Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother’s Day

My earliest memory of my mother is her holding me. There was safety and warmth and love. When the world was too much and I was too small I could come to her and be with her and talk to her. My brother was older and he and my father were often fixing cars and building things, big and dangerous things. So I would be with my mother. We'd hang out together.

She taught me to cook and garden and sew. I was a cub scout and she helped me get all those achievement badges. I remember her teaching me to pray too. Kneeling with me beside my bed. Showing me how to hold my hands. Teaching me my first prayer. Telling me Jesus loves me. She took me to church. Dad and my brother came along but church was her special place.

I remember when my aunt her sister came to Winnipeg from Toronto the two sisters would laugh and laugh. She'd poke fun at Dad and he'd blush. My grandmother lived with us when we were small. She was gnarled with arthritis and liked to sit in the sun. We'd take trips to the glassed in tropical garden in the winter when the snow lay all over the prairies in great blankets and the sky was clear and blue for miles. Mom loved to garden and in spring would be with her plants. Dad was fixing his machines and repairing the house but Mom was in the garden any time she could get.

She liked bird feeders too and fed the birds which came from all over to eat the grain. That brought the squirrels and the cats and dad and Ron, my brother, had to devise all manner of protective contraptions so the birds could be fed safely without the cats getting them or the squirrels stealing all the seed.

When I was little she took me to school. It was such a frightening place. I was glad my brother had been there before me and in time I could go alone. I made friends and Mom was friends of the mothers of my friends. I liked the birthday parties she held for me. She was the one who remembered all the occasions. Christmas wouldn't have happened without her.

Dad liked to fish and first we camped in tents with mom cooking breakfast on a campstove by the lake. As we grew the tents got bigger and more elaborate. She especially liked the big one with the screened in front where we could all sit at a table. We boys would be out fishing and swimming and chopping wood and she'd been at the table inside the netting reading or cooking. She'd always have errands for me to do so I learned never to tell her I was bored. From a very young age I learned that being down or bored meant I wasn't doing enough for others so she always had chores for us to do and things that needed cleaning. She'd suggest things too. Like sending me out bicycling to see if there were shrimp in the country ditches. When I told her I didn't know what to do on a Saturday she'd often tell me that my friends Garth and Kirkie probably wanted to play with me so I should go over and see if they didn't know what to do either.

We were all afraid together during the nuclear war crisis. She and dad would drink tea and listen to the radio. Later they'd watch tv. When we were older she gave my brother and me a little dash of tea with lots of milk and sugar. She had a sweet tooth and liked to make pies. Her rhubarb pie was the best.

When I was older she taught me to type. She liked that I told stories and wrote long letters to my aunt. When I wanted to join the YMCA she and dad paid for that. There wasn't a lot of money in our home. There certainly wasn't any waste. I wore some of my brothers hand me down clothes but so did my friend Kirk and we got their baseball gloves too. But we got a lot of our own stuff.

I remember she walked my brother and I at night to the Fort Garry Community Club and stood outside when it was 40 below zero. Often there was only the two hockey teams, the coaches and Boris Tyzek's father and my mother cheering. Boris Tyzek went on to be a Rhodes Scholar. Neither of us ended up as hockey players. I think our parents knew hockey for us kids was about a whole lot more. My brother still plays soccer with his kids and they're all grown men.

Dad took us hunting when we got older. Mom was part of the game and fish clubs where we'd all get together for shared feasts of wild game. She'd wait for me to finish target practicing at the rifle range. Those were good times. Like the church dinner's in the basement and the church picnics. We all especially loved the Harvest feast the small towns put on in the country. We'd drive out as a family and us kids would eat all we could of the fresh potatoes, hams and turkeys. It was a good time. The sunsetting in yellows and oranges outside while we were stuffing ourselves and hardly able to walk after all that wholesome food.

I remember the freezer with one year the moose, another the deer, and always a quarter of beef that Dad brought in from the country. Sometimes Mom and Dad would butcher the game right there on the kitchen table. Usually I'd have to pluck the ducks and when I complained Mom would help me finish.

Grandad had a ranch up north and sometimes he and my father's brothers would come to town. The little red brick house we lived in on North Drive in Fort Garry would suddenly be filled with all these big cowboys. My uncle even played country and western songs on guitar late at night. They all liked Hank Williams. My brother and I would go to bed and stay up late listening to the men talk. My mother was everyone's favourite. When we went up north and joined all the wives and the other children with grand ma and all the cows and horses and dogs and chickens Mom was treated like the lady she was.

The women were funny that way. When my Aunt Sally came from Toronto, in Winnipeg the women would all gush about her clothing and when my mother went to Swan River the same thing would happen with the Swan River women and my mothers Winnipeg clothing. Sometimes one of my nieces or cousins would come to stay with us and Mom would go shopping with them for new clothes and they'd all be so happy.

Personally I wasn't that particularly excited about clothes as a kid and hated getting new pyjamas on my birthday or for Christmas. I much preferred toys. Mom always seemed to know what I wanted and told Santa or the tooth fairy.

When I had the troubles at school with the teachers hitting me Mom went to the school and told them it wasn't right. Mom and Dad were already pretty stiff with discipline freely hitting us kids if we got into any trouble. I think she may have even liked it but didn't think other people should have the pleasure of punishing us kids if they weren't paying for our food and clothing. She'd say this is going to hurt me more than it hurts you but it never seemed like that.

I loved coming home from school and eating lunch with her. I especially loved her grilled cheese sandwiches.

Later in high school Dad and I got into a lot of arguments. He was in the RCAF during the war and didn't like my Beetles hair cut or my Bob Dylan records. He liked Gordon Lightfoot but a lot of the time Mom had to get between us. Ron was a better kid and we were fighting too. Mom got me my guitar and Dad tolerated it because his older cousin played guitar. He just didn't like the music of the day. His favourite song he'd sing to mom when we would go on a road trip to either the Pacific or Atlantic Ocean was "give me a home where the buffalo roam."

Mom loved dad. That was a no brainer. When I complained he wasn't home. She'd say. "Your father is working so that you can go to school and have skates and hockey sticks. Don't you ever criticize your father. He's a good man and I love him."

She loved her sons too. Ron and I knew that more than anything else.

Oh well, I remember Mom . I could go on but the tears make typing kind of sketchy.

Happy mother's day to all you moms.

1 comment:

Aim said...

You make me tear up, too