Welcome back to Blogville my friend. Today’s tea is a relaxing rose petal raspberry as the frenzied activity begins to abate a little. I am hoping, as promised, this blend of tea will help to calm and soothe me while I write this blog.
I’m sitting here, just thinking, which is never a good thing for me because my mind wanders everywhere, like a plane flown by a student pilot looking for a safe place to land. Suddenly I landed on the idea of what I would do if I had one more day with mom? Imagine? Just one more day. I wondered how I would spend those precious hours with mom.
I thought about the discussions we had of late about adoption. Would I have any ‘last questions’ about that? No, I don’t think I would. I think she and I worked through that in the last few months. You have no idea how grateful I am that once my fear of asking her questions disappeared I was able to learn so much about my adoption from mom’s perspective instead of just my own. Before we had these chats I realize how little I actually knew about her, not just as my mother, but as a person. I had never really spent any time trying to understand what her life, hopes, and dreams were like until we started talking woman to woman, instead of parent to child. It turns out that mom was a pretty fascinating person who had survived some interesting life experiences. If I had one more day, I tell her this, and I would thank her for sharing ‘our’ adoption experience with me.
I believe that, like most children, I had never really spent any time thinking of my parents as a couple. When I was cleaning out her home I found a photograph of my mom and dad in an embrace, kissing in a doorway, hamming it up for the photographer. It made me reflect on them as a young couple, meeting, marrying, and planning to start a family. On the promise of steady work and a better life, they had followed the railway and moved from Barry’s Bay to Cochrane, Ontario where my dad’s sister had already settled and was raising her family. My dad enjoyed a long career with the Ontario Northland Railway (ONR) until his retirement when he was around 55 years old. I reflected about their excitement and nervousness as mom and dad started their new Northern Ontario adventure. I remember the wistfulness on my mother’s face when she talked about her and dad deciding to start a family. I remember mom talking about my tiny lost siblings and the heartbreak of those miscarriages. I always known about it, but honestly never really thought much about it. I was a kid after all. I remember wondering, as a young teen, what would have become of me if my parents had been able to give birth to children. But, I never thought about the impact on my mother, and on my parents as a couple, of having those miscarriages. If I had one more day, I would tell mom I was sorry she had to experience all of that, especially while living so far away from her mom.
Mom would sometimes talk about her early life, living with her parents and younger siblings. She reminisced about being the one to rock her youngest brother in his cradle while her mother did all the other things a wife and mother of five young children had to get done in a day. In addition to her family, my granny cared for a garden, some animals, and a two storey, wood heated home, all without running water or plumbing. When she was young, my mother had significant spinal issues and missed a lot of school, making her more of a help around the home than she would have liked. Mom talked about growing their own food, canning and preserving, as well as raising chickens, pigs, and turkeys for . . . well, you know what for. In fact, as I was looking through papers related to selling the house I saw that the property had historically been zoned,’residential-farm’. If I had one more day, I would pay better attention when mom talked about “in them days”.
When one of my uncles came for a final walk around of his childhood home before its sale I gifted him some pictures that I had found. He was genuinely thrilled to receive them and he quickly flipped though the photos while identifying aunt after uncle after great aunts and uncles. It turns out that it was I who actually received the gift as my uncle walked me through picture after picture on a journey of his and my mother’s childhood. He showed me a photo of the property when it was more of a small farm than I had ever truly realized. I would have had no idea that was a photo of the property I had up for sale to be honest. Unknowingly, my uncle gave me a whole new lens on their childhood. I had grown up with some of the stories but the visual brought home what life had really been like. If I had one more day, I would look through those pictures with mom.
When I was a kid my mom used to bake buns that my brother and I could have used as hockey pucks. My father would tease her constantly about that. My mom was a great cook and baker, but could never bake buns or bread. Her excuse was that she had had eczema when she was young and her mother would not let her touch the dough to help knead it. She also said her eczema got her out of washing dishes, much to my aunt’s dismay. But I digress. When my parents retired (early, due to my dad’s health) they moved back to Barry’s Bay where my maternal grandmother was still living. They moved into my paternal grandmother’s house that then belonged to some of dad’s relatives. There were only about three blocks between the two homes. Personally, I believe my mother secretly got lessons from my granny because suddenly mom became the best bun baker in Barry’s Bay. Her buns quickly became legendary and were sought after by many of my relatives and my parents’ friends. Mom’s buns were now happily eaten by hockey players instead of using them as pucks! When my mother was basking in her bun fame I was busy raising my own young family and so, when I would visit, I simply enjoyed eating them more than learning how to bake those buns. If I had one more day, I would ask her to show me her secret to kneading that dough.
My mother was a patient teacher when it came to cards. She would teach you the game rules, and then walk you through all the tricks and how to best play your hand in an effort to win the game. However, once you learned the game, such as euchre or cribbage, she was merciless. I think I have mentioned before that we bought mom an iPad for her 90th birthday and when she began playing cribbage on that, sadly she lost her ability to count as the virtual game counts for you. So, instead of playing cribbage, a dear friend taught mom a card game called Golf that she came to love (almost as much as cribbage). She picked up that game in no time and, though her memory was failing, she never forgot what card she needed in order to win, or more importantly, what card she needed to keep to prevent you from winning! She might not have known who she was playing the game with but she’d be damned before she would let you win a game! If I had one more day, I’d happily lose another card game to mom.
Those of you who knew her are aware of what a great seamstress mom was and the wonderful projects she would knit or crochet, she could even tat! Some of you might need to look up what tatting is, and it is an art form that may be lost in the next generation in this country, or may have already been lost. People would come to mom to have pants and skirts hemmed, zippers replaced, and all kinds of alterations made, well into her late 60s. My mother could even darn socks, whichu means to fix a hole in socks to make them last longer, essentially you are sewing over the original knitting to mend the sock and get more wear out of it. When people would shockingly realize that I do none of those things, sew, crochet, knit, and for sure, tat, I had something I would always say by way of explanation. I would flippantly say, “Mom was a very talented seamstress, knitter, etc. but she was not a great teacher. She would lose her patience with me and just take over the project.” Suddenly I realize that instead of expecting mom to be a more patient teacher, if I had one more day, I would be a more patient student.
I knew and will remember my mother as my mom, my model, and my teacher, with all her flaws and strengths, and her undying love for me. If I had one more day, though that would still not be long enough, I would pay closer attention so I could better get to know the woman that other people knew and learn more about my mother as the sister, aunt, cousin, colleague, and friend that people described to me at her wake, at the lunch after her funeral, in their beautiful cards, or in conversations since she left us. My mother made a difference in her time here. This was even more evident as people talked about, or wrote about, mom’s kindness, her generosity, her gratefulness, and of course, her smile. If only I had one more day.
As ever, I would love for you to share your comments. If you prefer a less public forum to do so please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. See you next time, thanks for reading.