Things my mother never told me

My mother was born on 13th August 1923, she would have been 90 today.  This picture was taken around the time my parents were married in June 1943; she is nineteen and my dad twenty two.  Just over nine months later my sister arrived into a still war-torn world.  I know the shape of these events but none of the detail and now I will never know:

Mum and Dad

I was told little about her early life and knew too much of her decline.  In the final months I was not even sure it was mum talking – she had been known throughout her life as Peg, sometimes Peggy but when she moved into a nursing home all the staff referred to her as Marian – her first and until then, unused Christian name, except the family always thought it was Marion with an ‘o’ and I think she did too; her birth certificate confirms the nurses were right. So the sign on her door said Marian; I don’t think I ever really knew who it was on the other side.

(The title for this post is taken from the book by Blake Morrison)


  1. Tish Farrell · August 13, 2013

    Brilliant, you wrote it, even though it’s a sad subject for you. The last line goes straight to the heart of things. My mother was a Peggy too. She drove us all nuts.

    • northumbrianlight · August 13, 2013

      Thanks Tish……and your last line goes to the heart of it too 🙂 (although in fairness it was mostly me who was driven nuts)

  2. Brian Hughes · August 13, 2013

    Your dad looked like a young Peter Capaldi.

  3. elisaruland · August 13, 2013

    This is a special day for you, then. Thanks for sharing a bit about your mother, and for posting the photograph of your beautiful parents. (There were days my mother made ME crazy….and my daughter insists that it runs in the family!)

    • northumbrianlight · August 13, 2013

      This is dangerous territory 🙂 At least one of my sons follows this blog.

      • elisaruland · August 15, 2013

        ; )

  4. Fractions of the world · August 13, 2013

    Either the text is too short or I’m too curious… Either way I’m looking forward to reading more – no pressure 😉

  5. LaVagabonde · August 13, 2013

    Beautiful tribute. It must have been disconcerting for her (and you) to be called a name that she never used.

    • northumbrianlight · August 13, 2013

      Many thanks – by the time it happened I don’t think she knew which way was up but I certainly found it very peculiar.

  6. I Am Jasmine Kyle · August 13, 2013

    How sad. I had an aunt who had alzheimer’s it was so sad to see her try to get up and go to her store long after it was sold. She was so dedicated.

    • northumbrianlight · August 14, 2013

      I forget the precise diagnosis but it was very odd – one moment she was quite lucid and then, as though a light had been turned off, she was talking impossible nonsense.

      • I Am Jasmine Kyle · August 14, 2013

        TRAGIC really.

  7. mydailyminefield · August 14, 2013

    Thank you for sharing what is on your heart. We never get over missing our mother.

  8. Malin H · August 14, 2013

    Thank you for sharing this story.
    Beautiful image of your parents.

    • northumbrianlight · August 14, 2013

      Many thanks – it has taken me years to notice how pretty mum’s dress is – remarkable really given this was 1943.

      • Malin H · August 14, 2013

        I agree, very beautiful dress.

  9. mybeautfulthings · August 14, 2013

    The last days, months, years of your parents’ lives can be very hard and I feel quite cross with the home that they didn’t use the name you all knew her by even if she no longer knew. It is hard to realise that there are now things you will never know and even after 20 years I still catch myself thinking, ‘Must ask/tell Mum that’, but even before I’ve completed the thought the reality comes tumbling in and I know I can’t.
    My Mum’s photos show her in pretty dresses too. They were stylish times, despite the war. Less fashion, more style and clothes lasted! I still have one of Mum’s!
    I send you all my best 🙂

    • northumbrianlight · August 14, 2013

      Many thanks for your kind and considered comment. You have reminded me how important quality clothes were to my mum throughout her life. I was dragged annually to Kendals and Jaeger sales in Manchester to be kitted out in best quality bargains – I absolutely hated it 😦 Ever since I have had a strong preference for stylish scruffy 🙂

      • mybeautfulthings · August 14, 2013

        Kendals! My Mum lived in Preston and was bought a bureau, which I now have, from Kendal’s by her Father. I even have the receipt somewhere.
        Stylish scruffy is my preference too! 🙂

      • northumbrianlight · August 14, 2013

        Time was when Kendals was on both sides of Deansgate and there was an underground walkway between the two stores which, along with the toy department, were the only things I found interesting about the place. By contrast, when I was still knee-high to a grasshopper, I found the escalators quite alarming. Funny where theses conversations take you 🙂

  10. thehappyhugger · August 14, 2013

    This is so sad. Your mother has such gentle eyes in this picture.

    • northumbrianlight · August 14, 2013

      She does – when you look at the full screen version it would seem that mum is very slightly out of focus whereas dad is pin sharp – I will assume the photographer did that intentionally 🙂

  11. malcolm aitchison · August 14, 2013

    Hello Robin

    A small coincidence, but my own Mam would have been 87 on 13 August

    A stoic generation.

    On 13 August 2013 09:49, northumbrian : light

    • northumbrianlight · August 14, 2013

      Hi Malcolm – I had you down as decades younger then me – you must have been a late surprise 🙂

  12. Mary Gilmartin · August 15, 2013

    Nice looking couple and I like the title. There is a another story about my mother who lived behind a veil all of her life. Her birth name was Cynthia, even though she was never called by that name. Your story brings back memories of something we can all identify with.

    • northumbrianlight · August 15, 2013

      Thanks Mary – Dad in particular kept his youthful looks almost to the end. I remember accompanying him and my sister on a tour of her new secondary school where he was mistaken for her older brother.

      • Mary Gilmartin · August 15, 2013

        It’s a wonderful thing when the aging process slows down and keeps its youthful appearance.

  13. restlessjo · August 15, 2013

    Life can be hard. It’s a beautiful photo. They were happy once. 🙂

  14. Madelaine · August 15, 2013

    Sometimes when we think we know a lot, we actually know nothing at all. A beautiful and very powerful post.

    • northumbrianlight · August 16, 2013

      Many thanks Madelaine – exactly right, in the end, I knew nothing at all.

  15. Patti Hall · August 19, 2013

    Wonderful blog site and I love this memory/story. thanks for visiting and liking my site.

  16. Lynne Revette Butler · August 19, 2013

    Perhaps your mother was like mine and suffered from multi-infarct dementia (I think they now call it vascular dementia.) I think it is the most cruel form because of the totally lucid times that happen; the nursing home used to phone me if mum woke up knowing who she was and I drove there as fast as I could because that was when she had panic attacks due to not understanding why she was in the home. I felt I grieved for her twice, once when her mind left and once when her body left; perhaps you feel like that too. It’s a great photo of your mother, the soft expression with a smile just creeping across her lips, a woman in love.

    • northumbrianlight · August 19, 2013

      That was exactly the diagnosis Lynne although with mum the lucidity came and went almost mid sentence. Thanks for the kind comments.

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