Today would have been my mother’s birthday.
I remember sitting a few years ago in her dark little house in Queensferry listening, not to her words but to her voice, and looking at her hazel eyes, her round cheeks and soft double chin, and thinking how little these had changed since I was a child. This was the same voice that had comforted me or scolded me for rudeness or untidiness, that had chatted to my dad and gran, that had laughed at something I’d said or called that tea was ready. The signs of age were there, of course, she had become so thin, from being a round, cuddly mum with huge soft arms. Now the skin hung off her arms and her fingers, that used to knit so deftly, seemed long and thin, and cold to the touch. But the voice was the same.
It was always easy to remember her birthday. The first was a strong date to remember. November, the name of the month sounded strong, dark and dramatic. Scorpio was an interesting sign, being a scary animal.
When she was 70 she said the strange thing was that inside she had always felt like she was eighteen. I understand that now, as I feel the same myself and have to remind myself from time to time that I’m middle-aged. And her generation wasn’t as youth-obsessed as ours. I think it must be a part of the human condition.
Now, as I meet my birth families, and start to reflect and write about my childhood, I miss her all the more. There have been so many questions about family and friends in Ayr, about shops we went to or streets that have disappeared. Furniture we had or places we would drive to. Because I was so self-absorbed, because I paid so little attention, there are huge gaps in my knowledge of my childhood, which no-one can answer. I worked out that only one person is still alive who knew me as part of my family in those days, one of her closest friends. However unreliable it is, I have to rely on my memory and a small box of old snapshots.