Mother’s Day has come and gone, and as usual, I have conflicting feelings about the whole thing. Not with respect to my own children; they were lovely as usual, and I felt very much honoured and appreciated by them.
No, my conflict, as usual, centres around my relationship with my own mother.
My mother was not-like-the-other-mothers, somehow. My mum (never “mom”) had an accent. My mum was from away, and was very much isolated when we were growing up – her only family in Canada was a sister and her family, who lived in Sault Ste. Marie – we only ever saw them once or twice a year. My mum was tiny, when we were small, and smartly fashionable. She sewed her own clothes, mostly, and mine as well. She taught me sewing, knitting and embroidery, skills I still use today, and although I have no daughter of my own to pass them on to, my older son has taken to using her table loom to create beautiful works of art. I like this connection, this passing-down. To her, though, they weren’t “arts”, they were just things every woman knew, or should have known, how to do. They were simply life skills. My brother tells a story of how he was amazed that she whipped up a pair of mittens for him on a longish train ride, “just like that”.
I often think of my mother when I knit. There was a large gap of time between my childhood/adolescence and my adult life when I didn’t knit, being too busy making a living and raising kids. I rediscovered it when my kids became teenagers, and didn’t require so much constant attention. It is calming, and connecting. I have taken it a little further, the yarn thing, and also spin my own yarn, which is meditative. I wish mum was here so I could give her some.
I remember the amazing things she made for me, the many clothes, the hats and mitts and scarves. The woman knit me TOE SOCKS, for pete’s sake, which I only now fully appreciate. She made both sewn and knitted clothes for my barbie dolls, intricate, tiny works of love, some of which I have saved, all of which tug at my heart.
And yet, and yet…
There were certainly periods when we were at odds, things said that cannot be unsaid, wounds that never heal. Things that have scarred me for life, but lessons learned that no one else could have taught, to be sure. She died at 63, which is, of course, too young. My friends are now nursing their aging mothers, worrying about homes and nursing care, and I feel somewhat bereft.
Every now and then, I still want to call her, when one of her grandchildren has said or done something clever or otherwise remarkable, to share triumphs, or just to ask advice. Best advice ever? “Mum, I’m making sleepers for the baby and I can’t get the hang of welt pockets. How do I do this?”
“What on earth does a baby have to put in his pockets anyway? Leave them off.”
Sound, practical advice. Mum was hard to impress, and we had a tumultuous relationship to be sure. But she always knew what to do.
Miss you still.