Last year on International Women’s Day, I wrote about advice I would give my daughters (read blog here)
So this year I’m going to write about all the ways my Mum has inspired me to set up Wrapped in Kindness and sell Irish gifts online.
My Mum’s name is Helen and she is a no-nonsense Kilkenny woman. She is number 4 of 15 children. She grew up on a dairy farm and did more than her fair share of milking and thinning beet in between schoolwork. She moved to Dublin straight after her Leaving Cert and started working in The Central Bank. She had to leave her job in 1974 when she got married, as that was the law at the time.
Now that you have an outline sketch, let me fill in some colour for you with the ways she has inspired me:
She taught me about the value of handmade – she made her own wedding dress, our christening robe from her wedding dress, our communion dresses, my sisters confirmation outfit and even got paid to make a couple of wedding dresses for other people.
She also knit our school cardigans, our communion cardigans and lots of baby cardigans. She had orange plastic boxes full of patterns for various sewing, knitting and crochet projects, that people were so fond of collecting week by week in the 70’s.
She taught me to knit when I was about 7 and I became obsessed with it, constantly hassling her to buy me wool and do the difficult parts of the patterns for me and she always obliged.
In more recent years, since her eyesight wasn’t as good anymore, she took up pottery and has made the most beautiful pieces – cherished Christmas tree decorations with her Grandkids names on them and lots more.
She is one of the kindest people I know and taught me a lot about being considerate to others.
When we were small she volunteered to do meals on wheels in our local community – I can so vividly remember going with her in the car to deliver the meals after school. There is a very distinct smell from a warm meat and two veg meal, wrapped in newspaper and placed in a wicker carry basket. I didn’t much like the smell as a kid – it meant being trapped in the car for a couple of hours, or worse still, being roped in to help carry something inside an old person’s house.
She was also extremely charitable to any members of The Travelling Community that came calling to our door – always giving them something, even when she didn’t have much to spare with 5 of us to look after. She knew all of their names and their kids names and asked after everyone every week.
She gave me a love for accessorising – my first introduction to accessorising came from watching my Mum get ready to go to work. She worked 8pm to 12am, Monday to Friday in the AIB cheque clearing house. After helping with our homework and cooking dinner, she’d go upstairs and start getting ready for work.
She had an amazing collection of earrings and scarves and always brightened up her drab navy uniform with one of each. She left the house in a waft of Tresor perfume and I’d stay in her room, trying on her earrings and scarves. I didn’t have my ears pierced at the time so I spent a lot of time holding them up to my ears and trying to imagine what they’d look like on me.
She taught me to look for Irish made products – My Mum was an early adopter of the whole “Buy Irish” movement and taught me to look for the Guaranteed Irish symbol. The Guaranteed Irish initiative was set up in 1974 (Learn more about Guaranteed Irish here)
I remember being in Quinnsworth, buying school copybooks with her and she checked the back of every packet until she found ones with the guaranteed Irish symbol on them. I actually remember her explaining to me what the symbol meant and how it would help to create jobs in Ireland.
She also took pride in checking her Superquinn receipt to see how much of the total value was from buying Irish items.
She taught me about the importance of remembering occasions and never to go visiting someone with “my hands swinging” – Despite having a huge family and lots of nieces and nephews, she never forgot a gift for a birthday, new baby, communion or confirmation.
When we visited Mum’s family in Kilkenny, she always stopped at the shop to buy something to bring in with her and she used to always say – “we can’t go in with our hands swinging”
She knew the importance of a good gift to make people feel special.
I’m very grateful for the lessons my lovely Mum taught me, and know they were fundamental to the creation of Wrapped in Kindness and selling beautiful Irish gifts online.
Happy International Women’s Day 2023!