With Mother's Day almost upon us, it's time for us, once more, to consider the contributution of the most important women in our lives. Actually, I feel I should start over. Because my mum, my lovely, gorgeous, classy, elegant ('Are you sure she's really your mum?', I hear you ask) mum is a bit of a traditionalist and doesn't really like the term 'Mother's Day' at all. She prefers 'Mothering Sunday' and sees the modern name as a bit of a concession to the needs of the greetings card manufacturers. She may have a point. Not being a mother, I'm not sure it's fair to comment on this. When they start a Single Women With No Dependents Day, I'll let you know! But whatever you prefer to call it, the fact is it's the one day of the year when mothers can probably expect to get a day off, to put their feet up and be pampered. And rightly so. After all, they spend 364 days being the glue that holds families together, and that can't always be easy.

Mums, if you let them (and you know you should), will tell you that the second their child goes to nursery or school, they cease to exist. This is, of course, an exaggeration, but I do get what they mean. Think back to your own schooldays. You might have referred to your friends' mothers as Mrs Whatever,but more likely you spoke of them as 'Claire's mum', or 'Sammy's mum' or so on. And your mum probably did the same (at least when she was speaking to you).They are rarely known by their own names. If they're married they usually take their husband's surname, then the kids come and their lives become focussed on the lives of their children. 

My mum is amazing, and I know yours is too. She's funny, she's smart, she's caring and she's very, very classy. For years she did all the cooking, the laundry and cleaning and so on. She held down a responsible full-time job too, and still found time to be a protector to a shy child (yes I was), a counsellor to a troubled teenager (we've all been one of those), and a best friend to a grown-up woman (any day now I'll get there …). And I love her with all my heart. I cannot imagine the woman I might have been had I not had my mum to guide me. And I don't think I'd like to. Mums, of course, are the single most important female role model any child will have. But they're not the only ones.

My lovely and very beautiful Mum, Pat Rippon.

 Beatrice Buckler (my grandma) with her husband Bernard and my mum Pat.

Grandmothers, too, teach us vital life lessons.  My Grandma Buckler passed away before I was even six years old. And yet she remains a huge influence on my life. I spent much of my time with her and knew her well.  We used to go shopping together. I'd always sit next to her at the dinner table. I'd go to the hairdresser with her, and sit beside her while she had her set put in. I was utterly devoted. When I stayed overnight while my parents went out, I would always end up in Grandma's bed, with Granddad relegated to the spare room. I'd return home with something every time. A small pot of jam, decanted from the larger jar, some biscuits, or perhaps flowers cut from the garden. She played the piano well. I used to sit on her lap as she played. She'd rest my hands on top of hers and I'd pretend to be playing as her fingers caressed the keys. She taught me to play the first five notes of the 'Cuckoo Waltz'  which used to impress people greatly until they realised they were the only notes I could play!

I think of Grandma every day, of course I do, but there are certain things that remind me of her even more. When I see or smell sweet peas, I think of Grandma. They were the flowers we both loved and which Granddad grew. I think of her, too, when I look in the mirror.Everyone says that I look like Grandma. Something I'm more than comfy with. Every freckle is like a little bit of Grandma sprinkled on me!

My Granddad Buckler, never one with a good memory for names anyway, often used to call me 'Beat'. It never bothered me. I was proud to assume her name. Warm and generous, she gave the best cuddles and I still remember the smell of her neck as I nestled in her lap.

Mum is a lot like Grandma. Both assume the best of people (not something I always find easy). Both put other people way ahead of themselves and I'm not so sure I'm good at that either.

I can't remember this, but my dad tells me that when Grandma found out I was to enrol at Sunday School she was as proud as can be. And many of the choices I have made have been to follow in Grandma's footsteps or make her proud and I think that's served me well. I imagine her sitting up there on her cloud (she could only be an angel, after all!) and if I can see her smiling, then I feel good. 

I feel truly blessed to have known her.

By contrast, my Nana Rippon lived well into her 80s. She had been raised by her paternal uncle and aunt, because her mother had died just a few days after her birth. Nana was so treasured by them but she was always a bit of a rebel.She had a stubborn streak that could defeat even the most determined of doctors, and the most caring of helpers. When Nana dug in her heels nothing would change her mind. The earth could quake, a plague could spread, it could rain frogs, but nothing would dislodge her. While this could make things difficult, I learned a lot from her.

Me, Mum & Grandma. My favourite picture! 

 I learned how to stick to my guns and how to resist being pushed around. Regrettably, I did not learn how to make custard from her, which is a pity since Nana made by far the best custard on the planet. She was a lady of contradictions. Always immaculately turned out, she rarely ventured into town without her hat and gloves. She always dressed appropriately for the occasion and was very proper. However, it was from Nana that I learned the words to all the rude songs I know, and she could blow a mean raspberry.  

Nana, Phyllis and her adoptive, and beloved, parents William and Jane Rowley

 Sarah Craig my Nana's biological mother. How much I may have inherited from her, I will never know. 

Sometimes I fancy that I might have inherited all my skills, such as they are, from the women that went before me. I can certainly cook - and my great-grandma, my great-great grandma and my great-great aunt were all professional cooks.  But then I didn't inherit any of my female forebears' musical talent, and I can't draw to save my life. And I know that I inherited just as much from my dad and my granddads. 

Aside from the odd physical feature - my Great Grandma Poynton's eyes, my Great-Gran Rippon's hands, and the odd wiry red hair from my Great Grandma Rowley, I don't know what else I may have inherited from my female ancestors. We must all, surely, be a mash-up of all those women that preceded us?
Of course, not all the women that influence our lives are our mothers and grandmothers.  My late cousin Joyce was one such person. Actually she was my Grandma's cousin. She had a career as a secretary. She was a Guide Leader. She was involved with her church and the Women's Institute. 
She had an incredible eye for the perfect gift. She was independent yet had a huge circle of friends. She had traditional values and a modern outlook. She never married, and she had no children, but she was a fabulous and favourite 'aunt' to all the children with whom she came into contact. And yes, I think about her too, come Mother's Day.

So, for Mum, Grandma, Nana & Joyce, and all those women who've been a positive influence on my life. I salute you. I know I don't live up to your example … but I do keep trying!

Mum, me and cousin Joyce.