My influence. My inspiration. My Mother.
My mother was born on November 20 1955 in Whitehorse, Yukon Territories. Her parents met in Summerside, PEI, in the late 1940’s as members of the Royal Canadian Air Force. He was a pilot and she was a radar technician. The Commanding Officer disapproved, and transferred her father across the country to Whitehorse to prevent the marriage. Her mother demanded a transfer to follow him, and when denied, she quit the RCAF. Eventually she was given an honourable discharge, and moved to Whitehorse.
Her family didn’t approve of the marriage either, and no family members attended the wedding.
Over the next 10 years, her mother had three children, three miscarriages and one stillbirth. The baby cried once, and then died. He is buried , has a tombstone, but not given a name.
Her father continually refused to conform to Air Force life, and after many sanctions and opportunities to turn himself around, was asked to either take an honourable discharge because of a non-existent eye condition, or face a dishonourable discharge. He chose the former, and, not being able to hold a job in any community for long, the family began moving from town to town, escaping unemployment and bill collectors.
When my mother was 10, her mother and the three kids packed some clothes and toys to visit grandparents in on the BC coast. They never went back up north, moving into the family farm. Her father was not allowed to follow. The children had no idea why they didn’t return, as her mother made sure that they were sheltered from both the abuse and the alcohol. It wasn’t until much later that my mother found out the reason for the move. She is thankful for both the ignorance and the move. He was gone for 10 years before her mother allowed him back into the family home.
The farm was a huge playground – 10 acres of apple orchards and cow patties. They lived in the farmhouse for a few years and eventually settled into a small house of their own.
At the farm, my mother and aunt shared a room in the attic where they could look at the stars through the holes in the roof. The door to their upstairs room was closed during the day in order to save on heat. The only heat source was a pot belly oil stove in the living room. The cooking stove was in the kitchen and the kids were responsible for lighting it in the morning. In the dark, they had to get the bucket, go to the shed, get the oil, slop it back to the stove, light the stove, and cook the porridge. Every morning. Her Grandmother would then make eggs and bacon and toast. Every morning.
Every Sunday, there was a big family dinner at the darm. One Sunday morning, her Grandfather took the children to the chicken coop to get dinner. He laid down the chopping block, put the chickens on it, and chopped their heads off right in front of them. The chickens screamed, the kids screamed, the heads went one way, the rest of the chickens ran the other way, and the blood fountained everywhere! That evening, three dinners remained untouched.
My mother remembers visiting family in Shaunessey. She remembers tea parties, terrorizing the maids, running up the servant stairs and sliding down the banister of the grand entrance staircase. My mother’s great aunts would refuse to discipline them, saying “kids will be kids.” Needless to say, times were carefree on those visits, and a holiday from their impoverished home life.
One year after their ‘trip’ to Richmond, her father was allowed back in the home. He always had trouble conforming to rules and his job record showed it. He slipped back into old habits – drink, play golf, and abuse. A few years later, without any warning for the children, he left. This was a period of relief and stability for my mother and her siblings, as they knew they would be coming home to a stable atmosphere, one without a drunk father passed out on the couch, or begging them for babysitting money to buy another bottle of rum.
Throughout my mother’s childhood, strong emphasis was put on family, and she believes that her mother’s and grandmother’s focus on family, acceptance and unconditional love got them through what could have been a bond-destroying upbringing. Two generations later, even though she is no longer on this earth, her mother’s sense of family is as strong as ever.
Mom met her future husband, when females were finally allowed to be in Boy Scouts. They were in different groups, but the two groups did a lot of camping, hiking and other outdoor activities together. She knew right away, and he proposed four years later, at his house, to Anne Murray playing on the tape deck.
Despite his family’s opposition to the union, my parents were married on April 3, 1982 at the Minrou Chapel in Richmond, which, not incidentally, is located on old family land. Five months later, they relocated to Alberta for my father to finish his Forestry degree. He went ahead with the furniture to find a place to live, and mom followed a few weeks later. Knowing this was going to be a permanent move away from the coast, my mom cried the entire trip.
In 1982, a daughter was born, and spent the first three weeks of life in an incubator with complications of a premature birth. She did make it home, however, in time for Christmas. 16 months later, a son arrived to complete her family.
After her husband graduated from the University , the family moved to Northern BC, where jobs were more plentiful and Mom had the suppport of her mother and father. Even though she had completed schooling as a Recreational Therapist, she made the decision to be a stay-at-home-mom.
Life in northern BC, like anywhere, had its ups and downs. Dad found a job with the Government of BC in the Forestry division, but every time the division was faced with cutbacks, he was affected – never actually losing his job, but any salary increase that he worked for was taken away. The family didn’t have much money, but Mom made sure that every birthday was celebrated with a theme party, and any extracurricular activity that we wanted to do, we could do.
Mom was an amazing sport with her children. She sewed costumes, including ninja turtles and one eyed, one horned flying purple people eaters, for entire classes of gymnasts or figure skaters. Whenever a teacher requested anything – driving, baking, a supervisor – her kids would volunteer her. She never complained, but I’m sure she grew to dread five simple words: My mom can do it!
One morning, at 4:30, my brother snuck into her bedroom and woke her up. “Mom, I forgot to tell you, but I said that you would sew a Santa suit for my class this morning.” This was one of the very rare times that she said no.
In 1990, Dad received a Government transfer to the interior of BC. Both kids joined the Minor Hockey Association almost right away, and that started an eight-year family love affair with ice rinks and smelly gear. Mom played hockey when she was a teenager, and didn’t waste much time before becoming a coach. It was a boy’s league (there wasn’t a women’s league at that time), and, even though it took some time, she grew to be respected in a male-dominant sport, in a male dominant town.
Both Mom and Dadwere extremely active in the community as members of the Lions and Lioness Club. Between the two of them, there were meetings once a week, hot dog sales once a month, and each May a Mother’s Day pancake breakfast and Flea Market.
As her kids were getting older, Mom finally found time to look after herself again. She quit smoking, lost weight, and went back to school, taking a one-year program in business administration. Upon graduation she was hired by local forestry company, and I had never seen her so happy.
The day her mother passed away is my mother’s saddest day. It was in the spring of 2001 years, and she still grieves every day. She remembers her mother as the strongest person that she knew, as the glue that held the family together, as a hero. I’m glad she can remember her this way.
Mom and Dad moved to Surrey in September 2009, just a ten-minute drive away. They’ve moved into a very social and active complex, and, always the organizer, Terry quickly got herself involved in the Social Committee. She swims every sunny afternoon in the outdoor pool, and we talk almost every day.
I know I am lucky. When I sat down to write this, I quickly realized that even though we have what we consider to be a close relationship, I really didn’t know much about her life and her upbringing. I called her and explained what I was doing, and asked her if I could come over and ask her things, things that she’s never talked about, things that are not talked about. Her answer? Sure, come on over, we’ll cook dinner together and then go sit by the pool in the sunshine. You can ask me anything you like.
My influence. My inspiration. My Mother.