Written by Susan Hanks


Lovely Rita

She sings Will Smith songs in the nude and refuses to let her children win at Scrabble. But she’s her Mum and Susan Hanks wouldn’t change her for the world.

Mum 2

Illustration by Claire Jones.

I’ve just had a phone call from Mum about arrangements to celebrate my birthday and Mother’s Day. Once again the two fall on the same weekend. And yet again my mother apologises for “raining on my bonfire” (another of her malapropisms and another reason to love her dearly).

Why would I be sorry to mark any day by sharing it with the woman who knows all the words to Will Smith’s biggest hits and often performs them in the bathroom, toothbrush in hand, not wearing a stitch?

I am so much like my Dad in character that it’s nice to acknowledge the things Rita and I do share: Bunions.

Not really. Instead, there’s our appearance.

Strangers often acknowledge this with phrases such as: “Well, we can see you’re not adopted” and “You’re like twins”. I catch my Mum beaming before she replies: “Oh, I wish I was as beautiful as Susan”.

That’s a mother’s love and pride for you. It saddens me that she can’t accept a compliment because to me  and my sister and Dad  she shines and glistens with more radiance than a million dollar Kim Kardashian butt shot.

I’m trying to teach her that she is every bit as lovely on the outside as everyone claims. The simplest way to do this is when people say: “You’re so much like your Mother” I reply: “Thank you”. And I mean it.

I could tell you that she taught me to bake. But she didn’t: she encouraged me to lick the bowl. She didn’t teach me to sew or knit because she can’t. She hates gardening  and won’t. But what she did do as I grew up, and still does now, is remind me that I can do anything I want and that she will support my decisions 100%. That lesson is far more valuable than any home economics advice.

We share the same sense of humour. She rewarded hours of pre-exam studying with the announcement: “Now, let’s watch an episode of The Bold and the Beautiful” (a long-running U.S. soap that is every bit as bad as it is good). We laughed so hard that anyone would think we were watching my Dad try to arrange flowers.

The woman is a fountain of knowledge. There isn’t a quiz show in existence that she hasn’t made it to the final of (from the comfort of her settee).

In fact, so pronounced is her competitive streak that I’ve occasionally found myself questioning her unconditional love for us. As a 10 year old I learned the “you can’t always be victorious in Scrabble” lesson the hard way.

Mum 1

Illustration by Claire Jones.

She delights in “thrashing” anyone that dares take her on at table tennis (I was so relieved when I realised it was an innocent game of ping pong and not an indication of the influence of 50 Shades of Grey when, one Tuesday afternoon, she texted to say she was about to give my Dad a “good whipping”).

But by far the most impressive of her skills is her ability to know exactly what’s going on in my mind, even when we’re not in the same room or postcode. She tells me it’s instinct. I tell her it’s weird, and sometimes annoying.

At this she becomes Smuggy McSmuggerson.

There’s some side-splitting stuff that I can’t share here, not just because it would embarrass her, but also because there are some moments that belong only to me and my mother and I’m going to keep them that way. In a world of social media-inspired over sharing I’d encourage you to keep the really special bits for yourself too. Or, in the words of Rita, after each faux pas: “Don’t put me on the faces book”. She’s not even being ironic.

Whoever you share your birthday with I hope you’re as chuffed as I will be at the moment when Mum raises a glass of Asti Spumante and says: “Up yours!”

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Written by Susan Hanks

Presenter on Moorlands Radio 103.7FM Drive Time, weekdays 4-7pm. Join Susan in 'shaking what ya mamma gave ya' for the daily Derriere Dance. Rhythm/leotard not essential.