Sunday, April 15, 2012


One of the things I did this week was immerse myself in my Mom.  With the renovation, for the past several months, I have not had time for immersion or reflection.  It is not that I have not thought of her.  I have.  Many times, I have wished that she could be here to discuss the plans for our new kitchen.  But I have systematically pushed aside lingering thoughts of her, in favour of weighty decisions like what colour grout should we use on the back splash.

I am fortunate that I have her words to immerse myself in.  She wrote her life story in the last ten years of her life.  She included the story of her grandparents and how they left the turmoil of the Soviet Union in the last 1920's. She wrote of her childhood and early adulthood. Her courtship with my father and the story of our family.  It was all there in black and white. With her editorializations, remarks and perspective. 

She also transcribed twenty-five years of letters that she had written to her parents-in-law.  My grandmother saved them and presented them to Mom and Dad in the eighties. My parents moved away from Winnipeg in 1960 and never again lived in the same city as their parents.

What an absolute treasure.  I loved reading the telling of our lives contemporaneously.  It was lovely to read of the events as they occurred.  The weddings of many of my aunts and uncles. The arrival of many cousins.  Holidays plans and Christmas trips. 

But what I apprehended, in perhaps a new way, was how very busy my Mom was in sixties and seventies.  Not only did she run the business of family, often on a tight budget, but my Dad travelled at times and for two years was in school full time.  She was often the only one there at bath time, bed time and homework time.

Now that I am in the midst of my own chaotic family business, I realize with fresh eyes how hard it must have been, living apart from grandparents and driving to swimming lesson and Cubs and hockey practice.

And my Mom did two things that I have not had to deal with.

She wrote letters. Lots of them. To her parents and sister. And to my Dad's parents and siblings.  In the days of  tight budgets and expensive long distance calls, it was the only way to stay close to extended family.  She was frequently apologizing for letting so much time pass between letters. 

And she sewed. Her herself, her kids and the house. Especially in the early years, she was constantly talking of what she had sewn, her next project and even sewing class.  I don't know how she found time.

I know how grateful she was to God for significant and small miracles in her life.  And for the life she had and the good health enjoyed by all around her. 

After my Mom died, I felt cheated. My Mom only lived to 78. And I was only 49, far too young to be losing a parent (at least in our family).  Even my Mom had her parents alive for much, much longer.  And then I did the math. I was 49 and 2 months when Mom died.  She was  49 and 5 months, also months away from turning 50.  Don't ask me why, but I find this comforting.

Here is my Mom on her 50th birthday. I imagine we would have all gone out for a family dinner to celebrate on the weekend. But her actual birthday was in the middle of the week.  I arranged a mini party with birthday hats and noise makers and danish in lieu of a cake.   I love this picture.  I remember that my Mom was pleased with my efforts.
You know what else I love about this picture?    You see the pile of stuff on the counter beside her?  She was human. I  see a cheque book, a paper bag, some mail, Saran wrap and a plant of questionable health.  In later years (i.e. after the children left the nest) my parents' home has been immaculate.  I had forgotten that in the busy years, perhaps it wasn't always so.

And I find that comforting too.


Daniel said...

very nice sentiment Heather. am jealous! my Dad never did write his memoires and he had so much to write about. he just sort of drifted away over the yrs since Mum died. oh well. still getting used to the idea.

Beth said...

heather, it's beautiful getting to know your mom better through you ... and your writing is so honest ... i was 31 when my dad died and i understand that feeling of being "cheated" ... and yet i always try to remind myself how fortunate i was to have the dad i did ... even if not for long enough ... keep writing ... and hope you are loving your new kitchen ... even if there are piles on the counter ...