Thanks to Nina Caplan for allowing me to share her story with all of you. Please do keep contributing your own stories – they won’t be published here without your explicit prior permission, but they will all make it into our celebration memory book.
Dear Humphrey, Hester and Heath,
You don’t know me – Humphrey, you met me once, with your Mum outside Lisa’s house just round the corner from yours, but it was only briefly and you probably don’t remember. I was a new friend of Miranda’s. After you were born, Heath, a group of five of us got together to try to boost our careers by working together. Rachel was the only one who knew all of us. We called ourselves the Vox Consultancy and we all brought food round to each other’s houses and talked and laughed and ate and got to know each other. Lisa was a financial journalist, Jenni was a food writer, Rachel wrote about the arts. I write about wine and travel, and I briefly got the chance to feed your Mum some very nice Cava (a fizzy Spanish wine) and was looking forward to introducing her to other interesting wines. (We all have our way of showing love. One of mine is to figure out what kind of wine you like, and give you the same kind to try, but better.) Some work talk happened, but the time spooled away as we chatted. Hester, when you grow up, I imagine you will discover the joy of all-female gatherings. Nothing against men, they are great! But sometimes there is nothing quite as supportive as a group of women of around the same age.
Miranda was the youngest, in her thirties when we were all in our forties, and by far the most fabulous. Her leopardskin tops! Her vivid sense of colour! Her perfectly styled blonde hair accessorised by wonderful earrings! She had just had her third child, was planning a massive house refurbishment, was doing Weight Watchers to lose her babyweight and was in the process of carving out an entirely new career as a motivational speaker and a speech coach. And she was doing all of that at once, while your Dad was changing jobs. We read our speeches out to each other, and she filmed me speaking and tried to get me to… slow… down… ratherthanspeakinfivesecondbursts. She made lots of sense but she was also calm and kind. There was no sneering or bullying – it was all encouragement.
We talked a lot about family. She was so proud of all of you (including your Dad) and was entirely gung-ho about the work that a large family means. She knew she could juggle family and work – and she did. I talked a lot about my own complicated situation (four stepchildren) and she was sympathetic but never saccharine. (A good friend will acknowledge when life is hard, not try to convince you that it isn’t.) She told stories about your aunt and her experiences with step-parenting. Boy, could your Mum tell a story! Some charismatic people aren’t very good at listening, they just like talking. Your Mum could do both. That’s rare. I was so looking forward to getting to know her better, and I will always be sad that I was deprived of that.
You have been deprived of much, much more. But you are each half your Mum and she lives on in you and in all our memories of her. That’s not just talk. Both my parents are dead, and while I got to keep them a lot longer than you had your Mum, I still miss them. Every now and then, I look at my hair, which I got from my Dad, or I catch myself laughing exactly like my Mum, and there they are. They haven’t gone away. Miranda won’t, either.
All my love to you,
PS The two pictures I’ve included were from our photo session for our Vox website. The photos were taken by my husband, Craig. Miranda was the obvious centrepiece in her beautiful pink coat… I’m the curly one, to her right.