I don't have too many memories of my mum. She died when I was seven, and no one spoke of her again. I suppose the family thought that was best. In truth, the silence made her death seem even more sinister and unfathomable. I thought she had been murdered. I was about 14 before I found out how my mum had died, when a friend's mum innocently mentioned the breast cancer.
Her funeral was on my 8th birthday. There are pictures taken in the garden of that day. I'm playing on the swings. I am dressed quite conservatively I suppose, but I am wearing a huge, red 'I am 8!' badge. The kind that come attached to cards. The picture looks quite cheerful, until you notice all the other people in it are wearing dark suits and darker expressions.
People ask me about growing up without a mum. They ask me if it was hard. I don't know how to answer, as it is pretty much all I knew. I would say I grew up feeling terribly different, I was aware of an immense loss and absence, but it was a shadowy, obscure feeling. I think her loss shaped everything.
Up to my mum's death I was a bright, happy, outgoing child. Being the youngest and the only girl I was spoilt really. All my mum ever wanted was a home and family. There were difficulties with pregnancies and she had all but given up having a little girl. There are hundreds of photos of me, up to the age of 7. None after that age. My mum made the most beautiful little girl's dresses, threaded with ribbons and lace. She knitted jumpers, she baked cakes and filled our home with lovely old furniture, muted rugs, soft cushions, plump and feathery eiderdown quilts. The gardens were filled with roses and the fires were always lit on chilly days. The strongest memories I have are of her teaching me to read, filling hot water bottles and of her reading The Adventures of the Little Wooden Horse, which would make us both cry. She still taught part-time at the Colliery infant school. I used to often pretend to be poorly so I could stay off school. Mum would take me in to her class, which I adored. I was so proud of her being a teacher. I longed for her to get a job in my school, so she could teach me every day.
After she died I can just remember being scared of everything. Of never really speaking. I was desperately shy and introverted. I was wounded, but had no wounds to show. When my dad died I still hadn't talked to him about my mum. There was such a lot I wanted to know, but by then the silent wall surrounding her was too huge to break down. I just hope he didn't think I wasn't interested.
Yesterday I was making Mother's Day cards with my Year 3 class. They are exactly the age I was when my mum died. We were cutting out rosy, tissue paper petals and golden butterflies. The kids were writing promises inside ' deer mum i promiss to tidee my bdrom and mak yoo bekfast in deb'. Thankfully they all have mums, although they don't all live with them. It was a lovely afternoon.
Sometimes I think I have become accustomed to that feeling of loss and abandonment though. And that I deliberately seek out relationships that contain that element of unrequited love.
I have pictures of my mum everywhere in this house. And her wedding dress hangs up in my bedroom. There is no one left really to ask about her. I wish she would speak to me somehow.