Seven years ago today, Mary Cregan, my mum, died of cancer.
I want to say to people who may have just lost someone, that it gets easier… and I suppose it does. When she first died, my mind used to play awful tricks on me. I would be out shopping and see a woman up ahead who looked just like mum and for a spilt second, my heart would race and I would walk quickly towards her… That doesn’t happen anymore. Despite the fact that she loved retail therapy more than anyone I know, I think I have finally made peace with the idea that I am not going to see her any time soon, waltzing through a shopping centre, bags swinging by her side. I have as they say, ‘moved on’ and adjusted to life without her but I still miss her terribly. She was a great country style cook, a gracious host, a passionate teacher and a kind and generous mum. And boy could she manage a household budget! My dad still talks of how she could stretch the household funds to ensure her six children had everything we needed.
The best parts of my mothering are borrowed directly from her and my sisters and my brother would say the same. This will be one of her great legacies. Another will be the students she taught who remember her fondly.Last year a woman came up to tell me that mum had been her grade three teacher. “Your mum was just so kind. She was one of my favourite teachers.” I have heard this story many times over.
But the thing I remember most about my mum was the fact that she often held her tongue and supported even the most wild arse of ideas. I had a lot of these. One of the best was our first home renovation. The house was horrendous but it was all we could afford. It had no heating, no running water in the kitchen, no decent hot water system and a toilet stuck right out in the backyard. If a door slammed, you were covered in a fine white shower of plaster.
But worse than all of this, was the fact that many rooms (including the kitchen and the bathroom) had been painted in army green and black. After the war, obviously these paint colours were readily available! This house was dark. It was cold and it was obviously lopsided!! But Mum was full of positive things to say as we gave her the grand tour. Oh it has a lovely big pantry. That window is just lovely. I bet there is an original fireplace behind that board. Dad told me many years later (after her death) that she got back into the car that day and started to cry. But I had no idea. As far as we were concerned, she thought we were ‘absolute marvels’ and had purchased a house with great potential. The day we moved in, she organised for our family to come around with mops and buckets in hand. Mum provided a picnic lunch – hot dogs in a thermos, cakes, sandwiches and of course boiling water for a hot cup of tea. By the time my family left that night, the house sparkled. We had discovered that original fireplace after all and worked out how to ignite the ancient pilot light in the bathroom. Patrick and I lay in bed that first night, listening to the house creak. Our future looked pretty damn bright and our excitement and sense of adventure remained fully intact. That was how my mum worked her magic. Time and time again, I got to walk across the high wire because her love and support provided the perfect safety net.
So to mum, wherever you are, thank you for everything. Circus life isn’t quite the same without you.