Three years ago, our Mother’s Day was – entirely unexpectedly – spent around a hospital bed, not really knowing how things were going to work out.
Something like that really reminds you that time is what matters; just as words matter, and gestures matter. And commercialisation cynics? They can shut it. Because at the end of the day – gifts, cards, bubbly, cream teas, days out, dinners out, every single novelty item on the high street… what harm are they, if it’s celebrating someone you love in your life? Post-Mother’s Day 2013, let me tell you: they’re all bargains, because you cannot put a price on the time you could’ve lost.
That’s why we ended up on a plane this time last year; I ran out of reasons not to take a trip I’d always dreamed of being able to make happen, and finally could. Not a swanky city break, spa retreat or Euro-adventure (sorry, Mum), but a bright and bloody chilly weekend on the Scottish coast (you lucky thing).
We flew to Glasgow, then drove down to Ayr – the small, seaside town where my gran grew up, and a place Mum still remembers fondly from visits back to see her own grandmother. I’d heard a lot about the little ice cream parlour they’d go to, and here we were, in a hotel which was just around the corner from Carlton’s cafe.
The next three days were, for me, filled with new sights and old stories.
Even the tourist stop-offs were special. It was different, you know, reading my favourite Robbie Burns verse in the museum of his life; visiting his old house and thinking about all the Burns nights growing up when Dad had somehow convinced me that a Haggis was a bird that couldn’t fly.
And it was really something taking in the views and the fresh air at Culzean Castle, feeling every inch that I’d left my London life behind.
But, better than all that – better than kilt spotting, Scottish pancakes, late night gelato and £3.95 espresso martinis (this DEFINITELY wasn’t the city) – was ambling around in our roots.
We ventured off the high street to find the house my great gran lived in; the one which backs on to Ayr racecourse – Mum says she used to get up in the window waving tea towels when a race was on, so her relatives in England could try to spot her on the telly.
And we drove to Annbank school, a beautiful, red-brick building where my great gran had been caretaker, my great grandfather truancy officer (what a title), and where – in their little house within the grounds – my own gran had been born. That was quite something to see; unused, but still standing, a pretty, innocuous little building – number 41 – that couldn’t be more significant to us.
We didn’t want to get our hopes up when Mum had the idea of popping down to the churchyard nearby, to see if they might have been laid to rest there. It was just a chance, a curiosity. Nobody from the church was in to help (ironic, on a Sunday I thought…), so finding a plot plan was out of the question. All we could do was walk, read… walk, read…. And then we saw it. That was a moment.
Taking in the sunset together on the beach was a moment, too. I realised that this trip wasn’t about a connection to Scotland, beautiful as it is, and I wasn’t leaving feeling any more a Scot. I am, however, very much a Speirs – the maiden name two generations before it became Hutton; the youngest from a line of women who put caring and family at the centre of their lives, and who always managed to get back up when the going got tough. And with me, my own mum: walking, smiling proof of that.