This is my response to the earlier Flashback Track Friday prompt, where today we are thrown the track Momma Told Me and asked to answer:

What did your momma tell you?

At home, as my bedtime drew near,
My mom made her wishes quite clear,
That before my last blink,
I should visit the sink,
And, with soap, wash face, neck and ears.


I despaired of my homework, lost hope,
So I swore at my mum, couldn’t cope,
Then before I could blink,
She dragged me to the sink,
Where she there washed my mouth out with soap

I don’t remember much about my mum, in terms of pearls of wisdom. But I did jot down some random memories about her. I don’t mean them to be positive or negative, they’re certainly not a eulogy, just recollections. But I’ll stick with prose for the rest of the response ‘cos it’s easier to understand.

  • The limericks are absolutely true, but a trivial detail. Mum used to use soap, yuk. Gran used even to use Lifebuoy carbolic soap, double yuk! And I did indeed say something once to warrant getting my mouth washed out with it!
  • She fought tooth and nail to get me into grammar (selective intake) school. At the age of 9 or 10, this was the last thing on my mind. If anything, I wanted to stay with my friends and go to the local comprehensive school (no selective intake). I saw her cry as she received a rejection letter, although I was accepted at other schools.

I had no idea, then, that this would be life-changing. From an environment where I was expected just to get a job, to one where I was expected to go on to university and do great things. I grew up with an attitude that nothing was out-of-bounds, which I think is exactly the upbringing a child should have – they’re only limited by their own ability. Only years later did I realise that mum did not share that attitude. She saw a ceiling. Some things, you just “couldn’t”. It took a long time to figure that one out about her, it was so alien to me.

  • Mum was a chatterbox. She would talk to anybody and everybody. She could not bear for there to be a silence; she felt she had to fill it. I’m the opposite. I will generally speak only if there is something to be said, and will usually only witter to a select few people. I’m quite introverted and generally prefer just to think things. And, why should my thoughts interest anybody else?

Since the stroke I have worked on that area. I have worked for two charities. One was visiting other stroke survivors (i.e. strangers) in hospital. The other is befriending lonely clients (i.e. strangers, at least initially). So where maybe 10 years ago I’d have happily walked my separate path, I am now a little friendlier. But very few people get in close to me, and I do still follow the mantra that if I have nothing to say, I say nothing.

I think this is probably the main reason why my mum and I were never close as adults. I learned over the years to just switch off when she babbled, and Mrs Bump was at first shocked when she saw this dynamic. But over the years, she adopted it, too.

However I also see this trait in my daughter, so maybe the “chatter” gene just skips a generation? Grandma and Granddaughter certainly had a very special relationship. This was 90% a good thing, but could be frustrating when I would tell daughter off, and she would immediately call Grandma, who would be “there, there”. But I suppose a child also needs to feel they have unconditional allies.

  • I didn’t rate mum as particularly intelligent. Kind, caring, lots of other things, but not really intelligent. I was surprised, how many people, at her funeral, used that word.
  • Mum and Dad rowed a lot when I was a child. I hated it, and even in my own marriage I shy away – if Mrs Bump and I argue, we are more likely not to speak for a week rather than to have a blazing row.

Even once I was living away at university, mum would complain about dad. I let her talk because she had nobody else to talk to (I’m an only child).

A while later I found myself back at (the parental) home as the semester finished. The phone rang, and I heard mum having this long conversation with someone, telling them all about my dad’s failings.

I picked up two things from this. First, far from being her only sympathetic ear, she would bend the ear of anybody who would listen,

Second, she was more interested in broadcasting the problem, where my instinct was (and still is) to look for a fix. But as I’ve gone through life, I have found people like that. They want you to know what a tough time they’re having. but are not really interested in improving things. That’s a big guide for me, how far out of my way I should go to help someone.

  • Mum’s famous last words were “I was only trying to help”. Often her actions would have the opposite effect, but we were supposed to excuse them because she had good intentions. I found this frustrating, because I think the one lesson that she could easily have learned was *not* to interfere.
  • Mum and dad never got divorced. They entered a twilight zone, when dad went into a nursing home. I think that was the time she was happiest – she was outwardly a respectable, married woman (no interest ever in divorce or in finding another fella) but at the same time she had complete autonomy. I can see the attraction there.

Anyway, this is a marathon post, by my standards. That was always why I liked this prompt – not only do I get to be a little creative, but it forces me to try and untangle all that spaghetti in my brain! You should try it.


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