Single Mum: Stories I never told
I have been writing Single Mum for more than two years now; in fact, from before I was ordained. I can hardly believe how the time has hurried by. Saville, my son, was 14 when I started – and now he is 17. The things which I talked about then were mostly pretty easy to describe and didn’t collide with Sav’s privacy too much. I always read him the columns before sending them to the editor, and occasionally he changed something, but generally he just snorted or shrugged before letting them through. Once, hearing me read out my article on teenage London slang, he put his head down on the table and laughed: “Mum! Those are bare old words. Man don’t use them now…”
So, at the start, although I always checked with Sav, the issues which I wrote about couldn’t – and didn’t – embarrass him too much. In fact, meeting a bunch of Reform readers, (as we did from time to time in Windermere), often meant that he got a bigger welcome, a heartier handshake and an “Ah, you’re Sav, are you? I’ve read all about you!” – which, I suspect, just fortified his sense of belonging to our wider church world.
I think that almost all parents feel that their stories are unique – and their children exceptional too, in some way. And of course I felt that too. But I also believed that Sav’s early stories could easily be shared, because they were anecdotally remote, with a distance which kept them from being too personal and too invasive of his private life. Most of what I wrote about our lives together was about issues which belong to any urban parent on her/his own with a brown boy to bring up.
However, I’ve decided, with no prompting from Sav, to bring Single Mum to a close after next month – because Sav’s life is now his own. His education, his relationships, his future, are all fascinations of mine, and, for another large handful of months, partly my responsibility. But none of them is common property, nor my property, and they should no longer be shared.
But I regret the stacks of stories I didn’t get round to writing about. For example, I never told you about the time that Sav, (cooing on a hot summer afternoon in his pushchair, whilst trying to get his toes into his mouth) was told that he was a beautiful baby by Richard Wilson (aka Victor Meldrew) who gave him a big pink peach.
I never mentioned how every morning, ignoring me, Michael Foot used to trudge uphill to the underground station, doffing his hat to the two-year-old Sav, as we whisked down past him to playgroup.
I never wrote about the woman who stopped her open-topped Rolls at the lights beside us, looked in my open car-window at the tiny sleeping Sav, then across at me, and asked: “Can I have that baby?”
And I feel fairly certain I never reported the first theological conversation that Sav and I ever had.
Saville was about five at the time. We were driving down to see my mum who, in those days, still lived independently by the Kent Coast. It was a longish drive which Sav and I usually spent noticing the cows, horses, dogs, road signs and markings, and all the lorries and tractors – particular favourites – which we passed.
There was no preamble to what Saville asked. I have no idea how he jumped from tractors to the divine. But he suddenly said: “Mummy! Is Jesus major?”
“Yes,” I said: “Jesus is really very major indeed”, and on we moved.
This article was published in the March 2013 edition of Reform.