It’s strange how things happen. I was only saying to son, Harry, yesterday how fortunate I was to have the mother that I had in that she was so loving, humane, witty, comforting and understanding about everything.

We were driving round a roundabout when I came out with this utterance which arose as a reaction to hearing a lot of heart breaking stories on radio recently about people whose mothers had disowned them or with whom they simply couldn’t get along for all sorts of complex reasons ranging from clashes over arranged marriages, drug abuse, alcoholism, adoption issues, personality differences …

There was a time when I was foolish enough to think that everyone had a great relationship with their mother but over the years I’ve come to know lots and lots of mothers and daughters who have no connection whatsoever and maybe haven’t spoken to each other for decades.

Then, today, I was rummaging around on my desk and unearthed Mother’s red copybook which contains some English compositions that she wrote in 1934 when she was just 13.


The Red Copy Book


The composition that jumped out at me was this one:


April is the last month of Spring. In it the good qualities of both winter and summer are blended, so helping to make it an ideal month. Hunting is prolonged, and hounds meet during the first week or two. Tennis courts are marked, racquets restrung and clubs open once more.

The trees break into foliage. Primroses, daffodils, violets and anemones bloom in wood and garden. The birds build their nests and pour forth glorious melody.

Little lambs frolic in the fields, while their mothers lie apart, watching them tenderly, and seeing that they come to no harm.

The woods are carpeted with celandines and primroses, while violets peep shyly from among the stronger flowers.

Farmers sow their corn and gardeners sow flower and vegetable seeds, which grow and blossom in due time.

Baby rabbits may be seen in the fields or near their burrows, ready to go indoors at the slightest hint of danger.

Here and there, one may see a squirrel jumping agilely from branch to branch. He has been lured out of his winter home by the glorious sunshine.

Easter generally falls in this month and Easter eggs are displayed in many shop windows in towns and villages.

Easter is seldom in March, and never in May; it is in April, which is a suitable time for festivals, for all of the world is in festive garb.

What struck me about this composition was the extent to which it was so much ‘Mother,’ with her absolute love of nature and wild places as well as her observations about nature’s ways ~ for example, the violets peeping shyly from among the stronger flowers.

It also made me think of how much things have stayed the same since 1935 at some levels – like the ‘festive garb’ of the natural world and the lessons we could all take from nature if we took the time to observe.

Clearly much has changed in Ireland and the world since 1935 but, for me, what feels important tonight, are the continuities and that feeling that somewhere Mother, who died in 2009,  is ‘lying apart,’ watching her little lambs tenderly, seeing that they come to no harm.’

Motherly Love



Mother’s Day in Ireland

It’s Mother’s Day here in Ireland and Puppy Stan woke me at an unearthly hour ~ possibly to wish me Happy Mother’s Day ~ but he brought me off for a frosty jaunt that was filled with thoughts of my mother.

Mother and Me
Mother and Me

This is my seventh Mother’s Day since she died in May 2009. A grown-up daughter whose mother is rather unwell at the moment asked me recently: Do you miss your mother?  I was a little taken aback by her directness and found myself hesitating for a few seconds.

I answered as honestly as I possibly could and said: Yes, I do but not half as much as I expected I would because it’s like she’s with me all the time. I wish someone had told me it would/could be like this when I was in a total state in the last years of her life. I’m glad she didn’t battle on as her quality of life was going to be more and more diminished and this way I feel that she’s at peace and also that I have her love, wisdom and sense of fun beating away within me. 

This morning was one of those mornings when Mother was right with me as Stan and I headed off just to ‘be with her.’

She was passionate about nature and it was like nature herself was beaming for her too. Ponies and horses were a fundamental part of her growing up and this pair looked surreal as the sun was rising over the frosty fields:

Glowing, Grazing and Gorse

The sea was soft and gentle ~ just like Mother’s touch:

Whispering Waves
Whispering Waves

On the path down to her beloved Annestown, the grass that we so often sat on having picnics after swims was glittering in the frost:

Cushioned Grass
Cushioned Grass

There was no possibility of resisting the chance to leave her a little message on the sand:


Out along the Copper Coast, sheep and lambs adorned a few fields close to the road. A ewe and her lamb came close to me and I was stunned to see that she was No. 29 ~ Mother’s special number always as her birthday was on the 29th.

Mother's Number!
Mother’s Number!

Mother always loved to wander alone with nature, knowing that she could always come back to people who loved her.

As I look at this photograph that Dad took of her, I feel like I could call and she would turn around smiling and hold out her hand for me to come along with her:

Peace Perfect Peace
Peace Perfect Peace


First Steps

Monarch Butterfly Source: Wikipedia
Monarch Butterfly
Source: Wikipedia

It was in January 1995, twenty years ago, when I was four months or so pregnant that I was fortunate enough to feel the very first steps of our baby son.

I was having a lie down in the afternoon, with the winter sun pouring in the window, when I felt it ~ that indescribable knocking on my very being.

That was when it all became real. There was a little person limbering up, letting me know that he was there.

Those early kicks were as gentle as the flapping of a butterfly’s wings. The mere thought of them still leaves me in awe.







Toddlerhood        Photo: Frank Tubridy

This photograph was taken about 17 years ago. It’s one of my favourites of our son, Harry, because of the way he seems to be looking towards the future.

We were in that future together this evening when we went to a hurling match  to cheer on the Waterford Senior Team.

I still find it incredible that this ‘little boy’ is now towering over me ~ as he stands at 6ft 3in.

Sometimes, I see a familiar looking person coming towards me and suddenly realise that it’s him.

I wonder where was I when he was growing up?



Mothers and Fingers

I really came to see a myriad of connections between mothers and fingers this week when I managed to get a nasty abscess on the index finger of my right hand. I’ve been feeling absolutely lousy with it as the infectious ooze took hold and started to eat into my whole system.

Mother and Me
Mother and Me

The feverishness and pain, especially in the quiet of the night, made me long for my mother’s soothing voice, soft smile, quiet reciting of my favourite poems, loving touch, soft sponging of my brow as well as her urgings to at least try the bread ‘soldiers’ and beef tea that were her ‘invalid’ specials.

Motherhood and fingers are totally connected. That haunting moment when I first counted son Harry’s baby fingers and checked and double checked that there were ten ~ five on each hand. The wonderment at how they could be so, so tiny and so perfectly formed. His whole soft hand gripping just one of my fingers for comfort or to grab my attention.

Fingers Entwined

Even though I have yearned for Mother’s tenderness this week as I’ve fully grasped the role of the index finger in practically every activity of daily life, apart from my typing, I was glad that she didn’t have to endure the initial worry that the infection could get totally out of control.

There seems to come a time when you just have to grow up and spare the person who arguably loves you more unconditionally than anyone else ever can.

The week has also made me realise more forcefully than ever that the tiny baby fingers that I once held are now a strong man’s fingers.

But, as I think about that, I also recall Mother’s emphasis on how wounded soldiers in war want to feel their mother’s hands more than anyone else’s.


Heightened Sensitivity

May 23rd is one of my ‘heightened sensitivity’ days as it is the day before our son’s birthday. He was born in 1995 and will be 19 at 9.25 tomorrow morning.

As he is an only child, there is a real sense in which I see my life as being divided between the time before and the time since his arrival. As I was having an elective C-Section, I was in hospital this night 19 years ago and tossed and turned all night as if mirroring the transition that was unfolding.

I was looking through my photographic archives to find the photograph that I most associate with May 23rd and it has to be this one of the Rhododendron at the bottom of our garden that  unfailingly comes into bloom in the run up to the birthday.


It served as the backdrop for his birthday parties when he was small; survived all the footballs and sliotars that he and his friends ‘accidently’ lashed against it; was among the first things that he ever photographed; and always reminds me to be intensely grateful for the precious, precious gift that transformed my life forever and who remarkably now stands at 6ft 3in!

How time flies! But, how well one remembers the significant crossings.




Getting the Wrong Baby

All I have to do is see the rhododendron coming into bloom at the bottom of our garden every May and I find myself thinking about the grand arrival of our first (and only) baby on May 24, 1995.


I was about as unmaternal as is possible and certainly wasn’t one of those people who went around begging to be ‘let hold the new baby.’

I had a C-Section under general anesthetic, for medical reasons, and  got a bleary eyed glance at ‘baby’ shortly after he was born when I was hauled out of deep ‘sleep’ by a kindly nurse.

I was stunned by what I saw. He was more like a ‘little old man’ than a couple -of- minutes-old baby. If anything, he reminded me of  a leprechaun.

Some hours later, a nurse came bustling into the ward and thrust a little bundle, wrapped up in one of those white baby blankets, into my arms. One glance at a big baby face  and I felt a wave of absolute repulsion sweeping over me. I just about managed not to drop this alien on the floor.

As politely as possible, I explained that this wasn’t my little old man baby. I fumbled around on the alien’s wrist for the identity thingy but my vision was still a bit wonky and I couldn’t read it properly. By now, I’d handed the alien back to nurse who was checking the wristband against my chart at the end of the bed.

She let out a little squeak and hot-footed it out of the ward. It seemed like an eternity before she re-appeared with my ‘little leprechaun’ who snuggled up and met my gaze with a sense of belonging I can’t even begin to describe.





The Tug

Some feelings are never forgotten even though they may  have been  very fleeting. This morning I was standing by the kitchen sink and felt a sharp tug on the hem at the back  of my flowing pink dressing-gown. It was Stan, my bouncy puppy who is all action and full of fun.

The  tugging sensation pulled me back to an early morning over eighteen years ago.  Our eight-week old son was sitting in his tiny seat which was on the kitchen floor. I was in a mad rush getting ready to catch the train to Dublin on what was to be my first full day away since his birth.

A quick tug on the back of my dressing-gown somewhere near ground level brought me to a stand-still. I spun round and saw his tiny hand retreating and his big eyes gazing up into mine. The mad-rush was forgotten as I picked him up and gave him a cuddle.

There is always just one first tug and they are the ones that seem destined to be treasured most.

Unexpected Consequences of Motherhood ~Gatherings from Ireland # 343

Running Repairs by the Life Guards’ Hut in Tramore, Co.Waterford

There I was down the beach the other evening taking a few photographs of  kite-surfers at sunset when another sort of glowing orange dug its way into my peripheral vision.

That JCB catapulted me back to years when the whole landscape, real and imaginary, was about Moving Machines, everything from diggers, dumpers, tractors, JCB’s, fire engines, trains, articulated and not-so-articulated trucks, and most of all bin lorries.

Yes, there was a time when Mondays meant waiting, no matter what,  for the bin lorry to arrive in all its glory and watch it heave, slant, empty and return our bin and then jump into the car and follow it around Tramore to gain even more insight into its inner workings.

I’d spent over thirty years  running away from bin lorries as they squeezed and crunched the town’s rubbish but a little son who needs to know EXACTLY how the bin lorry works somehow (and I still don’t quite understand it) transforms bin lorries into magical machines with a delicious aroma.

Santa even got wind of this magic and brought the best present ever … a bin lorry with two  silvery bins, just like ours,  that could be emptied all through the Christmas holidays and every single day for years after.

Flash forward 15/16 years and we’ve arrived at Driving Theory Tests and L-Plates. How has this happened?

Puzzling Puzzle ~ Gatherings from Ireland # 328

I’ve passed this wreck of a toy a few times now as I walk along the Back Strand here in Tramore. It looked so new at the start but now it’s beginning to blend into the sandhills where it lies, as if resigned to a new life.

I can hear the shapes dropping through the spaces and the chuckles of a contented toddler as he sits upright with the glowing pride of mastery.

I can also see tears of frustration wobble down scarlet cheeks of a tired, teething little person, at odds with the very shape of life and the pain it’s inflicting.

But more than anything, I feel the tug of a chubby, sticky little hand pulling me to the floor to share the magic of a whole world, waiting to be explored …..