Happy Mother’s Day to my Two Mums
I was lucky enough to know my Maternal Great Grandmother, Grandma Woods, pictured here with Nan Armstrong, my Maternal Grandmother, a woman who helped raise me, and more or less kept-house while my mother and father worked full-time so they could get out of the not-quite-poverty-but-pretty-poor lives they’d led as youngsters.
Grandma Woods, who often asked “How do them little men get into that box?” when we watched television,. died when I was about 12 (1963), and Nan and my Mother, Vi, were the two women who raised me. They were my two Mums.
Here they are, circa 1980, with Nan decked out as Queen of the May during a May-Day celebration at The Bay Horse Pub in Thornton, Lancahire.
In December, 1973, just months after I’d moved to New York City, I went back to the UK to spend Christmas with my family, and on Christmas Day that year, as Bernard, my Dad, Nan, Vi, and myself sat around the dinner table eating a traditional Christmas meal of turkey with all the trimmings, including Nan’s specialty, Brussel-Sprouts cooked for at least 45 minutes (sorry Nan!), Vi asked me a question:
“Gary, if I gave you the sovereign that I wear around my neck, would you actually wear it?”
“If you take that sovereign,” said Nan, “you must never take it off. That sovereign belonged to your Great-Great-Grandmother, you know?”
Now I didn’t know my Great-Great-Grandmother, but rumor has it that she ran a brothel in Salford, Manchester, so there’s a chance that the sovereign in question was part of her ill-gotten gains.
Nonetheless, I was very touched by Mum’s offer, and happy to be getting this family heirloom to wear, and to remind me where I came from after I came back to the States not long after New Year, 1974. (I was 22 years old at this point.)
The following day my Mum took me to one side and handed me the sovereign very quietly. She looked over her shoulder to make sure nobody was within ear-shot, and she ordered me, in hushed tones, “Don’t ever tell anyone that this belonged to your Great-Great-Grandmother, Gary.”
“Er, okay Mum. Why not?”
“Because I lost that one last year when I fell off a gangplank after a party on board some rich man’s yacht,” she said. “That one had QueenVictoria on it, but this has Queen Elizabeth II on the back–your Great-Great Grandmother didn’t live long enough to have seen one of these, and I’ve been trying to get it out of the house before Nan notices.”
So, although I never did get that family heirloom which rests peacefully at the bottom of the Deep Blue Sea these days, Vi and Nan, my two Mums, gave me a great story to spin. Thanks Mum. Thanks Nan. I love you both dearly.
Vi Regan, 1924 – 2001