My two girls have two extraordinary women in their lives named Nana and Ammy. Two very involved women who always come prepared with Smarties, who can magically brush dreadlocks out of tangled hair, who let my big kid eat from the plate of her choosing, who let her watch just one more show, who sew the holes in worn-out pants and who cuddle to sleep.
I in turn, have a very involved mother who hits up my phone daily with the day’s weather, who reminds me to send a loonie when it’s popcorn day at my kid’s school, who reiterates every autumn that tires have no traction when the thermometer reads 4degrees Celsius or below, and who fills my freezer with breaded goods from the clearance rack at the Superstore.
The blessing in having kids young is that your kids end up having young and involved grandparents.
It’s only this week that I realize that in her early 60s, she has already outlived her own parents by nearly a decade.
My mom talks to me and knows what the kids are up to nearly every day. She, on the other hand, held her last conversation with her own mother when she was just 13.
The year was 1969, and my grandmother, Evaline, had likely been sick a couple of years, but because her husband’s kidneys were failing and there was a barn to be built, she kept quiet and didn’t complain.
Evaline, who wrote in a journal every single day of the weather and daily happenings of their rural homestead atop a hill in rural Mount Thom, had better things to do than be sick. She had a farm to run, a son and daughter still at home to raise, and supper to scrape together each night.
There was no time, at just 52 years of age, for Evaline to be dying of cancer. Until she did.
Her husband would soon follow. My mom found herself hiding away in the closet of his bedroom in a senior citizens’ home at night to sleep beside her dying dad, while attending high school through the day. He too, would pass at 52 years of age.
Orphaned, mom became legally adopted by her middle sister.
These stories are all, of course, second hand to me but my major takeaway tale of my mom’s upbringing is that they ‘made do’, which is exactly what she went on do, without her parent’s guidance.
In the following years she finished a three-year arts degree in two, because that’s what she could afford. She then completed her education degree, meanwhile pretending to be a student nurse so she could live in the university residence. In and around this time, she would drive back to Pictou County on the weekends in her vehicle, Millie the Maverick, and it was here that she met and started dating my dad at the Highlander Tavern in New Glasgow.
Mom went on to have a plethora of jobs, the first of which she tackled at the age of 20 as a substitute teacher at West Pictou for a grade 9 class that hosted a student who was 23 years old and had a son. She would, alongside subbing, attend Amherst’s school for the deaf to become a driver’s education teacher on the side for additional income. She also experimented in advertising for her brother-in-law, would sell wooden carvings at the mall, fly in helicopters through her work for a pulp mill, teach forest education, do some Public Relations work and then join the corporate world in the city. The timeline on all these things gets a bit messy, but oh, in the middle of that at some point she got pregnant and gave birth to me.
My mom was our breadwinner. All my life, she wore business suits and ate on the road. I considered her a workaholic, and only saw her on weekends. But she called me every single morning and every single night as a child to ask me about my day, no matter which part of the country her job had taken her to. When she was home on weekends, before she and dad split, she and I would share my bottom bunk and she’d rub my hand to sleep.
Mom is the very first person to spot a deer on the side of the highway or an eagle in the sky. And she knows every damn tree in the forest and the best places to screech to a hault on the side of the road and trek into the ditch in high heels in search of Mayflowers.
My mom is a crappy cook and doesn’t sleep. She doesn’t wear appropriate clothing for cold weather and has an unhealthy appetite for free or bargain goods.
But she is here and she is present for us every single day.
My mom is always there to help me out of a laundry rut, and has a knack for getting the mould out of the bottom of a sippy cup.
If I called her right now, now being 2am on a Saturday morning, she would answer after one or two rings. She’d be utterly panic stricken, with her heart in her throat, but she would answer.
And despite all her life experience and worldliness, she wouldn’t try to “fix” my problem. She’d fix me just by being there to hear me.
Mom and I have had our differences over the years, as every mother and daughter do. I definitely had that bitch phase where I talked back, rolled my eyes, and made her feel generally shitty.
But I’ve learned more about my mom since I’ve had kids than in all the years before them. Even though we raise kids differently, I still look to her to be my sounding board for shitty sleeps, for help bringing the kids to appointments, and, lets be real, for babysitting.
I rely on her because motherhood can be a lonesome ride only a mom can understand.
And I cannot believe for the life of me that she didn’t have that infuence. She had other women to look up to, sure, but she didn’t have a mother when she was figuring out how to become one.
Every day I look into my backyard and watch the cows standing alongside her run-down 70s camper, the Taurus 2000, set at the base of our pasture. It was set up there when we first moved two years ago so she could sleep over and help us out in the summers with Wren. But now, in the middle of the winter, set in the midst of melting snow and cow shit, it is an absolute eyesore.
But you know, looking out my window each day toward that camper is a daily reminder of what my mom is for me: there when we need her.
So I didn’t know my grandmothers growing up like my kids do, but I know my mom.
Headstrong and resilient. Loyal. Coming from a long line of willful. Can be overly involved and sometimes more than a little insane.
But I still need my mom. And I’m not afraid to say that I do, even though I’m a grown ass woman. Truthfully, I wouldn’t know how to be one without one.
So yes, I’ll drive home safe, mom, and I’ll watch for the second deer that you tell me always follows the first. I’ll continue to heed your advice, or at least promise to listen to it.
Because you’re there.
More on where she, and I, come from with further reflection on my grandparents next week.