This Side of the Pond – March 27

By Sarah Pridgeon

England’s version of Mother’s Day is coming up and next week also happens to bring a milestone birthday for my mum – what better time for me to reflect on where I came from and what that means? Like most women, it appears that I am gradually turning into my mother; fortunately, as you’ll see, there’s some consolation to be taken from this.
I’ve always known that I inherited the majority of my genes from the maternal side. We look so much alike that even I get us confused – I once walked into a room and was very surprised to see her there, only to realize that I was waving at myself in a full-length mirror.
And it’s not just in appearance that we’re strikingly similar. I can list a whole slew of quirks and eccentricities that I’ve only recently realized are down to my mum.
For example, we both have an excessive dislike of being hot and will go to extraordinary lengths to avoid it. At one of the first sales training meetings she hosted, Mum filled the room with fans and flung the windows wide. As it was the middle of winter at the time, her guests decided it would be best to leave their coats and scarves on.
After a few similar experiences, arctic conditions became an expected feature of an otherwise popular training event.
Both of us tend towards either extreme on a single issue and are seldom anywhere in between. This manifests in our ability to move from love to hate or vice versa in the space of a few short seconds.
For example, we might spot a handbag or dress on the other side of a store and exclaim at some volume how much we love it. We will scurry over to inspect our find more closely but, even before we have arrived, make the solid decision that it’s revolting.
This extends to almost all areas of life. We like rustic, country décor for our homes but we also like ultra-modern. We sometimes like cheap, plastic jewelry but we’re also keen on the most expensive diamonds in the display. We prefer the classics when selecting a novel but are equally tempted by trashy romances.
Whatever the matter in question, compromise just doesn’t cut the mustard. This of course means that, whichever extreme we err to, one half of our personality is less than content.
Neither of us is capable of leaving our loved ones in peace when they’re at rest. For me, that translates to always wanting to cuddle the dog when she’s just got herself comfortable. For my mum, it means “accidentally” vacuuming against the bedroom door when she decides her kids should be done sleeping.
Both of us are willfully ignorant about the things we have no interest in. No matter how often my mum is trained in the use of Facebook and Twitter, she will continue to get it wrong. This is not because she has a dislike of technology, but because she thinks these things are pointless. And when we believe information to be of no use, we are liable to let it flit through our minds without finding a place to roost.
I do have quite a bit of my father included in the mix, of course, and it’s enough to create an entertaining dichotomy in my own mind. This is because my internal voices interact exactly like my parents do. While one side of me is pursuing my poor husband relentlessly with questions, the other is quietly lamenting my persistence.
I’m pleased to say that I’m not at all unhappy to be transforming into my mother. I’m finding plenty of similarities already, but I believe the best may be yet to come.
Among the many things I’m looking forward to is to one day be as wise as my mum. I cannot remember ever posing a question to her without receiving the perfect answer.
I hope that I, too, will one day be able to take the weight of the world on my shoulders and be as generous with my time and affection as she has always been – and as observant, so that I will always know where that kindness is needed most. I aspire to have her work ethic and be as diligent with my efforts.
I am also secretly excited to inherit some of her magical powers of persuasion, because very few people say no to my mother. It’s hard to tell that it’s happening and you’re never sure quite how she’s done it, but sooner or later you will always come around to her way of thinking. Oh, how many times I could have utilized that talent when someone else thought they might like the last slice of cake.
My mother is my heroine for all these reasons and more, but especially because she is a shining beacon of the value of determination. I believe that we can all learn a little lesson from her tale.
When I was little, I had absolutely no idea that she suffered from severe agoraphobia. My grandparents often picked me up from school, but other than that I had no inkling that anything was amiss.
It was only when I was heading for adulthood myself that I became aware of just how many challenges she was struggling to overcome. Though she had suffered through a ten year period where it was overwhelming for her to even leave the house, she made the decision that it would no longer limit her.
First she earned a first-class honors degree – despite not being able to attend lectures – and then decided to pursue a career in direct sales, quickly becoming highly sought-after for her talents. Which are considerable, as so few people can say no to her.
To this day, she is renowned for her acumen in a business that not only involves travelling around the country, but sends her constantly into unfamiliar surrounds. Of all the paths she could have chosen, it doesn’t surprise me that she set herself the biggest challenge she could think of – and then exceeded it.
Life will never be a breeze for my mum, but you’d never know it to watch her. She stalks the world with the will of a tigress and the charisma and charm to match.
Like everybody else, I sometimes have moments where my lazy demon is making itself known. I sometimes find myself lacking in confidence, feeling shy or generally wanting to hide. Whenever that happens, I simply remind myself that I must work a lot harder if I want to match her example. To me, and I hope to all of us, my mum is a reminder that anything is possible, if we try.