Today's All Age Service included the baptism of three children. The church was unusually full, baptisms and Mothering Sunday had produced an even bigger congregation than usual.
It was a lovely service and was to be followed by a coffee/tea and cake celebration. Not something i would normally stay for but I had half decided to do so when the children came round and handed out sprays of daffodils to all those they perceived to be 'mothers'.
This was something I had not forseen and I asked the boy who handed some to me to give them to someone else.
He put them instead by the end of the choir stall so I had no alternative but to accept them.
This was not intended as a slight on my part it was instinctive and is the same impulse which makes me shrink when someone I have never met before makes the assumption that I have children.
Having changed out of my robes I handed the flowers to another member of the choir and fled, close to tears out of the church and round to my taxi.
Not every woman has children. Some never want children, others want them but their partners/husbands do not, and yet others are unable to have them. The number of women without children is considerable, yet still the assumption is that all women must be mothers.
I have never at any time in my long life felt more of an alien than at that moment and have never shed tears previously for such an apparently meaningless and purely habit/ritual offering, indeed, I would never if asked, have considered it to be anything other than just another date in the calender with no relevance for me.
My own mother was a wonderful woman, endlessly patient and tolerant of even the worst excesses of behaviour of her children, particularly her intransigent - always - out - of - step daughter.
Despite losing her sight for the last 25 years of her life, having a pace-maker to keep her heart going, and at the end of her life having lost almost all of her hearing too. She was good-humoured, broad-minded (incredibly so for a woman born in 1905), witty, quiet, self-effacing, and though not a Christian, a thoroughly good woman.
When she broke her hip in the last year of her life, she was no longer strong enough to return home and died in hospital in Eastbourne on Christmas Eve 2008. She was 103, she was my best friend. She was my mother and I loved her and miss her.