Welcome back to Blogville my friends. No doubt I am drinking orange pekoe tea with milk as I try to organize my thoughts. I apologize in advance for any disorganization. I also offer Blogville visitors a trigger alert if they are grieving. It’s almost a year for me.
I cannot believe we are coming up on the first anniversary of losing you mom. For months after you passed away, each Saturday morning at 10:30 a.m. I would pour a tea and reach for the phone to call you for our “weekly visit” and then I would remember. Your number is no longer in service. That lead me to remember your stories of when you worked for the Bell Telephone in Toronto as a young woman starting her new life in the big city.
On November 11th I tried to remember all of the stories of the men whom you worried about while the war was going on, and how you worked in a bomb factory. I recalled your description of how, when the war ended, people ran into the streets in celebration, and how that unknown man in uniform picked you up and kissed you in the street. Though you were mortified at his public display of affection, it was a day you would never forget. I will try to remember it for you.
The first Christmas without you was just so strange. We usually spoke on the phone of course, and you would ask how my grandchildren liked what Santa brought them and what I was cooking for dinner? Turkey of course mom, with dad’s secret rice dressing recipe that he once found to accommodate your Celiac Disease. Without our call mom, there was no Merry in Christmas.
You always found January so long. On our Saturday calls we would talk about the summers you worked at resorts in the Muskokas where you learned to make those fancy shapes, swans and things, out of the cloth dinner napkins. You never showed me how and suddenly I regret never asking you to show me. Speaking of folding, people always admired how you would trifold towels to save space (it works!) and how you folded bedsheets so perfectly.
February calls were trips back in time to the Cochrane Winter Carnival, chatting about the torch light parades, the talent shows and carnival Princess pageants. Oh how we would often laugh about how, as young children, my friend Sandra C. and I entered the ice fishing derby. We got up at the crack of dawn and went down to Lake Commando with sandwiches, thermoses of hot chocolate, and fishing gear, but without an auger to make a hole in the ice to fish through. I can hear the echo of your laughter. It was one of your favourite stories.
Our March calls were filled with excited planning for our Easter visit. You looked forward to your great grandchildren searching all the nooks and crannies of your house, (the house you had grown up in), for the chocolate and candy left for them by the Easter Bunny, just like your grandchildren once had. You would always ask for a taste of something from their basket to teach them about sharing.
April calls were often filled with stories about dad because this was his birthday month. When dad was still with us we would plan our visits around his birthday, a date eventually made even more special when his great-grandson was born only one day before his. Don’t worry mom, we still think of dad when we celebrate our son’s birthday.
The month of May this year brought a heaviness to my heart. My first Mother’s Day without my mother. I missed you so.
June phone calls had once been filled with questions first about grandchildren’s report cards, then great-grandchildren’s report cards. Education was very important to you. We would also be making plans for celebrating your upcoming July birthday. Sometimes you knew all of the plans, sometimes we conspired to add little surprises. Your 97th birthday was your last, and you still seemed too young to leave us.
No excitement in anticipation of a visit to Barry’s Bay this summer, but a dreaded one. The visit we made was to see your memorial plaque at the hospital and to make sure the etchings on your headstone had been completed. There was something about seeing your ‘end date’ that took my breath away. At the same time, seeing the Jack-O-Lantern in the O of October made me smile, like you smiled when I threatened to put one there if you dared to leave this life on October 31st.
August brought a flood of memories of you on my long ago wedding day. I could see you hanging your rosary on the clothesline to keep the rain away and hear your reassurance that the sun would shine brightly, which it did, but not as bright as your smile when you saw me, your daughter, as a bride.
September calls would be filled with questions about first days of school. There were many extra calls for all the September birthdays and you never forgot any of them, or the other birthdays throughout the year. We would answer the phone and you would say, “oh it’s just me. Can I speak to the birthday girl (or boy)?”
October has been the hardest. This time last year we spent a little longer with you following our annual Thanksgiving visit as we impatiently awaited the birth of our sixth grandchild, your eighth great-grandchild. He arrived just nine days before you left us. You were very excited at the news of his birth, you loved seeing the pictures of him. About five days after he arrived, you suddenly became so ill. Those seven hours of driving to get to you felt like an eternity! I am so grateful for the hours we had together at the hospital before you left us. We held hands, I read to you, I told you stories about the grandchildren, I helped you eat what you could. I cared for you like you had cared for me all my life with you, with all my heart. I suggested you hang on until All Saints Day or All Souls Day and begged you not to leave us on Halloween. The Jack-O-lantern on your headstone shows how well you listened.
Two days ago we celebrated your great-grandson’s first birthday. Soon we will be marking the one year anniversary of the day you left us. When you adopted me, you taught me a mother’s love while freely giving yours to me, and through your example I was able to give my love to my children. I will be forever grateful for the gift of a mother’s love. I miss you mom, but you are forever in my heart.
Thank you for reading my blog today. If you still have parents: birth; adoptive; kinship; foster; in-laws, please give them two hugs, one from you and one from me. 🤗 🤗 email@example.com
Welcome back to Blogville, thanks for joining me today. As I write this blog I am sipping a ginger turmeric tea blend, a perfect autumn warmth.
I woke up this morning at my usual time and wondered if there was a storm outside. It was dull, more like early evening, when just days ago the morning sunlight found the careless cracks in the curtains and yelled at me that it was morning. I should have seen it coming when more and more leaves crunched under my feet after having put on their glorious bright wardrobe before they fell. Oh no, it looks like fall is here!
I am captivated by the fact that the magnificent and colourful display and subsequent falling of leaves from their tree branches is called abscission, so close to the word adoption.
It is true! According to my web search “When temperatures drop below freezing, the abscission layer hardens more rapidly, cutting off the leaf's connection to the tree.” (Jim Leser Cedaredge Tree Board 2019.) That quote somehow not only reminds me of children awaiting adoption, but it also reminds me of the treatment of birth mothers, especially in the 1950s and 1960s.
Like the colourful fall leaves on the trees, many birth mothers may have been once warmly admired and even envied by their community for who they were, maybe for their beauty, or their talents, perhaps even envying their bright futures. But when those same youthful girls or women found themselves unmarried and pregnant, the temperature dropped and often they began feeling a distinct separation from their community. Many found themselves abandoned by their own families, the birth fathers, and the birth fathers’ families; talk about a temperature drop. The once beautiful leaf admired by many, dropped to the ground to dry up, often to be walked on, and then suddenly disappearing from the lawn.
I am reminded of what the first frost does to the leaves when the abscission layer separates the leaf from the tree. Suddenly, like those leaves, the birth mother finds herself separated from her support system; the birth father, her friends, family, and community. These women, like fall leaves, are suddenly transitioned from the spectacular autumn colour show to an irritating pile of leaves needing to be removed from the lawn, or left untended to be buried under the coming snow. So, like the fall leaves, a birth mother is either removed from her community to a home for unwed mothers, perhaps even a far away relative, or she remains at home where she is buried by a thick layer of shame in her community. Coincidentally, birth mothers were often referred to as ‘fallen women’.
The truth is that each of us likely has an unwed birth mother in our family tree, though perhaps on a slightly less colourful branch. Perhaps on a branch hidden deep within the tree. In addition to the unfortunately typical reactions to unplanned pregnancies, such as families shipping birth mothers off, or communities shaming them, there were a couple of other options. For example, in the past, many couples who found themselves expecting an unplanned child were hurriedly married before the pregnancy became obvious; noting the many ‘premature’ births in those days. Somehow, if the birth mother married, her unexpected or unplanned pregnancy did not impact on her reputation, as if marriage removed the tarnish. It would appear that nuptials, entered into voluntarily or not, magically negated the community’s view of pre-marital sex.
If a quick wedding was not an option, many families created cover stories. A common cover story was where the actual birth mother became ‘sick’ or she was ‘needed at home’ and her own mother would then pretend to be expecting a child. This resulted in grandmothers raising their grandchildren as their own birth children, while the true birth mother was demoted to the role of sibling. Family birth records and government registries are filled with altered birth certificates and claims of premature births; which reminds me of those earlier mentioned layers of fallen leaves whose colour has faded and they have been buried by the heavy burden of snow.
I feel that the role of the birth father was kind of like the role of chlorophyll as it relates tree leaves. While dating the birth mother, the birth father expended a lot of positive energy, therefore creating a sweetness to the relationship. Like the change in seasons, an unexpected pregnancy often created a drop in temperature and reduced the ‘chlorophyll in the leaves’, so the relationship’s sweetness often started to break down. Finally, though there may not be any obvious signs that chlorophyll once played such an important role, it is clear to all what the leaves have been up to. A significant difference is that while the chlorophyll simply goes temporarily dormant, the brightly coloured leaf is completely removed from the tree.
It is important to note that many birth fathers were never made aware of the pregnancy, therefore not being given a chance to plan for their own infant. In many instances, society and the birth parents’ families often took over the decision making without offering options to, or considering the wishes of, the birth parents. To me, the difference is the unequal burden of responsibility on the birth mother as compared to the birth father, when both were equally involved in the conception. I would like to think that, if given the opportunity, many birth fathers and/or their families would have taken responsibility and raised those unexpected babies with love and acceptance.
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