Life

Nuala McCann: If my ma ever fancies getting married again, I'll do a special rate for nonagenarians

My mother laughs when I tell her of my plans to train to conduct weddings and naming ceremonies. 'Not in the Church?' 'No,' I tell her. 'Last time I looked nobody with a womb could say Mass'

Ma said she would give her husband and children the meat and do with gravy and a few vegetables herself

WE ARE in the shopping centre. Rewind slightly. This is Christmas Armageddon. I heard of a man giving another man a bloody nose over the last bag of Brussels sprouts in the supermarket.

My mother is zipping through the crowds on her three-wheeled contraption. She pushes it along a la Tyson Fury.

It is lovingly known as “Granny’s hot wheels” – watch your bleedin’ ankles.

“You’d need a driving licence,” she said the first time we took it out. She still would. Now it gets her to places she’d only dreamed of. Cathy, the occupational therapist who brought it, deserves a spot in her will.

We have a traditional route. It is exhausting and invariably involves choosing the perfect polo shirt for her favourite son. Now the Irish mother and I are about to leave the centre. I ditch the trolley at the side door and lug out the shopping.

“What about the trolley?” she asks.

“Leave it there and someone will collect it,” I tell her.

“But your pound is in it,” she reminds me.

“Indeed,” I say. “But it would take me a good 20 minutes to walk down and back to the trolley drop-off and I haven’t got the energy. It’s worth £1 not to go.”

“I never,” she says. “I remember when I was first working and earning 20 shillings a week and walked all the way from the Guildhall over the bridge on the Foyle and back to save the bus fare for my mother.”

Ma was a war baby. Her mother had to be creative with a pound of mince. Ma said she would give her husband and children the meat and do with gravy and a few vegetables herself.

Ma regularly brought home her pay packet and dropped it into the waiting pinny, getting back a little something for herself. Now she’d give you her last penny.

In fact such was the popularity of her doorstep to Halloween trick-or-treaters that they came from far and wide and she had to stop answering the knocks. One of those who missed out had the bad taste to pee on her eucalyptus... a sorry tale.

Despite her generosity, Ma has not got over the trolley £1 yet. Apparently, I am profligate.

“Think of it as a tip for the trolley collector,” I tell her.

“I’m never going shopping with you again,” she says.

“Promise?” I say.

We trundle along at a different pace. It’s like that Linda Ronstadt song: “You and I travel to the beat of a different drum.”

She laughs when I tell her of my plans to train to conduct weddings and naming ceremonies.

“Not in the Church?”

“No,” I tell her. “Last time I looked nobody with a womb could say Mass.

“Civil ceremonies with spirituality – poetry and music and a truly personal ceremony – It will be soul warming.”

I quizzed the ceremony trainer about what could possibly go wrong. She said the musicians didn’t turn up once and, oh yes, one couple wanted their dog to act as ring bearer, which was just fine until the dog ran away with the rings.

Having had a few small problems of my own – a mortar bomb attack launched from the church car park, the removal of all the stained glass windows the week before and a couple who came in and booked their wedding after us but at a time before us and then let their ceremony run on for TWO HOURS so that our guests had to hang about outside for half an hour – I’d be cool with a runaway dog.

Ma is devout in her faith. But she doesn’t criticise me. She thinks it sounds rather lovely.

Roll on the weddings and the namings. I’m a true baby lover. My sister used to hand over her small babies double quick when I appeared: “You love 'em,'” she’d say. She liked them more when they could talk back.

It’s Christmas. Ma shall get over the £1 trolley debacle. Over a fish supper, we patch things up. We agree to differ, I read her a chapter from a book she loves and yell every time she closes her eyes.

“I wasn’t sleeping, I was listening with my eyes closed,” she argues.

I tell her Happy New Year – and remind her that if she ever fancies getting married again, I do a special rate for nonagenarians.

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