Letter from Barry – March 2019
A Perfect Fit
I don’t think I really believe this story, but if I’m ever going to pass it on, it has to be this month. There’s this lad, about ten or eleven years old. He’s been saving up his pocket money to buy his Mum a special present for Mother’s Day. By keeping his ears open at home he’s picked up that Mum is thinking of getting herself a new dressing gown. So, come Saturday, off he goes into town on the bus by himself. He manages to find the right department in the right kind of shop. A bit sheepish, he explains that he wants to buy a dressing gown for his Mum. ‘What size?’, asks the assistant. Now that’s a question he hadn’t been expecting. Colour he could cope with. Cream. But he hadn’t twigged that dressing gowns come in sizes, like shoes. He shrugs his shoulders. ‘Well’, says the assistant, ‘is your Mum thin or not so thin, short or tall?’ He thinks for a moment and then says, ‘She’s just perfect.’ (I told you I don’t really believe it.) Anyway, the not so thin assistant takes a size ten off the rack and hands it over. On Mothering Sunday, Mum feigns delight. On Monday she nips into town and exchanges the ten for a sixteen.
So what makes a perfect Mum? There is, of course, no such thing. I don’t suppose any of us would have too much trouble drawing up a list of our mother’s imperfections. As an adult it can be helpful, sometimes even necessary, to look back on your upbringing and say to yourself, ‘I think my Mum got this and that wrong.’ That might help us not to make the same mistakes. But we shall, of course, make plenty of our own.
Mother’s Day cards which talk about the ‘perfect Mum’ are better at expressing how you might feel than at describing how your mother actually is, or was. Mothers have so many different roles to fulfil. They can’t possibly do it all without putting a foot wrong: home maker, peace broker, often bread winner too, needing to be a tower of strength one moment and tender hearted the next. Let’s just acknowledge on March 31st that motherhood is a mammoth task for a woman of any size.