Monday 15 November 2010

My mother was beautiful.

Sep 7, 2008 9:46 PM

by Moannie
My mother was beautiful. I know, all mothers are beautiful in their children's eyes, but mine truly was lovely; slim and delicate, with legs that went on forever, large china blues eyes and hair which became progressively more platinum as the war progressed and uniformed men flooded London. Unfortunately she was also flirty, frivolous and a bit too free with her favours [good alliteration there, Annie] which is why I was the only one of her three children to be born under the respectable cover of a marriage licence. Not that that made me favourite, on the contrary, the boys were first and second and I came a long way behind. I didn't mind this, well, to tell the truth I only noticed it later, much later and by then it was a done deal, and anyway it would all change in her MS years when JP and I looked after her and 'her boys' more or less abandoned her.

I tell you all this to give you a picture of how she looked on the day that she left us, Mick and me [Anthony. would come ten years later]

When I see a dark road glistening with rain, and hear the tap, tap, tap of high heeled shoes, I can go back to that late autumn afternoon. St.Edith's was hugely terrifying and mum was in tears even before the front door was opened by a nun and we were shown into the Mother Superior's office. Mick was taken away immediately and I was told to sit still on a chair outside the office. Soon another nun came for me and I followed her without question. She took me into what I would learn was the common room and, saying 'Sit', left me there. I stared round the room and saw a long bare table with many chairs around it. A black stove stood at one end of the room with a wire guard in front of it; against one wall was a large cupboard-like piece of furniture with large metal discs ... the name of it escapes me now but it was a musical instrument which was never played, was it a Polyphon? Against the third wall was a wide, shallow bookcase and on top of this was the largest dolls house I have ever seen. I jumped down and dragged a chair over to it and clambered up, just managing to see into all the many rooms, each one exquisitely decorated and peopled by dolls so tiny and beautifully dressed that my imagination went into overdrive. I turned on the taps in the ornate bathroom, pulled the tiny chain over the lavatory and flicked on lights, moved the mistress of the house down to the kitchen that had food prepared on the table, scullery maids tending the spit over the fire and scullions at the sink piled with pots and pans.

Suddenly I was dragged from the chair and shaken, the nun's silent anger more frightening than any words. Out of the common room and along dark passages, up a secondary staircase [no-one ever used the main curving Victorian beauty of a fine staircase that rose opposite the front door]- and into the dormitory. Before she closed the door behind us I saw Mick, on a chair, his hands on the glass and his nose to the window of the room opposite. Many years later he said he had been watching mum going down the street, and in my mind the streets were shiny with rain and her heels were going, tap, tap, tap.

The picture was taken on one of her infrequent visits. We would be dressed in our best Sunday clothes and the tight lipped nuns would harrumph at the sight of the pretty, well dressed woman who had placed her children in an orphanage. We would have a lovely few hours and then the long walk back along Dial Hill Road, and she would sing : Just Molly and me, and Micky makes three, We'll be happy in our, blue heaven. Then to finish we all sang Twinkle Twinkle little star and at the end she would always say 'Make wish'. 'Find us a new daddy' we always begged. And she did, oh yes, she did.


  1. Oh, Moannie, god this makes my heart ache in a hundred different ways. It was as though this was written, and not composed, as every element is perfection in a scene in a book, but this was not a book, but instead your life. And you took care of her in the end and today call her beautiful.

    She was beautiful. Very beautiful. As you are. All of you.

    Incredible piece of writing. Moreso, as it was lived.

    wanting to drive you into my bossom and give you warm long lasting maternal hugs

  2. I felt this with you as I read your post. I can only imagine how you must have felt. I was grown up before I learned that my mother and my aunt were raised in a children's home in N. Carolina. They say they were happy. I know they were strong. I found you through Ruth at Synch-ro-ni-zing. So glad I did.

  3. Wow. I was hooked on every word. What a lovely, sad, and facinating story.

    Loved it.

  4. It's heartbreaking to read this. I felt uncomfortable to the point of tears reading where your mother walks away with Mick at the window. How do you make sense of what happened to you? Having children has made me both more and less understanding of the things my own mother did.

  5. How sad. How fascinating. I can picture it all. She must have been quite a shocking figure back then. The nuns must have disapproved. Looking forward to hearing more about her.

  6. thanks for the pictures l forgot to say....

    l am in hiding for a day or three...

    talk soon Muma!!

    and you are beautiful too..


  7. Once again you carry us along and deep into your story. You ARE Beautiful! Hoping to hear more of this story.

  8. This is heartwrenching, Moannie. Yes, your mother was beautiful but it's yours I see all over this post.

  9. Moannie, your mother was a beautiful woman - but the true beauty and grace here is in your evocation of the past.

    When we meet (as we will, one day) I shall tell you the story of my mother .....

  10. Moannie, i remember so many heartbreaks you had to live through in your young years, and this one is an especially tough episode to imagine.

    Knowing how you took care of your mother when she needed you ...

  11. That was a very poignant post and I do feel for you the way you were treated.
    Your mother was very beautiful and you were loyal to her in later life...... if I remember correctly.
    Maggie X

    Nuts in May

  12. Congratulations, M: encountered your 'old' blog accidentally - fortuitously, more like - & glad to have done so. Maggie May's right, this post (and, yes, she was beautiful) is very poignant. Chapeau!

  13. she was pretty in an unassuming way - did you totally forgive her?or a part only?or was it a child's not quite understanding- whatever- it is a heart tugging story

  14. This is a an amazing story. I hope to read more.

  15. My mother was English as well, in the ATS....married my Dad who was in the US Navy.
    I can't imagine how much being left in that orphanage must have hurt.
    You are the beautiful one, M.

  16. This was really beautiful. Like you just grabbed my heart and ripped it out.


  17. So your mom PLACED you in an orphanage....was it because of Harry? Was it because she was not able to care for you in the manner that she wanted being single? How could she leave such a beautiful soul such as yours. You would have brought delight to each and every day that she spent with you. She must have been blind. I hope the nuns were good to you and your brother. I have been skipping around trying to find answers in your blog to why you were in the orphanage, and what happened to your mom and Harry. This is a movie playing in my mind. I can actually see the pictures you are painting with your words. Love your writings!