Mamma mia

It's been six years since I bought a Mother's Day card and a bottle of L'Aimant perfume; six years since I last wished my mother a happy mother's day, just before we knew for certain she had melanoma. For the first few years after her death all the Mother's Day hype felt like a cruel, long-drawn out onslaught, a month-long barrage of ads involving every card seller, florist, confectioner, restaurant, gift shop and God knows who else in town and on TV.

This year has been different. A few weeks ago I began wondering whether Mother's Day stuff had been scaled down, because I hadn't really seen much of it around. Then it dawned on me that it hadn't been scaled down at all; the difference is that I haven't really noticed it. This year it has not been a barrage, merely an advertising campaign which reminds but no longer hurts me.

So far so good... and then, on Monday, I attended a funeral. The first thing I noticed was that the deceased shared my mother's birthday. Then came the readings: the first one - Isaiah's vision of a heavenly banquet - and the psalm - 23 - were what I had chosen for my mother's funeral. The Gospel was different... except that the homilist went on to refer to the one I had chosen, so that I got her whole funeral Mass: the Gospel being Jesus and Martha at the tomb of Lazarus, with Jesus's self-revelation and Martha's profession of belief.

I had chosen that Gospel partly because I knew my father liked it, but largely because Jesus addresses those words - I am the Resurrection and the Life - to a housewife: not to the mystical, favoured Mary, eventual apostle of the Resurrection, or the beloved disciple John; not to Peter the chosen Rock or the learned Nicodemus, but to Martha, a housewife renowned for fretting and bustling about her kitchen. Martha, who always seems to come off badly in the Martha/Mary contemplative/active debate, but who represents so many women - like my mother - who open their doors and their hearts to visitors and provide busy, bustling hospitality, centred on good, nourishing food. Like Martha, my mother only knew one type of hospitality - and it didn't involve spending hours sitting at her guests' feet! Time enough for that sort of thing once the food was on the table.

My favourite of all my favourite dishes was my mum's risotto rosso, a simple, homely dish from her part of Italy. I grew up stirring rice, so cooking it is in my DNA, but somehow, though I get tantalisingly close, I never quite manage to make it taste quite as good as hers. Something always seems to be missing - and I know it isn't an ingredient which can be bought in a shop or grown in a field. Which is a pity...

I have no idea where I got the phrase from, but when I was about seven I started telling people that my mother's risotto was so delicious it would resurrect the dead! Would that it could: but, even though I believe in miracles, I know that, unlike Martha, I will never experience the joy of welcoming back a loved one from beyond the grave...


  1. Thanks very much for this; I always feel a similar thing on Fathers Day and yet I know that my Dad is up there, celebrating with the Heavenly throng, I really wish I could talk to him 'in person' and see what he'd think of me today...


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