1st June 2019
Today I met up with Sharon, one of my Mom’s best friends who I haven’t seen since I was about four years old. We recently reconnected via Facebook. She sent me a friend request and I, thinking some randomer had attempted to befriend me for no reason, was on the verge of deleting it. It wasn’t until I looked more closely at her profile picture and saw that she went to Moreton School that I started to wonder if this was the same Sharon from my childhood. I ended up pulling out the only photo I have of her, holding it up next to my computer screen and asking my boyfriend, ‘Do you think this is the same woman?’ We concluded that it was.
Shortly after I accepted the request, a message came through from Sharon herself. In it she explained who she was, which she prefaced with the line, ‘You probably don’t remember me.’ Only, I did remember her. I remembered that her two sons were called Danny and Elliot, and that Danny used to have curly blond hair. I remembered that she lived in Perton, that one of the boys had had problems with his ears, and a trip to Dudley Zoo during which I threw a hissy fit because I wanted to see tigers and the best they had was flamingos.
Sharon was understandably surprised to learn that I could remember details from so long ago. Plenty of people I know say their earliest memories date back to when they were six or seven years old. The way I see it, I have a special reason for remembering further back than most people, so I do.
After messaging back and forth for a while, Sharon and I decided to meet up. We were both a little dubious. What if, after all this time, we had nothing to talk about? What if it was awkward, or stilted, or we simply didn’t get on?
None of those things happened, I am glad to say. In fact, it was remarkably easy. Conversations do not run dry when you have two plus decades to catch up on. Nor do they run dry when you have a loved one in common. Part of our time was spent bringing each other up to speed on where our lives have taken us since we last saw each other. The rest was spent discussing Mom.
I do remember Mom, but my perception of her has always been limited by the brutally short period I got to spend with her, and the fact I was a small child when she passed away. I never got to know her as an adult, never got to discover the kinks and quirks of her personality. All I have is my handful of memories and what other people tell me, so naturally I love hearing stories about her. Sharon had plenty.
She told me how she and Mom met at the gym, and how Mom was always careful with money so that even when she and Dad were hard up, they still had everything they needed. She told me Mom used to work near Snow Hill and how tiny my parents’ first flat was. But the best stories were the ones about her as a person. How she refused to take payment for doing Sharon’s hair and instead asked for cereal in return. Apparently she loved cereal, often eating up to three bowls a day. The same went for Sharon’s parents. Whenever they asked how much Mom wanted for doing their hair, they would be told to buy her a few boxes of cornflakes or shreddies.
Whenever people talk about Mom, they always mention her generosity. She made Sharon’s bridesmaids’ dresses for something ridiculous like £25 each, and was always inviting people round for Sunday lunch. Apparently she would always leave hers to cool down while she washed up. She loved a roast dinner, just not while it was hot for some reason.
She was a stickler for cleaning, a habit she must have got from Nan. Sharon told me about an unorthodox but effective method she had for cleaning carpets. It involved slopping hot water onto the floor and then mopping it using a new mop. I am often told that I take after Mom, not just physically but in some of my mannerisms. Be that as it may, you will never ever find me mopping a carpet, no matter how filthy it is.
But my favourite story-the one that made me smile more than any other-was about her love of pie and chips. It was her favourite meal, and on the way home from nights out they would stop to get pie, chips and gravy. This was before she had me, but after she and Dad got a dog, King.
King was a huge white Alsatian crossed with a golden Labrador. He looked like an Alsatian but white, with a brown nose and huge bat-like ears. After a night out, Mom would insist on giving half her pie to him. There is something about the idea of her feeding gravy-slathered pies to the dog that I find so comical, so charming, and such a wonderful, visual representation of who she was.
She was off her head by the sound of it, but in the best possible way. A cereal-obsessed, carpet-mopping, pie-munching legend with killer cheekbones and a dirty laugh. What a woman to have for a mother.