I’m turning into my mother – and it makes me so happy | Emma Beddington

Almost 20 years after Mum died, I find myself spoiling my son just like she spoiled me. Suddenly she feels very close

Turning into your parents is a loaded notion. A gesture, a jawline, a phrase that emerges from your mouth without conscious thought, maybe something about carnations, or soup, or men in shiny shoes. “I’m turning into my mother” (or father) is rarely said with simple joy. But when they are no longer around, it can be obscurely comforting. It’s a reflection the literary critic Johanna Thomas-Corr made in a lovely piece of writing about her mother’s recent death. “I have come to like images of myself, simply because they remind me of her,” she wrote. “I rather like the fact I now look a bit like my mother did. I find I am not fighting it.”

I don’t see much of my own mum in myself; I wish there was more. We weren’t physically very similar and she died nearly 20 years ago, so inevitably I’ve lost that sense of her as a flesh and blood person. It would be nice to conjure her up with a too-swift glance at my reflection in a shop window or have silk-soft skin like hers.

But I’ve found something else recently that makes me feel a bit like her: using my semi-regular trips to London to see my son for a quick hug and chat, exacted in return for a bag of groceries or some quickly shovelled-in food. She did that all the time when I lived in London: agreeing to meetings that could probably have been a phone call, then suggesting lunch or coffee as a way to see me, to spoil me.

Walking through Russell Square on this most recent trip, I remembered it was one of the last places we met before she died, remembered her purposefully coming towards me across the square, a small woman in her good coat, on a perhaps not wholly necessary work trip, meeting up with her daughter and infant grandson. As a small woman in her good coat on a possibly non-essential work trip, returning from filling that grandson (now 20) with food, I felt her with me for a moment.

• Emma Beddington is a Guardian columnist


Emma Beddington

The GuardianTramp

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