Like most people here, I pondered what to write about love. In the end I decided to write about my mum and some of her lovers…
My mum, Liz, grew up in a crowded family (nine brothers and sisters), She was adventurous and funny and did crazy things, like legally changing her name to ‘Countess DeVitoria’ because she wanted to have a ‘title’. She loved cigarettes, strong instant coffee, alcohol, Patsy Cline, Country & Western nights, adult education, dogs, leather pants, drama (as in life, not theatre) and of course…men.
Growing up my mum had a quite a few boyfriends, some memorable, some not, some I didn’t know about until years later, like Lou Adler (yes the Lou Adler), and one which wasn’t her boyfriend even though she thought he was at the time but really he was her rich, gay friend. I was quite young and only remember that he had a white car (apparently a Jaguar) with a white leather interior and a white CAR PHONE!! At the time (1977) this was some Space Age/James Bond kind of stuff. He was always super nice to my mum and she thought he was just being polite, but really he was gay.
Ian was her young fisherman boyfriend, I remember him mainly because he looked like Gary Glitter. They would spend most Saturday afternoons in bed, which I didn’t get at all. I couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t want to be outside.
Once Ian took us all fishing. We sailed in his little boat from Porthleven to Mullion and back again. The return journey was really scary, not because the boat was practically vertical and none of us could swim (except Ian), but because my mum couldn’t light her cigarette due to the waves crashing over us and she was absolutely furious (she kept trying though). Ian wanted to marry my mum, but his family disapproved because of the age difference so they split up.
My mum moved to London and started dating Leon. I don’t remember too much about Leon except he was a jeweler and there was a squirrel in his back garden that we could hand-feed. He gave my mum lots of gold jewelry; later in life she advised me to “make sure to always get gold jewelry from your boyfriends, Helen”. Maybe that’s why I remember Leon. He wanted to marry her, but his mum said no due to religious differences.
She met Mr. Davidson (I never knew his first name) on the subway platform and he asked her on a date. He was much older and a widower. We all went to live in his enormous Elizabethan house outside of London. It was really amazing and the garden was huge, surrounded by a big wall. It was really beautiful. Mr. Davidson wanted to marry my mum. She loved him, but thought he was a little too old, also he wasn’t so keen on children (!!) and my sister and I were at that age where we had to fight about everything. Finally they broke up, he gave my mum an awesome car and we drove away. Six years later he died.
Len was my favorite of my mums’ boyfriends. He was an American with big shaggy hair, t-shirt and flared jeans. They met in a bookstore because she thought he was an employee but he wasn’t and instead asked her on a date. I never knew what he did for a living, but my mum once told me that when they would go to the American Embassy everyone would salute him. He introduced my sister and I to tortilla chips and the word ‘candy’. He didn’t want to marry my mum, and she was cool with that, she just really loved him.
Len asked my mum if she wanted to go on a motorbike trip with him across the Middle East. It was going to be a long trip and my mum really wanted to go. She asked my Grandma if she would look after me and my sister but, she said no, not because she didn’t want to look after us, but because being an Irish Catholic meant most things were pretty sinful and my mum on a motorbike with a single man in the Middle East was certainly up there on the ‘Sin Scale’. My mum didn’t go and they split up but remained friends for the rest of her life.
Eventually my mum became the housekeeper of an old dairy farmer called John and ended up marrying him. She stayed with John on and off until she died, occasionally leaving him for some lover or another, but she always ended up back there. They were companions of a sort.
It was kind of surreal living on the farm, not just because of the bright purple painted 300 year old beams or the purple and white wallpaper with flowers that were at least a foot across adorning my bedroom or the crazy twin sister who would come and visit, unknowingly chop down a tree in the orchard then come in for a cup of tea. Needless to say my mum was a frequent topic of conversation/gossip in the village and that’s all I’ll say.
I could not conceive of how much I would miss my mum, miss talking to her, miss telling her I love her, miss her craziness… My mum was a real character, one you could never forget, especially mine and my sisters boyfriends who she would warn to treat us well otherwise she would come back and haunt them after she was dead…current suitors beware…
My mum died October 15th 2009.