Saturday, 14 March 2015

My Irish Mammy

For Mother's Day

I'm sure that mammies world wide are brilliant, but my experience is limited the the Guaranteed Irish ones.  My Mam, Kay.  The Salt of the Earth variety.

I have never seen anything like the Irish Mammy for producing vast quantities of food at short notice. Growing up on a farm, my father could appear in the door with a number of men who had helped him out, or perhaps were just passing through.  All strapping lads.  All hungry.  From out of nowhere, Kay could produce a Loaves and the Fishes type feast.  Her home made brown bread is legendary.  If you came on the right day, you could get a slice of her apple tart or an iced bun.

The Irish Mammy was the original 'cute hoore'.  The main skill here is to plant ideas in others (often males, adult, living in the same house, usually married for years) and let them think that the idea is theirs.  I've seen Kay in action over the years.  Smooth as you like.  Before you know it, the male adult is telling you about this great idea that he had.  Kay is in the kitchen,  her shoulders shaking, having a little laugh to herself.

Kay wore an apron around the house for many years (and may in fact have worn it to mass under her coat on one occasion).  The apron was presented as a practical solution for keeping one's clothes clean in a busy kitchen.  However, it was actually worn to store the intercepted post that my mother collected from the postman.  If the letter was franked from 'O'Carolan College', it was a (fairly regular) invitation from the school Principal to discuss one of my two younger brothers.  Is it any wonder that Kay turned grey ?

When I was younger, I was the painter/decorator/gardener for my parents.  I would book holidays from work to do some work around their house, while Kay provided around the clock refreshments. But when I bought my own house, with an unwieldy garden and then my twinnies arrived, I found that I didn't have as much energy for doing things in Milltown.  Maybe it was my MS creeping up on me.  Since my diagnosis, Kay has cranked up her Irish Mamminess.  She brings me a cuppa and her brown bread in bed, while she minds the children.  Having a lie-on in Milltown, listening to the river across the road, the background hum of the farmyard, I feel safe.  Loved.  At home.  I'm a ten year old again.

Kay in an angel, but even angels have their faults.  She has been known to say the odd expletive.  A few years ago, she tried to shoo away a stray Tom cat that was causing havoc with her own cats.  She called the cat a 'bastard' and may even have made a half hearted attempt to throw a kick (not ACTUALLY kicking the cat, no need to call the ISPCA).  My children were there at the time.  They thought that Nana Kay cursing was the funniest thing ever.  I have heard them reminiscing several times since about ''the time that Nana said the 'B' word''.  

Irish Mammies are also Queen's of the Bad Jokes.  The word 'corny' springs to mind.  Christmas cracker stuff.  Never smutty.  Never jokes with bad language - that's strictly reserved for threatening menacing cats.  Kay has fair bit of competition here from my aunts Ann and Kathleen.  Some might say that it has been their coping mechanism for living with the Russell men in Milltown.  I couldn't possibly comment.

My Mam and I got into gardening when I was a teenager.  Neither of us has a clue.  We brought her sister, my aunt Aine on our gardening journey. Bless us, we hadn't a clue.  Between us, we accumulated a lot of knowledge, to the point that we now sound like we know what we were talking about.  I loved finding a new garden centre, or garden to bring Mam and Aine to, when they came to visit me in Kildare.  On one memorable trip, I brought them to Dunshane Nursery outside of Kilcullen.  A gardener's paradise.  We left with the boot of my car jammed with plants, the three of us inpatient to get home and start planting.  Aine died two years ago, this week.  I think of her often and cherish those precious days.  It's hard watching your Mam grieve her sister and friend.  I smile when I remember a conversation about Leylandii trees in a man in a garden centre.  'You won't buy them around here.  They are filthy things missus.  Dirt catchers.  You don't want them about the place. Pure filth'.  Aine was disgusted with him and went back down to Louth to acquire the contraband trees.

A role that I have always enjoyed, is being Kay's personal shopper.  Her very own Gok Wan, without the sharp haircut.  Mam is quite happy to sit down and let me pick a selection of outfits for her to try on.  On more than one occasion, she picked the first outfit that I selected.  No messing around there.
... I was going to tell you about the time that Kay's paper bag with new underwear inside ripped open on the bus home from Dublin, but I better not.  She would kill me ...

I love seeing my Mam with her eight lovely grandchildren.  Proud as punch of her beautiful little flock.  The children, oblivious to how lucky they are to have their grandparents.  

I am regularly told that my little girl Mya is 'the cut' of me.  As well as the physical attributes, I think we have similar personalities.  She reminds me of me as a child and my relationship with my mother. It's touching to sit back now and watch her converse with my Mam, independent of me.  My Mam brushing her hair.  On the other hand, my boy Leon's main source of communicating with my mother is through his stomach.  Nana Kay's house is full of contraband, worse than the Leylandii trees.  Fizzy drinks, yoghurt with chocolate balls and other goodies at a seven year olds eye level.  I just give in.

I'm heading up to Milltown this weekend for Mother's Day.  I'll try to spoil my Mam, but knowing her, she will beat me to it and spoil me instead.

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