Saturday, March 13, 2010


My last Sepia post was pictures of my father, who I visited last weekend and who is doing well.

Tomorrow is Mothers Day in the UK, and here she is, my wonderful mother, in a couple of fairly rare childhood photos:

and with her mother.

There are 2 Carol Ann Duffy's poems about her mother which I particularly love.

The first - Before you were Mine - reminded me when I first read it of this photo of my mum, with her 2 best friends Jean (in the middle) and Doris (on the left). They worked together, took holidays and went dancing together, and remained friends all her life.

Before You Were Mine

I'm ten years away from the corner you laugh on

with your pals, Maggie McGeeney and Jean Duff.

The three of you bend from the waist, holding

each other, or your knees, and shriek at the pavement.

Your polka-dot dress blows round your legs. Marilyn.

I'm not here yet. The thought of me doesn't occur

in the ballroom with the thousand eyes, the fizzy, movie tomorrows

the right walk home could bring. I knew you would dance

like that. Before you were mine, your Ma stands at the close

with a hiding for the late one. You reckon it's worth it.

The decade ahead of my loud, possessive yell was the best one, eh?

I remember my hands in those high-heeled red shoes, relics,

and now your ghost clatters toward me over George Square

till I see you, clear as scent, under the tree,

with its lights, and whose small bites on your neck, sweetheart?

Cha cha cha! You'd teach me the steps on the way home from Mass, stamping stars from the wrong pavement. Even then

I wanted the bold girl winking in Portobello, somewhere

in Scotland, before I was born. That glamorous love lasts

where you sparkle and waltz and laugh before you were mine.

Carol Ann Duffy

in Meantime, May 1993

And the second poem was published just last year and takes me back in so many ways to my mothers last weeks and days, nearly 3 years ago.


Dedicated with love to the
memory of UA Fanthorpe

We first met when your last breath
cooled in my palm like an egg;
you dead, and a thrush outside
sang it was morning.
I backed out of the room, feeling
the flowers freshen and shine in my arms.

The night before, we met again, to unsay
unbearable farewells, to see
our eyes brighten with re-strung tears.
O I had my sudden wish -
though I barely knew you -
to stand at the door of your house,
feeling my heartbeat calm,
as they carried you in, home, home and healing.
Then slow weeks, removing the wheelchair, the drugs,
the oxygen mask and tank, the commode,
the appointment cards,
until it was summer again
and I saw you open the doors to the gift of your garden.

Strange and beautiful to see
the roses close to their own premonitions,
the grass sweeten and cool and green
where a blackbird eased a worm into the lawn.
There you were,
a glass of lemony wine in each hand,
walking towards me always, your magnolia tree
marrying itself to the May air.

How you talked! And how I listened,
spellbound, humbled, daughterly,
to your tall tales, your wise words,
the joy of your accent, unenglish, dancey, humorous;
watching your ash hair flare and redden,
the loving litany of who we had been
making me place my hands in your warm hands,
younger than mine are now.
Then time only the moon. And the balm of dusk.
And you my mother.

Carol Ann Duffy, March 2009


Martin H. said...

Great choice of poetry to remember your dear mother by.

The photographs are charming and she looks so happy with her lifelong friends.

Lynne said...

Ah, Letty. I feel your pain. I know how much you miss her. I miss mine too. Every day.

What a little blondie she was! Precious photos. I like the photo with the shadow of the photographer too, although I'm sure that was not intentional. I wonder who was taking the picture?


Vicki Lane said...

I too love the shadow of the photographer!

And all the young women look so happy! Lovely pictures and poems to go with them!

Liza said...

I love the linked arms, and the shadow in the photo of your mom and grandmother.
Great stash of photos you have Lettuce.
Thanks for sharing.

Reya Mellicker said...

I see you in these pics. Brought to mind that incredible picture of her shoes that you posted after she died.

So glad your dad is doing well!

mouse (aka kimy) said...

wonderful photos...i always get misty when i think your mom, although i didn't know her - your love for her is so strong it touches us all.

wonderful collection. coincidentally, not knowing it is mother's day on that side of the pond, i just happened to feature my mom today too.

hope you have a wonderful weekend.

hugs. and happy sepia saturday!

Barry said...

Having just lost a mother, I found these poems particularly poignant.

I especially love the top photo, so happy and with a full lifetime to look forward to.

e said...

This was an especially poignant post since I too lost my mother years ago. Yours was a beautiful child and a vibrant woman. Best to you and your dad on Mother's Day.

Betsy said...

Lovely poems!

And your mom was a the toes! :)

willow said...

Love-love the Duffy pieces. Thanks for sharing them. WONderful photos of your beautiful mother.

Christine H. said...

Wow, it's a beautiful tribute.

Leah said...

Really really beautiful, and I am especially interested in the chubby little toes of the first picture and the knit dress of the second. I wonder, did someone make that for her?

Meri said...

I love your mother's little baby feet! She was adorable. And having life-long friends is so rare these days.

Pat transplanted to MN said...

BEautiful photos and poetry.

lettuce said...

yes, I'd like to know who the photographer was! my mum's family didn't have a camera - though poss. her brother who was quite a bit older? or one of her friends families.

I was blonde like her as a child - it didn't last so long though!

Leah, I was wondering about the dress as I wrote this post. My nan was a great knitter, but I dont know that she ever crocheted. But there were a lot of aunts - maybe one of them.

Squirrel of Nyack said...

Lovely photos of your mother-- and the poems --I remember being spellbound by my mother--she'd had so many adventures and experiences when she was young and so much wisdom to share--plus a fabulous sense of humor. She was always very fit and stylish, too. I did enjoy very much being.. daughterly... having her brush my hair at night, tell me stories, letting me use her lotions and perfume. The poems here really brought back some fine memories.

Squirrel of Nyack said...

Happy mothers Day to You too! xxxooo

Giulia said...

Happy Mothering Day, Letty. Your mother was lovely. The photograph of her with friends reminds me of some of my mother with her friends & some of me with two of my friends. We still are (friends). I do admire the Duffy poems, too. Good choices.

I hope someone is making you a nice lunch or tea & plumping up the pillow upon which you will rest your honored paw pads today. Right? :)

Harnett-Hargrove said...

Such nice photos, and a wonderful loving tribute. -J

goatman said...

I can hardly see the screen for my tears.
With my father dying now it is good to cry and relieve the pain a bit.
That last poem helped!

Alan Burnett said...

Great photos and great poems. There is something about that photo of your mother and her friends that is so typical of a generation - I have several like it in my collection.

Barbara said...

Your mother looks so happy in those pictures. I have a similar group picture of my mother as a young adult with her best girls on either side.

The Clever Pup said...

Do they make more of a deal about Mothering Sunday than they used to? It's a real Hallmark experience in North America. Ours is the second Sunday in May. My mother's excuse to her mum was always, "Yes, mother, but it isn't Mother's Day here in Canada..." No love lost there.

I like the shadow of the photographer in the shot of your mother and grandmother.