Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Happy birthday Mum, 70 today!!!

Dear Mum,

Happy 70th Birthday! I can't count all the selfless hours you spent with me by Reuben's bedside, sun in your eyes, your joy for life shining through, how you made us laugh, looked so lovingly at our son. We ran the gauntlet of emotions together. I miss the love you and dad showered on my boy, I miss your scrambled egg in the mornings, I miss the dinners you and Dad would put together for us in the evenings and we'd eat on the terrace overlooking the boats below and the mountains and cityscape, I miss the leg lifts you and Dad would do for Reuben whilst singing Beautiful Dreamer and the recognition in Reuben's bright eyes. You have more energy that I could dream of. You are a true inspiration of motherhood and how its done.

Barely in your 30s, you were raising 5 children, all of whom have been inspired by your example. You fell in love with an Irishman named Joseph Vincent and left your home town of Glasgow, and your beloved family for a freedom that was being stifled by bigotry at the time. You boarded a train with 3 children in tow whilst you awaited Dad's move to London, and moved to London where I was born, and Geraldine, 2 years later. It's never failed to amuse me that Mary married Joseph despite what the Bible says.

I remember at infant school, I hated throwing anything away that you gave me, yet I perhaps took that a little too far when I kept holding onto an apple core left over from my packed lunch. Food was always such an important part of our lives, well, with Dad, Pete and Joe setting the presedent, it had to be. We may not have had much money and yet somehow we all managed to eat very, very well. I must have been the first in my class to discover the delights of spaghetti bolognese, madras and chow mein, because, although it's hard to imagine now, the UK cuisine back then had barely matured beyond the roast. The term Domestic Goddess was yours all along. You make the best soups in the World, the tastiest cakes, the biggest breakfasts and certainly the finest cup of tea.

And holidays. I know Dad worked exceptionally hard to ensure we took a holiday every year, to Cornwall, Yorkshire or the Peak District, and then of course the pinnacle was our holidays to Majorca, bringing back a stuffed donkey on the plane or a bottle of sangria which never quite tastes the same when drunk in London. I remember our journeys to Scotland and Ireland, and how the family would sometimes have to split so that you and Dad could each see your families. Yet I remember those fantastic days at Glenlora Drive with the wee'uns arriving, Hogmanay, Auntie Catherine's wit and love. I remember the day you told me your own mother "went to heaven" and how very young she was. And the holidays your dad, Bar, would spend with us, so that Anne-Marie would join Geraldine and I in our bedroom.

I'm wondering how we ever all managed to fit into the car and yet now I'm remembering that that was the least of our challenges! How we'd fit all of us into the car plus your sister's family as well, now that was a challenge! The heady summer days in Southend or Clacton.

We would sing songs heartily in the car, I can see the sea, I can see the sea, E I oh my daddy oh, I can see the sea. Did we make that song up, because I can't find it anywhere? Pete singing Hank Williams' Nobody's Child which I'm sure is the saddest song ever written, and Dad singing Sinatra's High Hopes. Bog down in our Alley where we would all join in during the chorus. We had an early education in wonderful music. Music was always such a huge force in our lives, Frank and Ella interrupted in your 40s with the Sex Pistols and the Clash. It amazed me how tolerant you both were of our variant music tastes and how you welcomed into your home our friends with glued blue mohicans (Pete's that is). It's no surprise then that we all continue to love music so much, live and recorded and that Pete, 20 years on still leads vocals for Undercover. Or the time when we broke down on the motorway, all 7 of us stranded on the side of the road and maybe it was raining. A couple stopped by, loaded us into their car and took us to their home where they fed and boarded us for the night. I remember all the times we moved and the O'Sheas (whom you're now with in Bulgaria) would help us out. I remember when we weren't invited to the 1977 Queen's Silver Jubilee street party, I think, along with the O'Sheas, because we're Catholic or Irish, who knows! So together, the O'Shea boys and the 7 of us got together and hosted our own Jubilee party at the O'Sheas. And we had a ball!

We moved soon after because you wanted a better life for us and that meant a better school. Us girls in particularly went on to have an excellent education at St Joseph's, the parish to which you still belong and at the Convent.

I remember Joe leaving for Keale University and how sad we all were, waiting patiently for him to return during the holidays so he could read Geraldine a bedtime story. I remember Anne-Marie's trip to Australia in Dad's footsteps and the long letters she would write you which you have til this day. I remember my first steps on Broadway in NY when I was 19, calling you from the phone box which wasn't accepting cash until a policeman started to linger and I got spooked, as no doubt did you when the phone went dead. I remember too the countless times you and Dad would drop me off at London University, the car bursting with my belongings, mostly clothes and photos, and that passion for photography that follows me today. I remember Anne-Marie graduating too from London University and you ice skating at Liverpool Street.

I have such a fond memory of you coming along on our school trip to Kew Gardens, taking the boat trip down the Thames from Greenwich. I loved the place so much that I decided what better place to have my wedding reception than at Kew. And our days at the Club in Chigwell where Pete had his wedding reception, the Christmas parties there.

Christmas was always an immensely important time for us. Pete would rouse us at 6am, waking the whole house up with such great excitement as we scurried down the stairs to await Santa's delights! You and dad would lie in bed (you'd been up all night wrapping the presents for the 5 of us, preparing the food, oh, and taking us all to midnight mass as well!) and listen to our shrieks of delight filtering up the stairs. The mass of Christmas wrapping would be everywhere! And of course it wouldn't take long for me, the Hoover Queen, to get the hoover out because I couldn't deal with the mess. And, I have to say guys, having an OCD thing going on about hoovering was a tough thing when you're living in a house of 7!

However that has shaped me in a way. I am now officially a minimalist and I love every colour under the sun as long as it's white. Yet I loved that we have such a large family. I can hardly wait til Reu's strong and well enough to take him home, to give him a proper baptism celebration beyond the emergency one at St John's when he was born. I petition my brothers and sisters now that we need more nieces and nephews! There can never be enough.

I always loved spending days in London with you, tea at the Ritz on a couple of your birthdays, Tate Modern or Tate Britain. The times you would meet me for lunch when I worked in London.

The memories are fresh in my head even if the photos are tucked away in Florida. It's a funny irony being a mother for the first time as it makes me feel like a child again.

Today is the day to remember everything wonderful about your life. You couldn't do enough for us on the days you were hurrying us out to school. You amaze me how you made it all happen.

Happy birthday, my own blessed mother Mary. I love you so very much.



mog-aj said...

beautiful as always!


And happy birthday Catherines Mum, you like your daughter are one in a million!

xXx ~ Jac ~ xXx said...

Happy birthday Reuben's grandma!

Catherine, that video is amazing. One can clearly see Reuben recignising grandma, and I think I saw a little smile on his face too. A trulywonderful little man, inspite of everything.....

yp said...

Oh Catherine- having had the incredible pleasure of having met your mum and your caressing narrative makes me feel her loving presence all around - like the light of the sun. The video is beautiful. I cannot get over how indeed larger and older Reuben is and how perfect, nurturing, giving and loving your mum is in every way. A very very happy birthday to her! I hope she and her prince charming have had a wonderful joyous day! oxo,y

ellen charge said...

beautiful as u r

yp said...

The morning has brought me the photo montage which is wonderful! So much love and joy exploding through the screen - thank you for sharing your gifts (and Scotty and I make a cameo in the third minute! such an honor :o)) thinking of you as I do every day -oxo,y

skeybunny said...

Happy Birthday to Mary! I don't have sound on my work computer, so I couldn't hear what your mom was singing--but I didn't have to hear the words to see and feel how full of love she is for you and Reuben. You are blessed to have such a supportive family--I only wished the distance was not so great between you.

Reuben looks good--so much like his daddy.

Sarah, Jeremy, and Evan Storrs

Catherine said...

From mum:
Hello my dearest Catherine, sorry for not being in touch with you for so long, although we managed to read everything going on with Reuben once we got to Sophia but we couldn’t reply as the computer wouldn’t let us. I did read your wonderful letter for me on my 70th and it was the most beautiful letter I have ever received. So full of love and happy memories Catherine , it made me cry, I just wanted to be there with you and seeing little Reuben again. Its like you have been born again for me. We kept you all in our prayers and in Sophia we found a beautiful church of St Josephs would you believe. Everything you have written is so inspiring you have such a gift for sharing your feelings and that’s so much better than keeping them locked inside you. I spoke to Tony and Rita today and they tell me little Reuben may have to have a trachea this week. Its what you most dreaded but if it paves the way for his homecoming it has to be done. Will speak to you later at the hospital. Your beautiful Lillies arrived this morning. Thank you so much Catherine, Love you so very very much. Mum.