One day when Diane Danvers Simmons was 16, her 60-year-old mum told her she was leaving her father and moving next door to a house where three “hot” college boys were living.
Diane’s mother Mary was unhappy in her second marriage and had been threatening to leave for a while, but Diane didn’t think she would ever follow through.
So when Diane came back from her Saturday job the following day and found their Isleworth house empty of her mother’s belongings, she was shocked.
When she moved into the fourth bedroom, Diane realised her mum had been planning this for a while but never told anyone.
The day she moved out, Mary said to her daughter: ” You’re big and ugly enough to take care of yourself.”
‘She broke something in our relationship’
“She broke something in our relationship the way she handled things. The trust you had in a mother – I still had it – but it wasn’t as strong.”
Living with her dad, who was in his 70s, she had to learn to cook, take care of the house, and become the mediator between the family.
“She was fun, easier to be around. We weren’t arguing in the same way. I wasn’t having to listen to her and dad fight.
“But it was the basic things that our mothers take care of and we don’t even notice that were lost.”
Diane remembers her mother, who died 15 years ago, as independent, outspoken, magical, born before her time, “and obviously a narcissist.”
She prides herself on having a strong relationship with them where boundaries are in place but they can discuss “pretty much anything”.
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‘I messed up her plans’
Her father, who died when she was 23, was “very traditional” and didn’t allow Mary to work, despite the fact that she had worked – in pubs, news agents, at White City Stadium, as a carer and landlord – since she moved to London from Ireland at 16.
Now, Diane realises: “I messed up her plans. Her kids were grown up, she was ready for an independent life. I was a surprise.”
“She was standing up for herself at a time when women weren’t,” says Diane, who noticed parallels between her life and her mother’s when her own children became adults and and she went through a rough patch in her marriage.
She says her mum used to go out every Saturday night dancing and told her daughter: “I never want another man telling me how to live my life.”
“She gave me the courage to never accept no as the final answer,” said Diane, who has had a very successful career in advertising and marketing in the US.
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“I don’t think she was fair or kind the way she handled things and always put me in the middle,” she said.