Happy Birthday Mammy

Happy Birthday Mammy

i know the age as one of us has to get the date of birth right.

i know already you’ll sing with us and look around

wondering whose birthday it is

and the eyes

the eyes show how it feels

the confusion

the fear

and the emptiness

less and less life in them now.

 but i remember mam

so many wee memories.


you were so kind, warm and motherly

modest, strong, wise, talented.

assumed by many!

a lot of things mammy

a planner

we came home from school to warm snack.

a mammy waiting for us?

the fire slacked at night so we’d have heat in the morning

a warm breakfast

 I didn’t appreciate it enough.

there were the annual trips at end of summer

the hiding from veggie

always bringing dad his dinner on his knee

an irish woman

you being sick for years

and on planned hospital days filling the freezer so we were all sorted.

granny’s club book.

the west end Bundoran days

all firmly painted in my mind.

 the concerts


playing duets with you

i still remember the rhapsody

and the Baxter family coming in for a wee concert

we didn’t enjoy them enough

the huffs

that were always parts of playing draughts

and playing table tennis

you always wanted to win

but got a migraine

it took me years to understand those headaches


few words

sat back when dad and friends talked school

did love your shopping with aunty Janet

but twice i remember those few words.

few but very important.

when you passed responsibility for my depression to me and refused to join with the community nurse and make any choices

that was when i knew you had a very important

very wise voice.

and on my wedding day

after the terrible past i had a few years before

you had seemed to stand back

i’m a mam now

and i know that is so so hard to do

but you seemed in my child’s eyes to stand off

you were letting ME decide

then on the morning you simply said

are you sure you’re happy?

then i knew you had been there behind me throughout the bad times.

i didn’t realise that enough

you had so little childhood

teenaged wages used so young to raise your siblings

you rose to that mam

could i?

i don’t think so.


not in a bad way

at times i wanted you to go out

to dress up and treat yourself

go to a dinner-dance

i remember one year you did

you looked beautiful

but you weren’t odd

you chose to stay in

not a lot different to what i do now!

i just wanted better for you mam

but you decided what you wanted yourself!

i stupidly didn’t realise that!

you buried three children

how did you manage



get up

get on with it

and never refer to it.

only when i had children did we talk about it

about the snowdrops

the fact you never were given the choices on funerals

that’s not how it was done.

how did you go on?

i really don’t understand the strength you must have had.

you were so strong

you had your crosses mam

we know what they were


public traumas

you dealt with tears and then silence

but you buried the pain

so i would never add to them mam.

until you became ill.


you chose a good man

daddy did all he promised you and more

he has loved you

cared for you

and allowed you to keep that quiet dignity

as you got lost

lost in the fragments of memories

until they disappeared.

but i have them mam

i will keep them

i will rely on them

and treasure them

for all the years i have

Happy Birthday mammy

i love you

i hope in there

wherever you are

you know that





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