I would tell you which significant birthday it was were it not for the fact that Mam’s next ‘first’ is to conquer The Internet. No doubt her first mission will be to google her youngest daughter and find out what secrets and lies she has been disseminating about the family on the worldwideweb all these years. If I say what age she is, she will find out, she will brain me and she will eat it with one of the small, scallop-patterned soup spoons she keeps for “company”.
Let me instead present something only slightly less revealing: my mother in her swimsuit. She is very, very cute in it. It is purple with a neon-pink trim and it only took us three shopping trips and a very heated half-hour in the dressing room of Marks and Spencers to find it.
This is also a first. When we were children, Mam found she couldn’t look at any large body of water without feeling dizzy. Not a swimming pool, not any river bigger than the stream up the road; certainly not the sea. My sister and I didn’t learn to swim and neither did she. I don’t know why deep water inspired such vertigo and nausea in her. It was just a fact and a given. By the time I wanted to ask, I was afraid to. My fear of asking was as irrational as her fear of the water itself.
I know her seasickness was fear-induced because somewhere between my sister and I leaving our landlocked county in our late teens and all three of us going on her first sea-and-sun holiday as adults, she was able to shed it. Last week, she waded straight into a warm Atlantic up to her waist, laughing as the waves knocked her off her feet.
“Isn’t it amazing to think I haven’t done this before?” she said, a huge smile on her face.
I was further out, floating, shielding my eyes to look back at her big achievement. She was proud of herself and I was proud of her. And from somewhere else I felt sadness, and entirely unrelated to the sea I was floating in, I tasted salt.