To celebrate publication of her second novel, I’m delighted to have Colette McCormick guesting on my blog today. She’s talking about a significant relationship: that with our mothers. Biological or given, dead or alive, our mothers help shape us. Over to you, Colette.
To my way of thinking there is no such thing as a ‘standard’ mother/daughter relationship. There is no one size fits all. Dawn French, talking to The Telegraph on Sunday in October 2015 broke it down into four categories.
- The best friends.
- The Sunday night caller.
- The can’t live with her, can’t live without her.
- Mum as staff.
The newspaper ran a poll to see which category that women most identified with and the front runner with 46% was number three. I don’t mind telling you that this was where my vote went.
I loved my mother dearly but the thought of living in the same house as her again once I’d left home brought me out in a cold sweat. We had the same blood in our veins but we were very different people. She took housework far more seriously than I do for one thing and I wouldn’t have had a look in in her kitchen. There was no way on earth that I would have chosen to live with her but I loved to visit.
That started me thinking about the other categories, the one’s I hadn’t chosen.
Why hadn’t I thought of her as my best friend? Well, to be honest I didn’t think of her as a friend at all. Why would she be? It wasn’t her job to be my friend. Her job was to raise me to be strong and independent and she did her job well. I know women who would put themselves into this category and if that is truly the case then they are very lucky.
I was never a once a week caller. For a while I was a twice a week caller but towards the end of her life I was a twice a day caller. When I left home I moved over a hundred miles away so it wasn’t like I was a regular visitor and the phone calls were the way we stayed in touch. Often, especially in her later years it felt like Groundhog Day with the same conversation repeated over and over but I don’t mind telling you that I’d give anything just to make that phone call one more time. In 2013 I was in hospital for seven weeks. As I spent a lot of that time in ICCU we weren’t able to speak on the phone and being well over 80 by that point she wasn’t able to visit me so she wrote me a couple of letters. I’ve still got them and I look at them from time to time. On a bad day, I open the locket she used to wear which still carries a hint of her perfume.
Mum as staff? No but she would have liked to be. I’m sure that had we lived closer she would have done her share of babysitting. Also, and I’d forgotten about this until just now, when I was ill in 2013 Mum said that she wished she could have come up (to the north east) so that she could do my housework for me. I couldn’t have cared less what the house looked like but it mattered to Mum.
I’ve never underestimated how lucky I was to have had the mother that I did but I am also very aware that not everyone was as fortunate. ‘Ribbons in Her Hair’ was inspired by a conversation with someone who fell into that category. That child became Susan though their stories are very different.
My oldest friend and her daughter have a relationship that’s built on mutual respect and love and it is a beautiful thing to watch. When they are together there is a bond so strong you could almost touch it but they appear equally happy when they are apart. They know that they can call on each other should they need to but they don’t have to live in each other’s pockets.
I have another friend who argues with her mother every single day – or at least that’s how it appears. The arguments are sometimes heated and when I hear some of the comments that they throw at each other my mind boggles. Yet somehow, the relationship survives.
The thing that these two mother/daughter relationships have in common is love. Even the ones that argue like cat and dog love each other.
To feel her mother’s love was all that Susan ever wanted and I hate that any child should feel that way.
Ribbons in her Hair
Jean seems the perfect wife and mother but she struggles to love her daughters whose material comforts mask emotional neglect. When the youngest daughter, Susan, brings ‘shame’ on the family, Jean can think of only one response. She has to make the problem disappear. Finding the strength to stand up to her mother for the first time in her life, Susan does the only thing that she can to save her baby. What Susan doesn’t realise is that her mother’s emotional distance hides a dark secret of her own. Examining the divide between generations, between mothers and daughters, this emotionally charged novel asks whether we can ever truly understand another, however close our ties.
Originally a city girl, Colette has made her home in a one of the many former mining villages in County Durham. When not working as a retail manager for a large children’s charity she will more than likely be writing, even if it’s only a shopping list. She also enjoys cooking, gardening and taking the dog on long walks in the countryside near her home. She has been married for almost forty years and has two grown up sons.