Shelley has been asking me what I think Peg would say right now.
And because it’s Mother’s Day and we don’t have children and I haven’t seen my mother since she died in 2003, and because Peg lived through the death of an adult child, the death of a grandchild, the stillbirth of her first child, late-term miscarriage, widowhood in her mid 60s, WW2 (aged 18-24 & all the loss of youth that entailed & serving in the army), her first husband’s major mental health collapse (we’d call it PTSD now and – hopefully – treat him with much more kindness and care than the medical profession did at the time), her 2nd husband (my dad’s) life-threatening cancer when she had 6 children to care for, lived alone for 14 years after my father’s death, as well as ‘just’ being poor all of her life … I figure she might be useful.
So, here’s what I dream her saying …
1. Blitz spirit is a myth. They were bombed out of 3 homes and came home to find property/clothes/goods stolen every time, That said, there were always good people in amongst it.
2. Don’t let your jealousy make you rude.
3. You could have gone sooner if you’d asked.
4. We’re never given more than we can bear, but we don’t have to be a martyr to it either.
5. What can you see in the clouds? Look for the pictures in the clouds.
6. It is possible to have a picnic indoors if it’s raining outside.
7. Growing things helps.
8. She’ll be right. (Adopted from old-school NZers almost as soon as our ship docked. She loved that one.)
9. Sharing is important.
10. A cigarette (often home-rolled) and a brandy and lemonade (never more than two) is very soothing.
11. Scones are quick, easy and cheap to make, very enjoyable and use minimal ingredients. See also casserole & dumplings, pikelets, rice pudding, jam roly poly.
12. Talk to small children. You can have wonderful conversations with small children. (I have to admit, she was far less keen on older children!)
13. Don’t suffer fools. Ever.
14. Watching is also enjoyable. (Peg didn’t swim but she was very happy watching us swim. It took me decades to realise that one of the reasons she liked watching us swim is that there were so many of us, and dad was a great swimmer who taught us all, and maybe when he was swimming with us she finally got a break!)
15. Tiny babies don’t need a bed, a cot, an expensive anything. Your lap and a drawer will do fine.
16. Never trust anyone who is too nice.
17. Knitting helps. Sewing is great. (Or maybe not when you’re making your children wear exactly the same clothes and they are 6 years apart!)
18. Learning poetry by heart is very good for the mind and the soul.
19. Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit. (Have never agreed with her on this, btw.)
20. The sandwich is for you, but the crusts are for the birds. Feed the birds.
21. Of course you can have 6 children and 2 grownups in a small caravan. That’s a proper holiday.
22. Vinegar is a very good baking substitute for egg.
23. Nothing wrong with a good cry. AND pick yourself up after.
24. Sing. Songs from shows, songs on the radio, songs from school. Keep singing.
25. Adopt waifs and strays. Single parents who need somewhere to go for Christmas, non-family ‘nieces’ who like to pick icing from cakes, cats that turn up on the doorstep, young men at work who need motherly advice. (Do this even though it’s sometimes irritating to the actual family crammed into your home.)
26. Dogs are great. (But not annoying little yappy ones.)
nb – I don’t recommend No 10.