I said goodbye to my mum this week. Elaine – the magnificent matriarch of my family and constant presence in my life – has gone.
She was always the first to comment on this column. “Lovely writing,” she’d post, even when she hadn’t technically read it. She would have loved this but now, of course, it’s too late, as it always is.
There will be no comment, no thumbs up from Mum. I should have written it when she was still here. I should have said a lot of things, thanked her for her kind comments, her constant praise, told her I loved her, over and over and over. But there are no iPads in the next world and, instead, hers lies discarded, pinging away with unread notifications.
So I’m paying tribute to Mum here, on Mother’s Day. She had a good life, but only because she made it one.
Her childhood was like a character in a Roald Dahl novel, until she fashioned her own escape.
She became a champion swimmer, by training in an outdoor pool in England entirely of her own motivation.
She became a nurse, met and married my dad and had four kids.
Together they set about creating a happy family home and a life so jolly that, when I looked through the photo albums in the days after she passed away – of endless images of her sliding down banisters and kicking her legs in the air – I was struck by how much fun she’d had.
Much more than me: I went home vowing to be more like Elaine.
We should all be like Elaine.
Such was her propensity to party, she was a legend – there was the time on holiday in Corfu she tried to windsurf to Albania and was escorted back by the coastguard, to the surprise of the rest of us, as we lay on our sun-loungers reading books.
Or the night in Tahoe, when a black bear came onto the veranda of our cabin and we had to forcibly restrain Mum from petting it. “Oh Elaine,” my dad sighed.
She loved to travel and instilled that sense of adventure into her children – there was a world out there waiting to be explored and we ended up scattered all over it.
She could also outstay all of us. On a trip to Liverpool, she nipped back for another boogie in the Cavern Club; on a mini-break in Madrid, I left her out with my younger sister, late at night for one last sangria; by the time I got up the next day she’d been on a bus trip.
There weren’t enough hours in the day for Elaine, until the clock stopped ticking.
She adored going to the theatre and famously once arrived for dinner in London’s West End on the back of a musical rickshaw, beaming and waving. So, I think it’s fitting the final words come from the musical Matilda:
“Nobody else is going to put it right for me, Nobody but me is going to change my story …
Sometimes you have to be a little bit naughty.”
It’s a reminder to us all to make our story a classic, while we can.
In loving memory of Elaine Parnell.