I wake on Mother’s Day, in true Irish Mammy style – wrecked with guilt. I am missing out on a family mass and gathering of my mother's clan. I know that she would have liked me there, but the 9.30am service in Co Louth would require a 7am start, on the morning after the clocks had moved forward. Besides, it is Mr Private’s birthday. It would have been unfair to ask him to make the trek - This particular baptism of fire is a step too far for any Birthday Boy.
It was also my first Mother’s Day without my children, as it wasn’t ‘my weekend’. I was fine about it until the actual day and woke feeling a terrible a pang, missing the little critters terribly.
In the build up to Mr Private’s birthday, I get myself in a heap about a gift for him. He’s been very generous to me, so I want to get him something special. Option A is to buy something expensive. Option B, something thoughtful. I decide on Option B, something I make, inspired by an earlier conversation we had. I know that he will appreciate the effort. Besides, Option A brings me out in a sweat – Let’s face it, men are hard to buy for at the best of times. When you don’t know someone that well, it’s trickier. I'm still in the process of finding out important stuff, like what kind of chocolate he likes (no nuts, but yes to rock salt). I consider going through his wardrobe to get ideas for a gift of clothes, but I’m afraid of being caught in the act by him and appearing like a Bunny Boiler. Yes, the handmade is easier in a sense, albeit 10 hours of work late at night. Before I present it, the familiar feeling of self-doubt creeps in – there was no gift receipt with this one.
My son was with me when I buy a birthday card for Mr Private days previously. I don’t think he notices me browsing, as I am also buying a Mother’s Day card for my Mam, but he does. My children know about Mr Private, but haven’t met him. My boy directs me to the cards intended for male ‘friends’ – you know the ones - insipid watercolour paintings of golfers, or a sail boat. He says, ‘these would be good Mam, because he is JUST your friend’. I agree. I purchase the blandest blue checkered ‘On Your Birthday’ card in the shop and the child looks satisfied.
For Mr Private’s birthday, he wants to go to see Kerry V Cavan in Breffni Park, in Cavan Town. He had flagged this before we discovered that the clash of dates. I joke that there is nowhere else that a Meath woman want to be on Mother’s Day? The only thing comfortable about this encounter is the green and gold strip of the Kerry team, mirroring the colours of the Royal County. For the first time ever, I shout for Cavan, as the underdog and Mr Private, for his home county of Kerry. Throughout the match, memories of GAA matches with my father run through my mind. Hill 16, amid a sea of Dubs. Brian Stafford, cool as anything stepping back to take a free. David Beggy, running like lightening. Big lumps of men like Joe Cassells and Liam Hayes. Tanks of lads like Mick Lyons. ‘The physical Meath team’, as Pat Spillane called them. What would Da have thought of me standing here today? 'Be the hokey'. I watch children now, in their county colours, too wee to be able to see the match properly, only interested in going to the tuck shop, and yet becoming alert every time the crowd cheers.
Like the family wedding I attended with Mr Private, it probably seems ‘too soon’ to introduce him to my mother. But I had a longing to see her on Mother’s Day, so we make a detour to home farm on our return journey. He slags me about really being from Cavan, given the proximity to the border, but as everyone knows, borders are more important, the closer you get to them. I tell him if I was a Cavan woman, that I wouldn't have splashed out on a e3 bet with him, on which team would win.
Mr Private changes his mind about not wanting birthday cake when he sees my mother’s rather impressive home baking, complete with an impromptu candle. On our route back to Kildare, I point out house after house where my relations live, where I went to school and I tell stories about people who influenced my life, special teachers who helped shape the person that I have become.
I pick my children up at 8pm. They have Mother’s Day cards for me that they made at their child minders on Thursday and manage to keep a secret until then. I’m impressed as much by the secret-keeping as I am with the hand crafted cards. When I had dropped off my children’s weekend bags at their school the previous Friday afternoon, I had spotted another card in my daughter’s hand, but she hid it from me. I remind her now, asking if she made me a card at school. As soon as the words come out of my mouth, the penny drops. The card isn’t for me at all, it’s for her father’s girlfriend. I want to kick myself. She over explains that she had already made one for me and I reassure her, telling her that she is a sweet girl and what a kind thought that was. More pangs of guilt for things being as they are for my precious babies.
Their body clocks are confused with the change of time, but I let them stay up late for extra special Mother’s Day cuddles on the couch. My Mam texts me later and gives Mr Private the seal of approval. Feck, I may hold onto him so, for another while anyway. Oh, and he loved his birthday present, genuinely. Good result all around (apart from the GAA match, which ended in a draw).