It is nothing short of a miracle that I have arrived at the more mature stage of life and have managed to retain a modicum of sanity and, I hope, a balanced view of life. It has been a feature of my personal landscape thus far that the question of my identity has been somewhat up for grabs. I know I have referred to this matter previously, but another aspect of this subject recently presented itself. It was always the case that my mother could never lay her hands on my name. Even after she had known me a good forty odd years, it was still the same. She would laboriously go through the list of female offspring and relatives until she located me.
During our recent local book festival I have been helping out at my favourite bookshop/cafe. Nothing too grand, mainly skivvying in the kitchen, as the very new and very expensive dishwasher broke down the moment the festival began and a new part could not be fitted until almost the end of the festival. Now I am not averse to a bit of honest toil, in fact, I quite enjoy it. The cafe was heaving with customers day and night and book sales rocketed. The atmosphere was convivial and I made new friends. So, what's not to like about all that? Nothing as it happens. Only it's the name thing .... Gerrie, the cafe owner, started doing the 'name' thing - only this time going through the list of her children and hoping to get to me.
As I said, my mother could never lay her hands on my name even after she had known me for forty odd years. She would look at me, the puzzled expression on her face giving way to mild panic as she sought to identify me and then her lips would soundlessly begin to move, as she wandered through the list of female offspring and relatives until she located whom she hoped was me. I admit, this could be a tedious process, especially if I was waiting for an instruction from her, but the little devil in me always triumphed on these occasions and I would watch and wait in a detached manner, mentally clocking her fastest time.
This mildly amusing pastime took me through my early years and then I was packed off to the convent school in Leeds, following in my sister's illustrious footsteps. Here the 'name' issue multiplied. The Sisters of the Holy Family had my aunt Mary in their midst and had also had 5 years of my sister Mary in the school before me and in their minds that was the way it was going to stay. I looked almost the same, sounded the same, so the same name would do. They needn't trouble their heads to learn a new one.
I tried, I really did. For long enough I would not answer to Mary, but in the end, the surprised and rather hurt look of said nuns defeated me and I succumbed to answering to 'Mary'.
Scroll forward a few years and grandchildren came to our family, thus adding to the list my mother recited when she clapped eyes on me No, dear reader, I did not get promoted up the list, hopefully to one day arrive at the top. Sadly, with each new arrival I was demoted in the 'snakes and ladders' of family life. If my dear mother had lived to see her great-grandchildren, what a list that would have been!