My mum's latest gift to me looks strangely familiar

Coco Khan
·2-min read

My mum was able to visit me only once in my new place before Covid restrictions put an end to indoor meet-ups.

Still, I feel her presence. I feel it when I open the freezer she’d crammed full of food, and have that childhood sense of glee at the surprise tub of ice-cream (followed by that other familiar childhood feeling: disappointment when I open it only to find saag aloo). And I feel her presence whenever I use the items she’s given me – a frying pan, tea towels – our regular strolls now punctuated by gift-giving. But the latest present looked familiar: an owl mug.

“I gave you this!” I exclaimed. “See, it has ‘You’re a hoot’ on it.” She shifted nervously on her feet. Busted.

“Yes, er, well, but I never used it and you need kitchen things.”

It’s not receiving my own gift back that is surprising; it’s that I didn’t know she didn’t like it. This is my blunt mother we’re talking about, a woman for whom subtlety is saying, “Did you mean to dress like that today?” Surely she would have said?

“I do like it!” she protests. “And if, hypothetically, I didn’t and said I did, it would only be because I know you don’t like being sentimental and need encouragement.”

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It is strange to think that I’m 32 years old and my mum is still deploying tactics, still nudging, still pointing me in a certain direction. Perhaps you never stop being a parent – and likewise you never stop being parented (even when you think you’re not).

“Anyway, I’ll take that,” she said, pulling the mug out of my hand. And even though I knew she didn’t really like it, I took the encouragement she wanted to give.

“So you think it’s a hoot, Mum?”

“It’s owl I’ve ever wanted.”