More about mam
It is possible to get a fairly clear picture of mam from dad’s letters. She was the eldest of five children and the only girl. Her young life was tough because for years her mother was dying with stomach cancer and mam had to be a little mother to her four younger brothers, George, Arthur, Jim and Charles. In addition, her father was a harsh man. If he disapproved of something she did he would hit her across the face and if she then cried hit her again. She learned to hide her feelings. Mam was a hotbed of suppressed feelings that found expression through feverish work. She never stopped.
Money and Waste
The greatest crime in our house was waste and everything was saved, everything (every elastic band, length of string , envelope, sheet of wrapping paper…) . Everything around the subject of money was fraught. The family myth was that I was the emotional, wasteful one. One day when I was fourteen and we were disagreeing about something mam said,’ Well, do as you like,’ and effectively washed her hands of me. Sometimes I gained her approval but mostly I was perceived to be wild, extravagant and unmanageable.
Fitting in …or not
Mam never seemed to know where she fitted in. Sometimes she would insist that we were just as good as others but she had a finely tuned nose for what was common. Our house/ income was modest but mam was very aware that she had married into a family that was above her. That may explain why she spent so much time with Auntie Sylvia.
Gran Cis ( see below) lived in Prospect Cottage where my mother grew up. It was attached to Prospect House , the grand house near the hollow. Until she left school aged thirteen mam was taught by the owners, the Miss Everards. They never married and ran a dame school . My grandfather Piercy (Arthur) owned quite a bit of land around the cottage and the family grew all their food and reared a pig each year.Since mam was the eldest, much of the work fell to her; when she married my dad she could do everything , grow, pluck, skin, pickle, cure… Her father later sold much of the land to the village and once flattened it became the village bowling green and tennis courts. There was a condition to the sale that his children could use the new facilities freely. This accounts for my mother becoming a county tennis champion and why a slap on the back of my legs could leave its imprint for days.
Saying goodbye to mam
It has taken me years to recall the last time I saw my mother without feeling distressed. She was in a Leicester hospice dying with mouth cancer. At that time I was living in Ireland, had three small children and a sick husband so my time in England was limited. Travelling to England to say goodbye I was told that I could do this on condition that I didn’t cry. The night before saying goodbye I couldn’t sleep for crying. The next morning I thought I had cried it all out but arriving at the hospital it was clear that there were more tears. I made my way up to the hospice slowly, crouching down behind buildings to cry before taking in a deep breath and composing myself sufficiently for the visit. And all was well until a passing nurse said,’ You all right me duck? You look choked up,’ and that did it. I cried and mam hit me. It was a weak sideways hit, nothing like her old back handers, and then she asked me to leave. At the entrance she hit me again and I said, ’Mam, you can’t let a hit be the last thing between us.’ And then she gave me a stiff hug. She was afraid of her own tears.