My mother was raised on a farm. She lost her home in a fire at 5, then her father a year later. At 18, she married my Dad, they bought a duplex, spent all their time skiing and saved no money for 2 years.
When you’re a twenty-something, money is no object. There are places to go, foods to try.
They had 8 years together before they adopted my sister Meghan, then my sister, Tirzah, then me, then my sister, Michelle. A brood of women you might call us.
Childhood was painting at the kitchen table while she did the dishes. The drawer of burnt keepsakes from the home she lost, the wooden chest at the end of the bed with her wedding dress and our baby clothes. It was the giant bin of Polly pockets, using her round marble cheese board for our Barbie’s skating rink. It was basketball in the driveway, when rules were whatever you felt like that day and your greatest accomplishment was getting the ball in the hoop when you were faced backward.
It was trips to the farm where she grew up, a table full of hot, fresh homemade buns and the 4 boxes of smores poptarts in the pantry. (The poptarts are always restocked, as of yesterday, I checked.)
It was bike rides around the block.
“Helmets, knee pads.”
“But, I don’t like the way it looks”
Those horrendous colonial frilly dresses I was forced to wear on picture day.
“I don’t like the way it looks”
She was thorough. Words were final.
Calcium pills were the answer to mood swings. Cuddles in the rocking chair were answers to tears and sometimes frustrations. When we would rock in the chair, cuddled up under the floral embroidered afghan, she would sing. We all remember the songs.
She was unfair at times, she had that little bit of crazy that would keep you in line, she was tough and soft and warm and kind but always helpful.
To this day she rarely says no when help is needed. Babysitting is a hobby for her and her many grandchildren.
I married Matt at 22. We bought a duplex. We save no money. There are places to go, there is pizza to eat. Duchess bakeshop is a tempting Saturday afternoon 20 minute drive away.
We had 9 months together before Valentine’s Day, then Jack.
I never pictured myself as a mother. Children and I never really got along. But, Jack is different. Well no, he’s mine.
He’s all the things I used to dislike about other people’s children, moody, irrational, unkind, loud, sassy.
He’s all the things that kept me from wanting one of my own, but none of that bothers me like I thought it would. In fact, sometimes I sort of like his stoutheartedness.
“You’ve got spirit, kid.” We say.
Like his mother, he knows what he wants.
Like his father, loud.
It really is a thing of magic, being a mother. You get all of the things you’re warned of, you’re stripped of spontaneity, freedom, showers, the last piece of your own birthday cake and somehow, it doesn’t matter. Somehow, it’s better than freedom.
Vitamin D is the answer to mood swings. Cuddling in the rocking chair is the answer to tears and frustration. I sing the song that my mother sang to me. He yells when I do. Singing is my thing, so I carry on hoping that one day he’ll like it, or at least accept it.
He will wear the helmet and the knee pads. Luckily for him, frilly dresses have never been my thing. So he’s safe on picture day.
He will see my crazy. He will feel like he hates me when really, he’s just mad at the word no. He will remember my mistakes but I hope that his memories are filled with painting in the kitchen, trips to the river valley, bare feet in the sand, basketball in the driveway and hugs in the rocking chair.
I hope those things can make up for the shortcomings. Because, Oh, those are inevitable. The fights and tears and saying things we shouldn’t. Using the “because I said so” card. I know those will be a part of the memories, but I hope the warmer memories can upstage the bitter ones.
The role of mother is a balancing act from day one. We’re trading our wants for their needs. Then trading their needs for our wants. It’s a thing of practice. It’s a thing of sacrifice. It’s hard, especially when you’re used to that last piece of birthday cake.
So, remember us for the good we did. Remember us for the warmth we created. For paint, and basketball and rocking chair hugs.
Go easy on us.
Sometimes, when there were too many battles, too many tears, I call my mother to whine. Whining to my mother has always been a favourite pastime of mine.
She listens, then asks
“Have you taken a calcium pill today?”