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My Mother became a widow on the fourth of March in 1965. During the summer of that year, and the year's of 1966, 67 and 68, my brother Gordon and I made sure we took her out on a weekly basis. She had looked after Dad so well during his long illness that she was quite exhausted and all of my siblings did what they could to make life good for her. On a nice summer evening, usually midweek, Gordon, Mum and I would go for a drive in his old Morris Traveller car. Mum would sit in the front next to Gordon and I would be in the back, sitting right in the centre of the seat peering between the two of them. We often drove in the direction of the Surrey and Sussex border villages, enjoying the beautiful scenery before stopping at one of their splendid pubs. If they sold it, Mum would invariably enjoy a couple of glasses of Merrydown Apple Wine, while we would choose a pint of some sort of ale. As we drove home through the quiet country roads we would sometimes see a stranger and as Gordon approached him he would often give a couple of blasts on his car horn, and at the same time both he and I would wave madly. "Who was that?" Mum would ask, and when we said we'd no idea, she would laugh out loud. During those many summer evening car rides, dozens of strangers would look in puzzlement as we waved and Gordon blasted his car horn and, as they invariably waved back, our beloved Mother would chortle with delight.
Those evenings ceased in December 1968 when Gordon got married and I met my Jenny, but they continued in other ways. Mum once said to me that although she loved our Dad very much, a golden era began for her in the years that followed his death. She was so loved and adored by her grateful children that she was justifiably spoilt. She enjoyed holidays with many of us, and to be taken out to lunch was a common occurrence. Visits to all our homes were often enjoyed and she both loved, and was loved by, her many grandchildren. Although he never mentioned it, I knew that my brother Wally would buy each week a selection of her favourite grocery items and quietly place them in her larder. Bob of course lived with her and he ensured she was never short of money. It was Bob who would take her for the longer car rides that she loved, sometimes to the sea.
During my busy and successful years I would enter at the beginning of each year, two dates a month on my huge year planner. One of them said Jenny's day and the other said Mum's day, and woe betide anyone who tried to change either, however great the need. In Mums case they were the special days when Jenny and I would pick her up early and we'd have a full day together, she would choose what she wanted to do and we would make it happen. The Golden era she once spoke of lasted almost until her own death in 1985. All of her nine children did their best to make life special for their Mother in the autumn of her life, for we all knew she had made growing up special, in the spring and summer of ours!
The years passed and as my children grew we would often play the car horn honking game, with them joining in the frantic waving to strangers. I recall one amusing occasion in the early 90's when my friend, Chris Bushell, was visiting with his son James. We were out in Chris's car and as we passed a chap I knew I told Chris to honk and I waved to a pool playing friend. "Who was that?" enquired James, and I replied "That was Spread". Soon we passed a stranger and once again the horn honked as Kathryn, Morgan and I waved with gusto, "Who was that?" James asked and I answered "Ted". The next stranger was, we told the still inquisitive James, called "Ed", and shortly after that we passed another man, "Is that Fred?" asked the quick to catch on James Bushell. I replied, "No, that's Ned," and the whole car erupted in laughter.
As I told Jenny the story, as we ate that night's evening meal, I added that some twenty five years earlier, Gordon and I had used the same, Ted, Ed, Fred, Ned routine on my mother, during one of those magical, long ago car rides of yesteryear. I recalled with pleasure how she too had laughed.
I must try it again soon with my granddaughter Emma, she seems to have inherited the Tuffs sense of humour!
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