I’m Still Standing

Helen Spencer is the founder of Save Every Step, an online time capsule, where you can chronologically chart your family history, important events, treasured memories, and is author of Save Every Step Blog, a personal memoir of life, family, and motherhood. Here, she looks back on life, her parents, and becoming a mum, again, aged 40. 

Enjoy …..


My eldest son is nearly a teenager. My millennium baby has managed to suck up 13 years of my life without me hardly noticing the time pass. Was there even a life before Motherhood?

I imagine my own parents felt the same way about me when I turned 13, or 21, then 30…..

As a 13 year old teen, my interest in my parents was minimal, to put it politely. (Here is the slightly less polite version). I continued to take a nonchalant disinterest in their lives and stories throughout my teens and beyond. I saw them as historic. Ancient. Irrelevant.

This apathy/mild disinterest went on until I became a parent to my second child at the age of 40. By this point, I had developed enough of an awareness of my own mortality to recognise that I was now the same age as my parents had been when I had shown such contempt for their antiquity. They were amazing people, who had lived their lives with the relish of youth long before I had arrived to disrupt them, and who had dutifully nurtured me for so many years.

The defining earthquake, however, arrived as an earth-shattering TEN on the Richter Scale in April 2006 when my mother went and died.

Heart-achingly ironic, eh?

I finally wanted to know everything there was to hear about her life as a young woman, how she met my dad, her days at school, her childhood in World War II Britain, her boyfriends, the fashions, her mistakes and her triumphs. But it was simply too late.

Stupid, stupid me.

Mum had been, by 1960s standards, an ‘older’ mother too. She gave birth to me at the age of 32 and we had a magnificent 39 years together. I hadn’t expected to lose her yet.

I had spent countless hours researching our family tree’s dead ‘uns, without a moment’s thought about the most precious people of all – those who were standing right beside me. Mother’s Day is a one-dimensional affair these days. I have no-one to whom I can send lilies or shower with butterfly kisses. Whilst I may BE a Mother, I do not HAVE a Mother. This is a realisation not to be underestimated.

So, what of it?

Well, I’m still standing. 

My own disinterested, contemptuous, apathetic children will probably never ask me about my life’s adventures. But I am prepared. Mwahaha…. I WILL preserve my stories as a legacy for their future. I WILL capture each and every moment of their growth in a set of embarrassing photographs, whether they like it or not. I WILL spill my guts about the highs and lows of my existence in my narrative for them. I WILL leave them with the gift of the memories which we’ve made together.

When the day comes that they feel their TEN on the Richter scale, they will have bucket-loads of memories waiting to cushion the blow. It’s my duty.

So, assuming you’re still standing too (and not reading this from the Other Side), do yourself a favour and start saving your family stories so that they won’t have to.

Oh, and by the way, if you are an older mum too, remember – as my mother used to say, “The Old ‘uns are the best.”

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