Thursday

What mothers give us

Here is my mother's pressed glass cake stand, one of her wedding gifts from 1952, that she gave me some time ago. It's moved houses in Kent, and travelled with me to the South of France and back again. 


In her personal essay, 'My Mother's Blue Bowl'*, Alice Walker says, of the two bowls her mother gave her: [My mother] taught me a lesson about letting go of possessions - easily, without emphasis or regret.

That's how I feel about my mother's gift to me.

Hungry Writing Prompt
Write about something your mother gave you.

It also feels like a part of my mother's life. For the first few years after her marriage she lived with her in-laws and she remembers her mother-in-law, Catherine Rees, asking if she would please teach her how to make one of her light and fluffy Victoria Sponges. 'She was so humble,' my mother still says of her. To welcome another woman into your home and your kitchen is not always an easy thing to do. And I remember my mother making cakes when I was small - how my sister and I negotiated who would get to lick the bowl and who would get the spoon, eyeing up and measuring the smears of cake mixture remaining on both.

And here's a glass plate and dome that I brought home from Tony's mother's house when we were clearing it out after she died in 1998.


I think this must be French Luminarc or Arcoroc tempered glassware, as 'France' is stamped in tiny letters on the top of the lid, and it could date from anywhere between the 1960s and the 1980s.

I knew Tony's mother, Lilian, for 12 years but I cannot remember her ever using the glass domed plate. In fact, Tony can't remember it at all so she must have bought it after he left home in 1964. Maybe it was a one-off purchase, bought for a single occasion, a birthday or Christmas perhaps, then stored in the back of a cupboard for the rest of the time. But it still feels a part of who she was: it's big airy dome and large plate like a symbol of her generous and wonderfully transparent nature.

I use them both. For every day meals and for celebrations. They hold Welshcakes, banana bread, slices of Bara Brith, apple and sultana cake, open tarts, even cheese and grapes. They instil in me a sense of the vertical in history, not just horizontal, linear time, a sense of the years passing, but the repetition of habits and actions performed by women. And how that feels as if it starts deep in the earth beneath my feet and ascends through me and my life. And will carry on growing higher after I'm gone, not through any children of my own but through the daughters, and maybe sons, who are part of my extended family. I name them now: Ffion, Iwan, Manon, Morgan, Harri, Summer, Oliver. History builders. 

* From A Slice of Life, Contemporary Writers on Food, ed. Bonnie Marranca, first published by Overlook Duckworth 2005.