Thursday, March 08, 2007

A Gift for my Mother

Today is my mother's birthday.

Of course it isn't really, as she died more than eight years ago, it's actually the anniversary of my mother's birthday. I wonder if the French would call it the 'anniversaire de la anniversaire'.

Still, this is the day when I tried to please her more than other days. Generally I had mixed success.

My mother was a notoriously difficult receivee. The fact that she had expressed a liking for, or a desire to have certain items in the recent past did not mean that she actually wanted them, so my father and I spent weeks trying to work out what she would actually like to own.

She was a small, immaculately groomed lady. She had weighed 7 stone 4 lbs (102 lbs) when she got married, and pretty much the same when she died, although most of her later years saw her at 8 stone 2 lbs (114 lbs), she said she was 5ft 3ins, but became smaller. Nobody was EVER allowed to see her without lipstick. This was such a fetish, that when my cousins went to visit her during her final hours in hospital, when she was unconcious, one of them said that she had to leave the room immediately as 'Auntie would never forgive me for seeing her without lipstick'.

As a young woman in the '30s, she had been a showroom model (or mannequin as they then said), modelling costumes (suits) and mantels (coats) for shop buyers, and she 'modelled' every item she wore for the rest of her life. Her clothes weren't necessarily expensive, but they always looked as thought they were. In her latter years she took to wearing her silver hair in an immaculte and sophisticated French pleat, and, because of an eye condition, dark glasses indoors and out. She turned what would have been a trial to most people into a 'look'. She had chic.

Anyway, back to the gift giving. A gift for my mother should combine the following ingredients. It should be, useful, durable, fashionable, and, unexpected. No problem there. In the past I had bought her bijoux crystal ware from Libertys, gloves from Fenwicks, and new and exciting kitchen equipment from John Lewis. None of these had been a resounding success.

So eventually I hit upon what I suppose was my own holy trinity. Perfume, chocolates, and a plant (she considered flowers to be a disappointment as they faded too soon). I will digress for a minute to tell you a little more about her. She didn't like alcohol and she had a small appetite. Her idea of a large meal was a smoked salmon sandwich on wholemeal bread (crusts removed), 6 black olives, and 2 or 3 dark chocolates. So, her birthday gift would consist of a bottle of perfume, something 30s and powdery like Coty L'aimant, or more sophisticated like Madame Rochas, a box of dark, dark chocolates, and a shiny, leafy, pot plant.

Anyway, today her present consists of the mixed memories we all have of those who have gone ahead.

So, happy birthday, mum, with love from me and Katy.


Mr. X said...

Buying presents for anyone can be a trial, but I'm rather glad I don't have to be quite that constrained. Fortunately my mother loves the Swarovski crystal animals, so I've always got a nice fall-back option should creativity desert me!

d. chedwick bryant said...

your mom sounds like she was very sophiscated.

Catlin said...

Your mom sounds like someone out of a novel.

Anonymous said...


This was so nice to read! Thank you for sharing memories of your mom and birthday traditions.

Lovely, lovely blog.


Chairwoman of the bored said...

Thank you everyone for your kind words. My mother would have enjoyed them too.