My Favorite Mum Memories

By Janey Womeldorf

My Favorite Mum Memories

The Ironing Board

I grew up in England in a bustling neighborhood where it seemed everybody knew each other (or if not, knew their business), everybody had kids, and nobody thought twice about dropping by – unannounced. (Maybe people did that back then because nobody had phones. The only phone I remember was the lonely, freestanding booth that serviced the entire neighborhood, reeked of stale cigarettes and always had a line.)

Few people locked their doors, so when you made your unannounced visit, you would just knock on the door of your unsuspecting host then walk right in hollering, “It’s just me, put the kettle on.” I never understood whether the cursory knock was a warning that unexpected visitors were entering, or shorthand for “get the tea going.” In England, tea drinking is a national obsession so I suspect the latter.

I was one of six kids, so a steady stream of our friends, plus other mothers and their kids were always coming and going. Our house was like Grand Central and Mum lapped it up – she loved nothing more than a houseful of kids. Fifty years later, she still loves it. Mum would feed any child who happened to be at our house at eating time so consequently, there were often more small bottoms than chairs at the table. When this happened, Mum would get out the ironing board and lay it across two of the chairs for us all to sit on. You had to be careful though because if you were sitting on the pointy end and all the others got off, it would tip up like a seesaw. Get me and my five siblings together and we still laugh about it. Funny but I have absolutely no memory of Mum actually ironing.

The Spin Cycle

Our neighborhood boasted a communal Laundromat. Houses were small, kitchens were tiny and few families, if any, had the space or money for a tumble dryer. Mum would wash what she could at home in the small, top-loading, twin-tub washer that lived in the closet under the stairs. On wash day, she would shimmy it over to the kitchen sink, fill it with a hose, and then dangle the unattached end of the fat drainage hose over the sink for when the machine drained all that water during the spin cycle. This was my all-time, favorite part.

When the machine hit the spin cycle, the vibration would send the freestanding washer (and its drainage hose) dancing around the kitchen. It only took one flooded kitchen floor for Mum to come up with a solution – she would have one of us kids sit on top of the machine to anchor it down. For a five-year old, riding the spin cycle was more fun than a roller coaster.

The Kiss

We’d take sheets to the Laundromat to dry, and I’d help Mum fold them, first left to right, then in half. My favorite part was when you bring the two ends together and meet in the middle. Mum would kiss me. To this day, if my husband helps me fold sheets, we kiss when we meet in the middle.

Banging on the Wall

Mum’s friend Leslie lived next door, and Mum, Leslie and her mother loved to play cards. When my Mum was in the mood for cards, she would walk to the end of our living room and bang twice on the wall. A few minutes later, right on cue, we’d hear the cursory knock on our front door, followed by Leslie’s familiar cry of “It’s just me, put the kettle on.” If Mum was comfy in her chair or busy, she would instruct one of us kids, “Go bang on the wall for Les for me.” I tried once when I was really young, but my small fist did not make the cut or the noise. It was priceless. Just thinking about it makes me chuckle.


Whenever we asked that hungry, burning question: “Mum, what’s for dinner?” her answer would be the same: “Iffits.” We all knew that was the end of that conversation. One night, decades later, my husband asked me the same question. Out of nowhere, I replied “iffits.” (The first sign that I was, in fact, turning into my mother.) He stared at me blankly until I elaborated what it meant. “If it’s in the cabinet you can have it; if it’s not you can’t.” We ate iffits a lot growing up. Looking back, it was a smarter response to six hungry kids than “I don’t know yet.”

The Ice Cream Cone

On weekends, the ice cream van would visit our neighborhood, signaling its arrival with its jingling tunes. When you’re a child, life stops when you hear the ice cream van, and Mum and Dad were powerless to our begging. Mum never ordered anything – she didn’t care for the soft, whippy ice cream but she loved the cone. Consequently my Dad would get to savor the ice cream but then have to hand over his untouched cone to my Mum. To this day, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen my Dad enjoy a whole ice cream.

Fast forward forty years. When I am out with my husband and he craves ice cream, rarely do I join him – until he reaches the cone. Just like Dad, my husband hands me his cone, still crunchy but with that perfect kiss of melted ice cream – delicious. I don’t know if it’s nostalgia, mother love or inherited taste buds but my heart smiles with every bite.

Whether I like it or not (I do), I am turning into my mother more and more every year; I have her gestures, looks, even make her noises. I am fifty now, but when I am around her, I am still her little girl. It’s as if nothing has changed – apart from maybe one thing – I am too big to sit on the washing machine now.

Thank you for everything Mum. I love you.

About this writer

  • Janey Womeldorf Janey Womeldorf once went to work wearing different shoes. She now freelance writes and scribbles away in Orlando, Florida. It’s probably best.

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One Response to “My Favorite Mum Memories”

  1. Anne says:

    Your mum sounds a bit like…am only your age though…we are all turning into your mum… she rocks!!

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