There she stands, cultural icon, institution, dispenser of plasters in emergency situations. Calm as you like. But it better be an emergency mind you, or else. Or else what? No one knows. No one has been brave enough to ask. Well, that’s as far as you or I know. It’s very possible that someone did, but I’m sure they didn’t make it.
And there was I. So flattened after the birth of my son I could feel the earth move. Tiny incremental movements imperceptible to everyone but me, nudging me slowly into the inevitable future. I was a mammy myself now. Terror engulfed me. How was I going to manage to be a mammy? I hadn’t even brought big knickers with me. In true Irish mammy style, my own mammy had set the bar unrealistically high. Deep cleaning for the craic, cuts expunged of infection with homemade poultices and steak you could lay the foundation of a house with. I couldn’t even match my own socks let alone manage a household. Panic overtook me as I lay awake in the post labour ward. But what was I going to say to the nurse? I had pre mammy shock disorder?
Why don’t they teach anything useful in schools anymore came the lament? There you are now, thirty years of age and you can’t tell the difference between dry and actually dry sheets. And not only that you want to be high falootin’ around with the likes of a washer dryer! Didn’t have that in my day, oh no, we had to bate the sheets off the special sheet bateing rock in the garden. To this day I don’t know how the mammies in the city managed. Five times I have been to Dublin, and not one rock have I seen. They must have them inside.
There is of course one variation of the Irish mammy that lurks in certain households that added an extra layer of apprehension. A mammy that has a nursing background. All I had was a tendency to faint at the sight of blood. From my own personal experience, I must warn you to approach all beds with caution. It is more than likely that starch was used o
n the sheets and that a fastidious attention to details such as hospital corners will never fail to be present. It is highly likely if you throw caution to the wind and jump with gusto into the bed that you would be flung to the far side of the room. If you listened hard enough after you thumped off the wall, you could hear a slight ‘heh’ as mammy chalked up a win. This strain of mammy also brings with it a fear of dust mites so strong, periods of flu as a child were spent shivering at the side of the bed. The obsession with airing and throwing open the windows left me too cold to object. It’s much harder to get the corners just right when you try and make the bed with someone in it. Besides you can’t be lolling around in the bed all day, won’t it be all nice and fresh for you now. And to be fair it was. Once I had regained the feeling in my feet.
So, once I had figured out the differences between inside blankets, outside blankets, cot blankets, pram blankets, car blankets and had organised my hot press in accordance, I began to feel a little surer of my mammying ability. The afore mentioned nurse mammy may forever be a dream I aspire to, however I am making progress. Over time I have nurtured a fear of the DAMP, ironed a sheet that was already on the bed and opened the windows on the coldest day of the year. My own proudest mammy moment so far has been the appropriate use of the term ‘trickacting’. Subsequently, referring to a storm force gale wind as, ‘a grand day for drying’ and put a plaster on a cut that actually needed three stitches.
Our ways are handed down, and I have become a hybrid mammy. Confident now, after five years of mammying, that I now mammy with authority. Due to the changes in the curriculum from domestic science to social and scientific, I am now part of the generation of mammy that is postmodern. I am the postmodern mammy.