Troy Media – by Barbara Webb
Every Mother’s Day I think about the previous year and how much influence my mother still has over me, even though she’s been gone now for 15 years. When it comes to strength, people usually think of my father because he fought in the Second World War, but I also think of mom. Her strength and determination lies between the lines of her entire life.
My mother was the strongest person I know. She lived a hard childhood in which education came at the end of a long list of priorities, which included raising her nine younger siblings, while her eight older siblings were put to work on the farm.
Living Little House on the Prairie
Her favourite TV show was Little House on the Prairiebecause, like Laura Ingalls, my mother spent nights doing her homework with a lit lantern concealed under her blankets. Had she been caught she would have endured the bad end of her father’s belt.
When times got really hard she had to leave the farm. Some say it was really because her stepmother was illiterate, hence jealous of my mother’s intellect. On her own, she got a job at the Hamilton Public Library – a prestigious position for a woman in her day – and rented a room from an older brother in Burlington, Ontario.
This was where she met my father who, at the time, lived around the corner.
She married my father, regardless of his divorced status – a disgracing label at the time. She stopped working for the library and committed to life as a housewife and mother.
I celebrate my mother because she saw to it that her five children would never have to live in adversity the way she did. I believe that she loved to see us happy by doing the normal, everyday things that encompassed a healthy lifestyle – the things that we usually take for granted.
My mother was organized. She canned her own preserves, made jam, relish, and bits and bites for Christmas. Every Sunday was for family, which usually meant a good roast for dinner, with mashed potatoes, gravy and a pie for dessert.
She knew that to settle our stomachs when we were sick required a quiet room for rest, with ginger ale and chicken noodle soup always on the menu. She knew just where to spread Vicks VapoRub on our chests to stay a cough and that a towel pinned to the inside of our pajamas would bring us extra comfort.
We were clothed to suit the weather and we played outside most of the time. After a good game of kick-the-can or ice-hockey on the rink in the back yard, my mother always made sure that refreshments of Kool-Aid or hot chocolate were available for us and our friends, whom she accepted as her own, even when we brought stray friends home to live with us over the years.
We had chores that included daily dish washing and sweeping the floor. Saturday mornings were dedicated to vacuuming and dusting. Other chores followed the seasons – picking up fallen apples from our trees, mowing our half-acre lawn, raking the leaves or shoveling the driveway. We were never paid an allowance – these were things that needed to be done and we accepted it that way, but the money was usually there to catch a movie with friends.
And there was music. My brother’s band, my piano lessons and my sister’s highland dance lessons are only a few examples of how we were always encouraged to be creative.
Everything she did for us is deeply woven into my life through memories like these. It’s easy to recognize what a determined woman she was, knowing now what it took to raise my own children. Her efforts, her wisdom, the sacrifices she made are much clearer to me now. As a mother I’ve faced my own commitments and choices. I still worry about my kids even though they’re grown up now. My mother made it seem so easy.
I was close to my mother. We all were in our own individual ways. We each have a redeeming quality that is, in essence, a part of her.
My eldest sister bakes – some cookies taste just like mom’s, yet others are distinctively hers.
My other older sister nurtures – she knows instinctively what to do to heal an ailing body and her door is always open to stray friends.
My younger sister is the ultimate hockey/soccer mom.
My brother is a musician and a well-respected businessman.
I am the librarian . . . so to speak. And I make an awesome gravy!
A powerhouse of strength
We have all raised our children and evidence of our mother is everywhere – in our voices when we say, “clean up your room!” on our faces when we look in the mirror.
None of us are truly prepared to be mothers. When it happens somehow instinct takes over and the strength within us gets us through daily life, while enduring adversities and creating withstanding memories for our children to carry forward, like my mother did.
One day a long time ago she said to me, ‘When we become mothers we become mothers for eternity.” I still see her little 5’0” frame, a powerhouse of strength that feeds my heart every day.