It's my Mum's birthday today; she's 60. Sixty is an age I know that I know she was terrified she would never make. Despite a very unfortunate family medical history (my Grandad died of a heart attack at 48, Granny of a stroke at 68) and her huge subarachnoid brain haemorrhage in the 1990s, she's now happy, healthy....and basking so very deservedly in the sunshine in Mexico.
I love my Mum. My mum is a trooper. She's a worker. She keeps her house clean, takes care of my Dad, gets up at 7.30 every morning to feed her oldest grandchild breakfast before school and still works a 2-10pm shift each day at the local hospital where she works in the surgical department.
My mum has always had a job. She's never left a job she's hated (and there have been some awful jobs) until she's found another one and no matter where she's worked, her superiors always have the same opinion; she's a hard worker. She has never claimed a benefit in her life.
She's been a metal pressworker (as have I), a shop assistant, a chemist, a fruit picker, a secretary, a personal assistant, a telephonist and so much more...and yet what she wanted to be was a window dresser. When she gave birth to me, her dreams came to a halt and putting meals on the table became her priority. When I was younger and she used to tell me about her dreams, I never really understood why she wasn't still chasing that dream.
Now I have my own children, I can see more clearly, and it makes me both very sad for my Mum yet tremendously grateful too that she sacrificed her dreams to give me a wonderful childhood. And make no mistake, it was nothing short of magical. Magical doesn't need to equal money when you're little.
I was oblivious to her parenting efforts as a child. Long night shifts cleaning and in the factory, her horrible, oily and sore metal spring piecework that ripped her fingers apart at home, my parents passing one another as one came in from work and the other went out, it all seemed normal. My mum never sunk into self pity and she never lay around on the sofa all day feeling sorry for herself because of how hard she was working. She was too pre-occupied sewing clothes for me, knitting outfits for my dolls, baking cakes with me and tirelessly playing dolly tea parties with me (my favourite role playing game) whilst finding creative ways to help me learn to read and write before school. I don't know how she did it. I know there's a highly amusing story about Sanatogen wine in there somewhere, but mostly she just gets the job done. She's amazing.
My mum was a full-time parent. She never called up her friends or even my Granny to see if they could babysit us whilst she had some "me time", and I don't remember being baby sat more than once and that was when I was about 10. Her clothes were always second hand, and over time I noticed that the same items of clothing appeared in her photos year after year, even though we had new coats every year and party dresses at Christmas for dancing at the club.
We never drove anywhere in the week, it was always Mum walking and me sat on the pram, whatever the weather. At dinner, if there wasn't enough money for the food to go around, she'd eat a jam sandwich instead in the kitchen. Yet I never knew; she's not a martyr.
My mum never has time to look after herself. No time for hair appointments, for relaxing with a magazine, for taking it easy in life. You won't hear her say, "I'm off for a bubble bath," because she'd feel as though she needed to be doing something else instead. She's devoted to her family and never asks for anything other than to see her grandchildren, or for my Dad to finish the decorating. I just wish I lived closer so that I could see her more often. I won't offer to help with the decorating; we all know that wouldn't go well.
If I could describe her in two words, they would be truly amazing. She's my benchmark as a Momma and if I can be half as fantastic as she is, my boys are going to grow up incredibly happy.
Happy 60th Birthday, Mum. I wish more people were like you, me included. Thank you for everything you've done for me, but most of all for my childhood. Enjoy Mexico....we're waiting to see your photos!