Yesterday my 4 year old brought home one of those delightful surprises that so often come from his Nursery. It was this marvellous Hand Puppet. My 11 year old clearly thought it was so cool that he decided to claim it as his own handiwork. Hmmmm....I blame the parents.
It got me thinking about the amount of stuff he brings home. I wondered whether he will ever remember any of it when he grows up? Doubtful, I suspect. I wonder if he has any concept at all of how he makes my heart skip a beat every time he rewards me with his tiny little amateur creations? Unlikely.
The never-ending ritual of go-to-school-make-something-nice-for-mum-and-take-it-home has been going on in my house for 11 years now in one form or another, and it must surely have been going on for decades over the generations. Well, at least since the Post-War 'can't even afford to eat let alone make nice stuff for mum' period ended, and the austere days of wrist-slapping with a ruler were outlawed.
My thoughts drifted to my own childhood, as they do on a daily basis. (Those of you who have read about www.SaveEveryStep.com or my Blog will no doubt vouch for this!) The strongest memories I have from those days as a tot involve my mother - she is there at every turn, smiling and coaxing, scolding and hugging.
I sadly lost my Mum 5 years ago. I find myself pondering whether it is this loss which has sharpened the focus on those memories which involve her, or whether it is simply the passage of time that has made them so precious to me.
What is abundantly clear is this - there is not a single memento, artefact or heirloom which can replace the loss of your dearest ally. A mother's love in your life is omni-present and all-consuming. Even as an adult parent myself, I could easily regress to being a child needing comfort if my Mum was around. But sadly she is not.
What I do have, however, are the most delicious of treasures - my memories of Mum. As I recall the days we spent baking together, I can almost smell the sweet cakey-ness of the kitchen. I would be there, standing on an old rickety chair (the Elf & Safety guys would have a hissy fit these days!) straining to reach the worktop. A tea-towel would be tied around me as a makeshift apron, and the Be-Ro recipe pamphlet would be propped open with a cake tin. I would be entrusted with the tin-greasing, and almost invariably a little bit of button-pressing on the Kenwood hand mixer, but that was probably it. And yet somehow my mother left me feeling that I had created these awesome sugar-filled treats all by myself. Proud and flour-coated, I would wash the ick from my hands and beg like a puppy for the mixing bowl.
And that, right there, is the sweet spot. THE best memory of all. A tiny little finger immersed in chocolate goop, scraping around the almost-empty dish, seeking out morsels of un-cooked cake mix. De-bloody-licious.
There are other memories too - making Fuzzy Felt pictures for example (ah, for the non-sophisticated passtimes of the 70s!) Little amorphous shaped blobs of felt on a rough green background. Boy plus dog plus sun. Girl plus boy plus sun plus birds and cloud. Dog plus ball plus cat.
Then there was dolly-stuff. I was a Pippa Doll freak back in the day. I would go to extremes to make Pippa World realistic, including (as puberty loomed) cutting of the hair of my less-favoured dolls and drawing on beards with felt-tip pens. Pippa gotta have a boyfriend, after all. Mum would donate scraps of fabric from her sewing box, and we would together design and carefully craft tiny little outfits for these waif-lie creatures to model.
My beautiful Mum clearly knew how time would make all things precious. She carefully stashed away a great number of my child-like creations as a kind of 'time-capsule' for me to raid during adulthood. What a woman. If only she knew how precious these items are to me now.
My Mum was the inspiration which led me to develop the family life stories website SaveEveryStep. There are millions of mums out there, like me, who need to start capturing the memories of their own life, and, more importantly, the memories which they are creating every day with their own children. They need to be preserved as a legacy for our next generations so that they know who they are and where they came from, the experiences and events which have shaped our family members' lives, and handed down as a precious cargo in this personal safety deposit box.
My mum is gone - only she could have filled in the gaps of her story. But it is not too late for me, or for you. Perhaps one day when my boys are looking back at the Lifelines I have created for them, they too will say that their sweetest recollections are of Making with Mother.
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"Life's a Journey, SaveEveryStep"