I was doing some food shopping for my mum and dad today because I’m now an unpaid fetcher. While I was driving, they played 'Mother of Mine' on the radio. I almost lost it. I had to pull over. I used willpower to force myself to not lose my composure fully because you can’t go into a shop with red eyes can you? So then I drove off again. There may have been a little rheum and a slight reddening but I’d not be at the shop for ten minutes so I’d look perfectly normal by then wouldn’t I? Mind you, I was still fighting the urge a little while the song continued. When it finished, the D.J. said 'we’re all a bit emotional in the studio here'. I defy anyone who has or has had a more or less kind and generous mother to not be moved by that song.
I used to hear the song from time to time when I was young and while I thought it was somewhat nice I don’t remember it moving me especially. I'm not sure what caused my reaction today because my mother and I were never that close and we’re not very similar either to be honest. As I listened to it I found myself thinking about how my mum had done so much for me for so so long. Mostly little things that are easy to take for granted probably, but it all adds up. So I think that was it. Perhaps also a recognition of her age and the beginnings of some fragility. If you’re young and your mother has many decades ahead of her, you probably have no reason to feel this kind of pathos, but eventually, some day, you might. Maybe there just comes a point in time when our mothers reach a certain age when something switches over inside of us and we start seeing them differently.
Whenever I come across something moving like the above song, I ask myself 'is it just sentimentality, or is there something truly meaningful in it?' For many many years I misunderstood the definition of the word sentimental. I’d never looked it up. I thought I knew what it meant. I thought it just applied to the stirring of certain emotions. I think it was about a dozen years ago when something someone said about sentimentality prompted me to look it up. In the dictionary I used I was surprised to see that the main definition said that the emotions in question were being aroused in an exaggerated or self-indulgent way. I used to sometimes say that I had a fairly high tolerance for sentimentality, but now I was seeing the word in a more negative light. Some dictionaries don’t use the negative sense as the main definition so take it as you wish. Was Neil Reid just being mawkish? Did he sit down and try to manipulate people's emotions so they'd rush to buy a record? The track was after all released at perhaps the tail end of the sentimental period of popular music. In the forties, fifties, sixties and seventies, maudlin songs were very common. There were songs about dead dogs: Old Shep and Old Tige. There were songs about orphans left out in the cold. Songs about men riddled with remorse because they’d killed someone while drink driving. Songs about widows called Honey and their trees. False sentiments are heard sometimes. But I can’t second guess Neil Reid. He may have written his song in a fit of genuine tenderness. It’s lyrics are ordinary; they don’t suggest anything remarkable. But 'Mother of Mine' may be one of those gestalt creations where the product is greater than the sum of its individually analysed parts. You certainly get atmosphere. The fellow's tender voice alone is primed to stir us up. Atmosphere has an intelligence and a depth all of its own. It’s not to be sniffed at. Except when it makes you cry of course.
I think the selfless, motherly giving of lots of kindness and aid and alms over a lot of years (even just in the passive way of just being present) added to a perception that she is reaching—hopefully very gradually—the end of her term is what brings out the feelings.