I'm not averse to adventure - in fact, sometimes I crave it; that's when I hit the safari websites and plan a malarial week in the bush. (Not that I've ever been on safari; the planning tends to wear me out.)
When the TV news sends me into buzzing despair (Terrorism! Female genital mutilation! Bacon sarnies give you cancer!) and deadlines circle like vultures, I like to have my touchstones around me. As I sit writing this, I'm looking at my desk lamp which doesn't suit my study at all; the mug I bought in a seconds sale so long ago that my waist was, well, a waist; the framed landscape an ex gave to me. (He also gave me deep seated insecurities but there's no need to go into that here.)
'Inherited' is a grand word to use for the hotchpotch she left behind. There was very little in my 'inheritance'; certainly no money. Perhaps that's why I venerate her wooden handled pallet knife as if it was a Ming vase. It never goes in the dishwasher and I keep a beady eye if anybody else uses it. I have Mum's pyrex dishes, and her gorgeously patterned vases, and the silver cutlery she bought me when I moved out. At the time I felt a bit awkward, as if she'd mistaken me for a Jane Austen character, but bringing out my swanky silver knives and forks helped brighten the various poky one-bedders I rented in my twenties.
I inherited her recipes, too. Not, of course, written down - Mum moved too fast to do anything so ladylike. No, the recipes are in my head. None of them are complex; her kitchen didn't turn out banquets, just homely, more-ish food that got me salivating the moment the first shard of onion hit the pan. On sundays and at Christmas I make stuffing by her method: no sausage meat; lots of fresh sage; all fried in butter and oil. I have converted stuffing haters with this dish, and made stuffing lovers my sexual slaves. It always has to be made in the dish she used, which is actually a pyrex lid. It's always magically just the right amount.
Mind you ... I can tell you, can't I? You won't snitch. I've changed the recipe. Not massively. A substitution, that's all. Red onion instead of Mum's beloved plain old white ones. But oh, the difference it makes! The whole thing is sweeter, more modern, less Irish. I know she wouldn't mind. She was easy going about food, as she was about life. "Do what you want to do", she used to say to me when I was agonising about some decision, and suddenly things seemed simple.
She's not here any more to tell me to do what I want to do, so sometimes I fret myself into a corner. But then I seek out her flowery plates or her wonky jug and I'm reminded of a life that although small when judged by the standards of many, was epic to little me.
So Mum's stuffing will be at the Christmas table, while we eat with her forks and spoon brussels out of her gold dish. And what of my dad? Don't worry, he'll be with us every time my eleven year old daughter raises her sooty arched eyebrows. That's my dad, right there, in that wry, soft look.