Memories Of My Mother


While physically present in my childhood, my mother was always more absorbed by questions of faith than the people around her so, in practical terms, she was seldom involved in my daily life. Every week the same succession of meals would be served or offered: on holiday, spent in a lodge at my grandmother’s house, fourteen meals, identical in every way, would be taken with us in the car so that no time would be wasted on dealing with life’s tedious practicalities.

Her children, of which I was one of the youngest, could do almost anything they liked as long as they did not disturb her, or bring the household into disrepute. She had no sense of developing a child’s character, or offering support in a project apart from her ongoing conversations with Christ.

I do remember, as a child, and in a moment of reckless self-interest, asking her if I might have a slice of the fruit cake she had purchased for the afternoon tea she would host for the local Catholic Women’s Guild. “Why?” she asked.

Being about eleven at the time, I was short on answers so I said, somewhat lamely, “Because I’m hungry!”

“No” she replied, “If you were hungry, you would eat dry bread. You are merely greedy” and her answer disclosed the essence of her connection with her children and the physical world around her.

She was far from being unkind or unaware but merely resided on a different plane to the practical, physical world where most of us live out our lives. In hindsight I feel much of her approach to life was the result of a subconscious withdrawal from everyday routines following the death of my father in an accident when I was eight years old.

After his death she retreated to a life in her bed in an attic apartment at the top of the house which included a bathroom and small kitchen. By knocking at the door you could almost always gain entrance to her world and enjoy her unique and distracted attention but otherwise she was seldom present in our lives.

To engage her interest, around the age of eight, I mentioned that I might like to become a priest: to her the highest calling available to living man, although, in truth, I was largely unaware of the commitment I was making. Regardless, on the basis of my word, she took me along, on a daily basis, to serve at the mass held at six in the morning every weekday at our church.

To get there I would have to get out of bed at five o’clock and was summoned by her daily, and given a glass of cold water to help “Rinse the sleep from me!” Again, why she did not make me a cup of tea to coax me into awareness in a more gentle way is a question my adult person might ask but to her, any kind of softness spoke of a lax approach to living of which she would have no part.

The curious thing is I have only cried about three times in my life but one was when I visited her on her deathbed. The unutterable sadness of seeing her lying there and recognising the conversations and connection we would never have overwhelmed me. She was the oddest, most disengaged, remarkable, obscure, determined and vulnerable woman I have ever known and I miss her to this day.

Love is a curious emotion is it not, and has touched my life infrequently, but in my thoughts of her, and the unique memories her life bequeathed me, I can say no more than that I loved her and love her still; this lady I hardly knew. Love, a wise man might of said,  “Is beyond our understanding, but central to our lives.”

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About Peter Wells aka Countingducks

Trying to remember what my future is
This entry was posted in character, childhood, creative writing, Fiction, Peter Wells, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

40 Responses to Memories Of My Mother

  1. mikesteeden says:

    As ever, a smooth, profound, thought provoking tale from the inspired pen of its author. Nice one, Peter.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Candy Lebby says:

    Wow a few things in this piece powerfully resonated with me. Especially surrounding the religious attitudes.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What is it that forms us? What makes us who we are? We are brought into the world, into our situation of which we have no control, and the circumstances and the personalities that surround us help to shape us, for better or for worse. Without really knowing you except through your words, I think the bitter and the sweet have created a kind soul.

    This is a great piece of writing. Engaging content beautifully executed. What makes it so good is the that the reader is drawn, not just into the story, but into the life of the narrator in a very empathetic way. Nicely done.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Al says:

    Wow, Peter, you’ve conjured up some hard memories here, but I suspect you intended to do that. No doubt for most of us, a boy’s relationship with his mother is a delicate and complex matter. My mother was not a touchy, feeling person and the one time I ventured to say “I love you”, not too long before she died, it was met with a puzzled look as if to say, “there’s no need to vocalize such things.” Hugs were not a requirement of the kinship either as the assumption of affection was all that was needed.

    I imagine rather than take up the valued space on your blog I should write one of my own on the subject, but I fear I could do little more justice to it than the last paragraph you penned.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. RJ Walters says:

    I had much the same experiences with my mother Peter, except that she was an extreme narcissist instead of a religious zealot. Everything had to be about her. She abandoned her husband and kids when I was about 10 to marry a guy much like her but also had the money to give her the life she thought she deserved. She came back into my life about 12 years later as her husband had divorced her and married his much younger secretary.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Isn’t it astonishing how often stories like yours and mine are replicated but never written about or noted in the deluge of plastic families replicated for advertisements or films. Thank you very much for sharing that memory, and well done for being the man you are despite it 🙂

      Like

  6. What a beautiful piece. I’m fortunate that my mother was very open and available. I feel a little sad to think of a little boy, trying to engage his mother and not quite making that connection.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. tmezpoetry says:

    Powerful~

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Beautifully stated piece. We carry around such tender spaces sometimes. Poignant 😔

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Strange how we are crafted as much by our memories as actual events. This will strike a chord with many. Well written, Peter.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. This is so poignant. I thought it was fiction and was marveling at how you are always so good at tapping into the veins of human lives and the myriad ways living is done, and then I saw your comment about it being autobiographical. How profound are our foundational relationship!

    Liked by 2 people

  11. This has the ring of autobiography to it, Peter. The details paint such a very detailed image. Was your mother from one of those ‘Old Recusant’ families? I only ask because she seems to very unique in her outlook. Otherworldly.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Midge says:

    Peter, what an amazingly beautifully expressed piece. I was moved to tears. We each have differing details that left an impression on us, but you have managed to put into words the confusion of emotions we experienced, and the love we still feel.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Peter, this is truly a powerful and poignant piece. I have written a lot about my mother lately, and she was also not overly available or affectionate. I was also devastated when seeing my mother on her deathbed in her final days. Many relationships are not perfect. We have but one mother.

    Like

  14. nelle says:

    Whew, what a wandering! You are fearless in the subjects you will tackle. Clever and well told.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I understand this Peter. I’ve known so much that is similar. I think sometimes we grieve the most for the aspects of a relationship that we never got the chance to know. Sending you a great big hug.

    Like

  16. joey says:

    This is moving, and while completely foreign to me, it’s so well-written,so descriptive, I feel like I know these people.
    I suppose her impressions on you gave you great humility and make you thoughtful, but hers was not an ideal way to teach those traits. The part where you sought religion as a way to connect to her pains me, and I suspect there are myriad ways kids try so hard, even pretend, in order to make that connection. Perhaps that part is relatable to us all.
    I’m sending you hugs today, for your residual pain and the never-ending grief we feel when we’ve lost a parent. Love makes no sense.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. tiostib says:

    Thank you. this story has pushed me to look back at my own mother’s memories, something I can now do with more compassion and insight.

    Like

  18. michnavs says:

    Its always the “what ifs and what could have beens” that haunt is even mostlt till we get older …i love at how sincere and profound you’ve told your story..

    Like

  19. Moving… even in her absence she was present. Such a powerful story about your mom.

    Like

  20. Whether we realize it or not, sometimes it is those things which give structure to our lives that we miss the most when gone.

    Like

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