This one is for Mariah (also known as Eileen) Happy Mothers Day!
I won the Mother lottery 61 years ago when Eileen G (Boyle) Wilson became my Mother. And it was a lifetime win. The proceeds of this lottery have never run out; they keep on coming, even now, and even though my Mother has recently celebrated her 88th Birthday.
After I was diagnosed with cancer, my Mother flew to Calgary, and stayed for three weeks to help us pre and post surgery. The day she arrived she accompanied me to my MRI, and while she was here she attended to the laundry, the ironing, the innumerable bed changes as people came and went, and the entertainment of the patient (me) through stories, little treats and TLC. She even arrived with a beautiful handmade quilt that she had made for me to keep both body and soul warm. And she worked hard at remaining hopeful and realistic during this difficult time.
Her kindness and laughter reminded me of an incident 51 years earlier when she was just as attentive, on a Friday night, when my new friend Peggy Jane stayed overnight. It was June and it was strawberry season. It was also the season when I was finishing up Grade five and Peggy Jane Grade six. We both wanted nothing more than to go to boarding school in Switzerland. (this is what can come from being a voracious reader)
It was around midnight, and the two of us were in my four poster spindle bed laughing and talking about the schools we would choose, the books we loved, the diplomatic and literary careers we would have and enjoying the kinship that two young enthusiastic girls can have.
All of a sudden my Mother’s footsteps were on the stairs and Peggy Jane looked at me, concerned, assuming my Mother would be angry that we were still talking and laughing after midnight. To her surprise, my Mother knocked on the door, opened it, and presented us with a beautiful white wooden tray laden with sandwiches made from homemade bread and freshly picked and mashed strawberries. There was a rose in a crystal rose bowl on the tray, linen napkins and a glass of milk each. “I thought you girls might be getting hungry,” she announced and to my friend’s amazement, she placed the bed tray between us and went back downstairs.
Years later when I met my friend after she had become a national librarian, travelled far and wide and had an ideal life in everyway, she reminded me about that night and told me that it had become one of her most treasured memories.
In April of this year, many years after the strawberry incident, and four days after Mother’s 88th Birthday, she returned to Calgary from Vancouver Island for another stint of helping me. She brought my favourite chocolates, two beautiful pieces of cranberry glass that I had admired, more gifts from my “sisters,” and besides that she allowed me to beat her at cribbage for the few days we had before my second round of chemotherapy.
My Mother is amazing! Although she has many accomplishments worthy of a book of stories, such as learning to swim at 75, her secret envelopes, coasting on a sled solo down a snow covered hill at Christmas this year, her raison d’être is her role of Mother, Grandmother and Great Grandmother.
I need to explain “sisters,” mentioned above, so those who know me won’t think this is a typographical error. Mother has two biological daughters and she also has a daughter of the heart. Her name is Sheila, the one who makes the folded paper cranes. Up until eight years ago I had one sister Gabriole who is aptly named since she is truly an angel. In 2001 Mother, Sheila and I began swimming three times a week at 6:15 in the morning and overtime Sheila (even though she is bossy) wormed her way into Mother’s heart and became her adopted daughter. In fact I think Sheila is now the favourite and I can understand why.
Sheila and her husband Jim spoil Mother. Before we moved to Calgary they spoiled her and since Gottfried and I have left Vancouver Island they have both been more than amazing. They make dinners, play scrabble, host celebrations such as her 88th Birthday, remember every occasion and continue the swim club that we started in 2001. I can’t think of Mother and Mother’s day and not think of Sheila and Jim. One of the reasons I bring this up is because I like to take credit for introducing Sheila to Mother but since it is Mother’s day, I need to give credit where credit is due. I think it may be Mother herself who endeared herself to Sheila.
Sheila and I would be laughing and talking as we swam laps in the pool and Sheila would always remind me that we would have no excuse for not getting up in the morning to go swimming since Mother, who was and is in her 80’s is always faithfully waiting by the door Monday, Wednesday and Friday. In fact this year at Christmas Sheila declared Mother a national treasure. (now why didn’t I think of that)
I have had some amazing teachers in my life, but my Mother was the first and has had the most lasting impact. To sum up what I have learned from her and what helps me now is as follows: keep an open mind, be accepting and kind to others, value the differences, no complaining about petty likes and dislikes, no gossiping, notice the small things, be hospitable, cultivate a sense of humour, treasure your relatives and friends, keep on learning, cultivate a generous spirit, say thanks, realize that we all make mistakes but keep on keeping on, and know what you can do something about and what you can’t.
Mother’s favourite name is Mariah and it is the name she would have chosen for herself if she had had any say in the matter. She follows in the lineage of her Grandmother Mariah, her Mother- my Nana, and now it continues with all of the children, assorted cousins, nieces, nephews, and grandchildren that have inherited aspects of these wonderful, creative, kind and down to earth women. (welcome to Micah the latest in the line)
The best I can do is say thanks. Thanks for giving me life, sweet Mother, which has allowed me to have children and grandchildren that bring me nothing but joy. Thanks for my sister Gabriole and your adopted daughter Sheila and all of my cousins. Thanks for giving me the love and skills I need to live my life. Thanks for your good head and good heart that have carried me over many hurdles. Thanks for your strength, and perseverance and the dozens of angel food cakes, the hundreds of your famous cheesies, and your willingness to always say YES. I love you. We all do.