surprise their mothers with on Sunday. Some children of course no longer had a mother and there was always the dilemma of how best to handle that. Some knew their mothers but their mothers were not their primary carers, again a dilemma requiring sensitivity and knowledge of your learners.

For me, the greatest gift my children could give me (other than a new car or luxury holiday, a bach at the coast or the winning lotto ticket), is time. To spend the day or part of the day with me…or, if that is not possible to ring and remind me that they love me.

I know that life gets busy and sometimes when I ring Mum I forget that it is possible, in fact likely, that for her the greatest gift I can give her is my time.

This weekend, I will settle down with a cup tea, no distractions and I will talk, listen and be with my mum in our shared “video call” space. I still nevertheless have a nagging anxiety with UK Mother’s Day only one week away as I wonder what “gift” I can give my mother…

From the position of a daughter, turned mother, I will make my mother a card. I will spend time creating something with love and send her the message that she is loved, and respected and valued. On Mother’s Day next weekend I will ring her as I do every weekend, and often in between, and make a point of reminding her how deeply grateful I am for all she has done, and continues to do for me.

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