The first woman deserves a medal like no other. In a nutshell she’s my mum and we love her inside out. She has selflessly loved, nurtured, given strength, hope and support from the moment we were born up until this very day. If I look into the future I feel her love curling around our shoulders and pulling us gently forwards. Her love for her children, family and friends is unconditional and limitless. It knows no bounds. She has always been a beautiful inspiration, a beacon of dreams and a ray of sarcasm in a world that would otherwise have felt grey.
That’s not to say she didn’t rule the house with an iron fist. She gave smacks when necessary and slapped my bare legs often. She also taught valuable life lessons that enabled us to swim against the current when the tide turned against us. Our father left us for another woman, now our step-mother, when my sister and I were 8 and 5 respectively. My mother threw his things into a rubbish bag and hurled them into the driveway. Soon after we packed up and piled into her yellow VW beetle and hurtled from the North of England to start life anew in the South. It was 1982 and ‘women didn’t do that sort of thing’ back then, so she hid her fears and created a wonderful upbringing for us that went on to include a step-father and two step-sisters.
Ever since that time we’ve been a family that owes everything, I believe, to my mother and the magical net she continually casts to keep us all together. She deserves a sainthood, but that probably isn’t going to happen any time soon, so instead we celebrated her birthday yesterday with a lunch out that included grandchildren, daughters and husbands. We were the noisy family laughing in the corner….she truly wouldn’t want it any other way, birthday or not (and neither would we).
I had never really met an American before. I’d only seen them in programs such as Starsky and Hutch, or The A Team. And here was tall Stacey Black with her warm humour, funny accent, Hollywood smile and incredible generosity. We rode ponies bareback, competed at shows, spent nights at each other’s houses eating exotic American sweets (M&M’s and fruit roll ups) and wished we could live our summers in the sunshine together.
Inevitably her family returned to America. We stayed in touch with letters and the following year I visited. We went on an amazing family road trip, rode mules down into the Grand Canyon, spent a night at Yellow Stone and rode horses in between - she had her own at this point, a big grey called Bubba. And then suddenly the pond of water between continents became an ocean and staying in touch became harder. Boys entered the fray and lives shifted. Our parents remained in touch, but we weren't as consistent. Our lives were similar but we were moving in different circles.
It was about 12 years ago and I remember sitting at an internet café in Streatham, London sending emails to friends when I thought of Stacey. I immediately wrote and soon after she replied. The rest as they say is history, only this friendship was caught in my heart, like a kiss blown on the wind towards an open hand and it's been true ever since. To this day she continues to inspire - she’s an incredible mother, wife, sister and friend. She has a wicked humour, a brain that moves like lightning, a chai latte obsession and a precious sensitivity. She is brave, courageous and beautiful.
She also has a unique ability with words to make you cry, smile, laugh and to have you question the most simple to the almost impossible. She has her own blog 'Is There Any Mommy Out There' and it's because of Stacey that I finally put my own words on paper in the form of Living On A Knife Edge. She wrote movingly about the loss of my daughter Ella (Sister of My Heart) and has graciously honoured her two anniversaries (September Rain) with words that struck so many chords I felt my soul stripped bare. She’s a mother to four wonderful children and understands what to say and when to say it without ever being prompted.
When I returned to the UK six months ago she was the friend I rang within a few days of landing to share my fragile and hopeful pregnancy news with. We hadn’t spoken in years, but it was like it was yesterday and within 5 minutes she said she had an inkling as to why I was calling.......my heart burst with happiness.