Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Three quarters of a century

I don't know what the weather was like that day, I don't even know what time of day it was, but 75 years ago, on the 19th of October 1935, Patricia Payne made her first appearance in the world.
Over the years, I've heard snippets about her childhood - how she was evacuated during the war to a manor house in the country, how she spent long periods of time in hospital or convalescing. But generally, my knowledge of Patricia comes from my own memories of her.

In most of these, I'm a child and she's just my mum - doing all the things I didn't think about twice at the time - working her way through a pile of ironing while singing along to Rubber Soul; telling us we couldn't use the toilet because she'd only just cleaned it; avidly watching Wimbledon every year and teaching us how to keep score in a tennis match; or making me stay in bed when I was ill, but bringing me jigsaws to stave off the boredom.

In some of my memories, she's a glamorous princess, in full evening dress with glossy dark hair piled high, kissing me goodnight before going out with my dad. In others, I'm cringing with embarrassment because she's turned up to a school event wearing a hat and gloves.

I suppose the truth is, for most of my life I've only really thought about her as my mum. I've only looked at her with daughter's eyes and I haven't ever stopped to think about how others see her, about who she is when she's not being mum, grandma, or great-grandma.

A few months ago, when she shared with me a file full of letters, copies of the correspondence she's kept over the last twenty years, I learnt for the first time how well she can write. A couple of weeks ago, when she had me aching with laughter as she described a night out with the ancient and decrepit members of the 'Recorded Vocal Arts Society', I was reminded that she can also tell a story.

On Sunday she arranged a lunch with family and friends to celebrate her birthday. When the meal was over, one of her friends got up to speak. Peter has known my mum for forty years, he's been her friend for all that time - and he wanted to share some of his memories. He told us a tale of a holiday in Portugal; of too much Mateus Rose at two-shillings and sixpence a bottle, and of a moonlit walk along the beach, which ended with my mum crawling along on all fours. Of course she denied the crawling, and claimed that all she could remember was singing 'By the light of the silvery moon' as they strolled on the sand. It doesn't really matter which version of the story is true. For a few moments I had a glimpse of mum as a carefree independent young woman. Peter spoke of how gorgeous she was then and still is now. Mum's husband, my step-dad Albert, sat smiling proudly, nodding his agreement.

All these years I've had such a limited view of who my mum is.

I know I've left it a bit late, but in the months and years ahead I'm hoping to get to know those other sides of her a bit more. In the meantime, I hope you'll join me in saying - Happy 75th Birthday Patricia!


Philip said...

Ten out of ten. I thought the same sort of thing about Sunday. People too easily treat anyone older or younger than themselves as a different species. Which, it should go without saying, is not the case.

Sheila Webb said...

Happy 75th Birthday Patricia! Your daughter has inherited your gift for writing, making us laugh and enriching our lives.

Miss Whistle said...

Happy Birthday Patricia! What a beautiful post. And how romantic to walk along a beach in Portugal after too many glasses of Mateus Rose singing "By the light of the silvery moon." What a lovely piece of writing. Bravo!

Liz said...

Aww. Happy birthday Patricia!

commoncents said...


Love your blog!
Common Cents

Caroline said...

That's lovely and brought a tear to my eye. I share those memories of mum of course - although you forgot the hours spent cutting up stewing steak to make sure there was no fat on it! Happy three quarters of a century mum and here's looking forward to the next quarter. xxx
Well done Sharon x

She Means Well... said...

Happy Birthday Patricia!

A lovely piece, reminding us all that there's much MUCH more to our parents than just their parenthood.

Bobby Stevenson said...

Another beautiful article Sharon - your Mum has passed on her talent to her daughter, the difference is you don't need to hide the writings away in a box - your family, friends and the rest of the world know you can write. It's a smashing way to wish your Mum a wonderful 75 years.

Pat said...

From one Pat to another - Happy birthday young lady. You sound my sort of gel and I'm sure it makes you happy to know your daughter is getting to know you as a special woman - not just a Mum, Grandma and great Grandma.
Rock on!

Sensible Footwear said...

I really enjoyed reading this post. How wonderful to share good times with friends and family on such a special occasion.

Baglady said...

Lovely. It's so hard to see past the relationship to the person sometimes - what a lovely way to mark her 75th birthday.

Happy birthday Patricia.

Happy Frog and I said...

I loved this post. I've tried to write a post about my mother for so long unsuccessfully. This is wonderful. Happy Birthday to your mum.

erin said...

Happy Birthday! (A couple days later...)

I love 'Mom' posts. Thanks.

The Idiot Gardener said...

Very true! A few years ago my Mother remarried, and it was a great opportunity to stop being a Son and start looking at her as an individual. I found it strange that we actually got along, in a prickly sort of way!

Madame DeFarge said...

Lovely post and a belated happy birthday to her too. I don't quite know my mum and I'd love to, but she's a very private person and I'm not sure that I ever will, in the way that you have.