herald

Thursday 19 October 2017

My

I thought I was aware of everything about mum's life until I heard her being interviewed on radio...

How much do you know about your parents? If you had to take a test based on their lives, how many questions do you think you could answer accurately?

You probably know their favourite meal, favourite movie and favourite music, but what do you know about their formative years, the time in their lives before you were ever in the picture?

Like any of us today it's easy to forget that previous generations had whole other lives before becoming parents. It can be hard to imagine a parent as an awkward teenager or carefree youth, but in many ways those early years hold the key to explaining why your mum or dad is the person they are today.

Did someone break their hearts before they met each other? Did they have an important teacher who saw potential in them and gave them a nudge in a life-changing direction? What's the worst thing they ever did at school? When did they realise they had a talent for X? What's the most important advice anyone ever gave them?

astonished

The chances are your parents could answer all these questions about you with relative ease (unless you managed to keep your bad school behaviour secret from them!) but I wonder how many of us would ace a Mastermind round with My Mum's Life as the subject matter.

As someone who considers myself extremely close to my mum, I was astonished recently to realise how much of her life I was vague on.

Sure, I knew all her milestones and passions, but listening to her being interviewed on the radio this week revealed stores and facts I had never known.

In her latter years mum has moved sideways from journalism into writing novels, something she wishes she'd done much earlier in her life, especially since, as it turns out, she's actually quite good at it. Last Wednesday she was the guest of Barbara Scully on Dublin South FM and I tuned in to hear the banter.

And that was how I learned that my mum had dreamed of becoming a domestic science teacher, or, as we'd call it today, a home economics teacher. It was news to me, but made perfect sense. (Apparently they changed the entry requirements to her course and while she was busy learning Latin she met and fell in love with my dad, abandoning her college plans along the way.)

While this revelation will hardly excite you it mesmerised me. Mum is an amazing dressmaker, and pretty much knitted, stitched and sewed her way through our childhoods.

She is also an ace baker, her meringues and Victoria sponges legendary. She would have made a superb teacher.

I learned other nuggets about her too, like that she was "giddy as hell" at school, and as she revealed more about herself I realised how lucky I was to be privy to her personal exposé.

parents

It made me aware of how much I'd love to hear my dad being interviewed, to peel back the layers of his complex character and get to grips with his life choices.

And it got me thinking that everyone would benefit from hearing their parents interviewed. Imagine learning their secrets, triumphs, happiest memories. Imagine how fulfilled we'd be knowing the fabric of the people who gave us life.

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