I can’t believe it’s been this long, but it’s ten years ago today since my Mum died. She’d had a frustrating and lengthy battle with colo-rectal (bowel) cancer and ultimately she beat it. Not in the way we would have chosen. But she won. She is no longer in pain or suffering.
Anyhoo, I’ve been thinking about her lots of late. I’ve been talking to my girls about how amazing their Gran was and how much she would have loved to grow old watching them growing up.
I was chatting to my sister about Mum this week and I asked her one question that I have been pondering:
What things did Mum teach us about life?
We chatted for a few minutes. We roared with laughter as the conversation turned to funny stories that form the backdrop to these life lessons.
So, here are our top tips for life, according to our Mum:
1. It’s vital to listen to our children, and not to simply provide advice and solutions.
Mum was always ready to listen. I have often wondered if it is one of the reasons that she preferred to drive us to places, rather than send us off on public transport. We used to chat endlessly in the car: about our day at school if she had picked us up; about the latest football news; about what our friends were up to; about the things that were weighing on our minds. And Mum always listened. No matter what. Even if she was doing something that meant she couldn’t look at us while we were speaking, she always made sure that we knew she was listening. And then after we were done talking, she would comment, or offer advice or possible solutions. But we knew that it wasn’t just about trying to make things better, or fix our problems or difficulties. She genuinely enjoyed hearing what was going on in our lives. And we knew as we grew into adulthood that she really did simply enjoy our company.
2. Kindness costs nothing.
Our Mum was just kind. She was always looking to see the best in other people. I clearly remember her saying to me after an especially difficult friendship breakdown as a pre-teen, that ‘hurting people hurt others’ . It must have been so hard for her and Dad to walk me through that hurtful time, and yet I remember her telling me to continue to be kind to the other child.
3. Everyone deserves another chance – just make sure to look after yourself too.
I made so many mistakes as an older teen. Every single time, Mum would sit with me and a brew and we’d chat about what happened, what had gone wrong, what I could have done differently. Often way after the event, when the emotions had died down a little. She was also there when I overextended myself in trying to help someone else. She taught me that it was just as vital (and more so) to look after myself, as it was to look out for others.
4. A cup of tea cures all ills.
5. Cats provide The Best Company.
Again, nothing else to add to that!
6. Laughter is key.
Laugh lots. Laugh hard. Laugh often.
7. Never fart in public. And if you do, laugh.
Oh that memorable New Year’s Eve playing games together at our friends’ house will always be up there as one of my favourite childhood moments! Sorry Mum!
8. Board games should be the centre of family life.
Mum was a huge fan of the family board game! I remember learning to play chess with Dad in our caravan. I couldn’t have been more than 6 or 7. Then our family holidays switched to Menorca and my memories of playing Uno and Yahtzee on our apartment balcony are as clear as if it were last week. We still love to play board games with our girls. And Uno, Yahtzee and chess are up there amongst the favourites.
9. Buffets are The Bomb.
You can’t beat a good spread.
10. It’s good to indulge your husband.
Dad has always, always loved football, music and cars. So when he started talking about wanting to fulfil a lifelong ambition of owning an indulgent car, Mum went with it. He did have a few different ones over my teenage years and twenties, but I know that she adored his Mazda MX-5 and the driving holidays that they took together. Often with the top down, coming home with sun kissed faces and wind blown hair!
11. Invest in your girl friends.
Mum’s best friend (besides my dad) was her cousin Sylvia. They had grown up together as sisters (my Mum had three brothers) and that continued throughout their adult lives. She often talked about how important Sylvia’s friendship was to her and vice versa. It definitely encouraged me to nurture key friendships as I have grown up.
12. ‘Getting your colours done’ is a revelation.
When we were teenagers, Mum ‘got her colours done’. I remember it being something that she did for herself and really enjoyed it. For those in the dark, this looks like a similar thing: House of Colour. I remember her coming home with a certain colour palette of make up and going through her wardrobe talking about which clothes just didn’t suit her colour.
As someone who isn’t into clothes or hair or make up at all, I always found it a little bewildering that she loved it so much! But she was always so stylishly simple and unpretentious about it all.
13. You can’t beat an early night with a good book.
Mum was an avid reader. Almost every night she would head up to bed early, get herself ready for the following day and snuggle in to bed with her latest book. I have no doubt that growing up in a household that read is what sparked, encouraged and nurtured my love of books as a child. Retreating into a great story was just the perfect way to spend down time. I still love reading. And I still love early nights.
14. Always file your nails over a piece of kitchen roll.
Mum always had clean and good looking nails. It was one of her frustrations with her chemo that her nails became brittle and opaque. I don’t ever really remember her doing much more than basic maintenance. And she certainly wasn’t one of long, fancy, brightly painted nails. But she was a big fan of keeping your nails clean and neatly filed. Every week she would get out her nail file, Atrixo hand cream and a piece of kitchen roll and off she would go getting her nails done. Even now the smell of Atrixo makes my heart happy!
Sometimes just keeping it simple with these things is exactly what everybody needs. I’m thankful to have had a Mum who did just that. It would have been amazing to still have her here, laughing at me making her look like some kind of saint, but boy do we have a job lot of happy memories to go around!