My Mom was a city girl who moved to a suburb when her own two kids were four and six, respectively. We left a duplex (quadruplex?) on Farly Street in Montréal North with it’s cheek-pinching Italian landlady and concrete steps leading down to the side-walk to move into a former cottage-turned-house on the corner of a quiet residential street with a view of the Mille-Isles river a half hour drive away, in Deux-Montagnes.
From the time she had my brother until I was in fifth grade, she stayed home with us. I remember coming home from school and and turning the corner of our street to see Mom sitting out on the front steps waiting for us with our dog, Bandit.
Our childhood was filled with sliding in the winter, hot chocolate, swimming in the above-ground pool in our backyard (standard accessory in QC where the summers are hot and the decent beaches are few and far between), and friends and relatives coming in and out for tea or BBQs. Mom would take us downtown by train, and to LaRonde in the summer with our uncle. We would head into the city to visit both sets of grandparents regularly as well. A few cousins and second cousins also lived in Deux-Montagnes, which was nice.
We left the area when I was in high school to move to Lennoxville, which was a bit of a culture shock. You don’t realize how different life can be in areas separated by only a couple of hours’ drive until you leave a place on the outskirts of Montreal to move to a place where the high school is surrounded by fields and farms and some of the kids have animal-related chores (beyond feeding their dog or cat) to tend to before coming to school in the morning. It was interesting.
It was an especially difficult transition for my mother, who lost both of her parents within a year of our move. My father’s father passed away at Christmastime the following year. Mom was a city girl at heart, having grown up in a Polish Canadian home surrounded by every ethnicity imaginable in good old Montreal. Small town life was a bit difficult to integrate into, even for someone as friendly and personable as she is. She made the best of things, made friends at work, and enjoyed life as much as possible as we grew up and left home. There were a couple of unexpected obstacles along the way regarding my father’s work which led us out there in the first place, but in the end things worked out for the better as they now reside in Ottawa, a small city she has always loved. They have been there for about thirteen years, and my brother and his family live there as well. They are happy. Mom is happy.
On the surface, my life, my “motherhood” is very different from Mom’s: I have seven children, and not the usual two. I live in rural Prince Edward Island, where the entire population is still less than that of many small cities in our country. I homeschool–and not in a structured, “school at home” way—Life Learning, unschooling, delight-driven education… that’s us. I have had babies at home. I do not bathe my children every single day. I’m, well, kind of a hippie in some ways, I guess.
But if you dig a little deeper, you will see the similarities. Because you can’t have such a great mother and not pick up a few habits and tricks along the way… such as laughter. Laughter rocks. Inappropriate laughter is the absolute best: the kind that stems from pure silliness and causes you to lose your breath because you are laughing so hard, and makes tears roll down your cheeks. The kind that renders you incapable of speaking because you are laughing so hard. That is Mom. That is awesome. And as my kids get older, I see that that is me, too. And I am grateful.
The library. Best place ever growing up. We had a librarian with really hairy arms and I would try so hard not to stare because I didn’t want to be rude. She was very nice, just hairy, and I was a kid with a fairly hairless mom. But we would walk over and Mom would let us take out books. It was great. It was in the community centre where there was also dancercize (it was the 80s) and Story Hour with a very cool lady named Erica who had an accent that I enjoyed listening to. We wind up at the library every single Tuesday here, and some Saturdays. My kids love it. They love the librarian, Swarna, who takes the cake for Best Librarian Ever. I have done a few French story hours there & we attempted to keep a Teen Book Club going this year, and the kids have participated in their own book clubs as well (the boys loved it). But the library is “the bomb” as far as my kids are concerned, partially because their grandmother took their mother years ago, and now their mother does the same with them.
Bedtime stories. Mom would read to me even though I could read at the age of three. It’s more fun when your mother reads to you before bed. The only difference is that I do more accents and sometimes have a small glass of Dark Horse or wine with me as I read 😉 . Mom definitely had more patience for longer sessions though.
Outings. Shopping. Exploring. I don’t have a big city to hop a train and head into. I don’t have an underground metro system to amaze my children with. I don’t have Monsieur Felix & Mister Norton. But I have King’s Castle, I have the beach, I have the Montague waterfront… I have Charlottetown. I have Confederation Centre Art Gallery. I have Art in the Open. I have… fun with my kids. Just like Mom had with us.
My friends always felt at home at our place. My father worked full-time and was occasionally on call, and was also very involved in the soccer club in Deux-Montagnes and then got into coaching soccer and curling in Lennoxville. We had friends over pretty often. My own husband is home a lot more often than he used to be, so our children don’t have half the visitors over that my stepchildren did, or that I did as a kid. When they do, I am told that the kids enjoy themselves and feel pretty welcome, which makes me happy. When my husband leaves the province for a few days I always let whoever is here have someone (or a couple of people) stay over, just for fun. I enjoy that. It reminds me of growing up, it reminds me of Mom, and it makes the kids happy.
My husband tells me I’m just like my mother when I pack a fully loaded picnic basket and cooler for the beach or the park. Again, on the surface, my mother never actually packed a picnic basket (because Mom is not a weirdo artsy hippie chick LOL), nor did she include cloth napkins and reusable plates, cups and cutlery. We had juices boxes or cans of soft drink, not a gigantic bottle of water. But the idea of making sure everyone has what they will need to stay full and satisfied and not dehydrate is the same. It is always a good day at the beach or the park when we give Mom (meaning Mom or me, in this case) the time to pack and prep for the day.
I could go on, and perhaps in future posts I will, bit by bit. The essence of what I am trying to say is this: I had (have) a great Mom. I had a great childhood. While I may be very different from my own mother in more ways than I can count, I am fortunate enough to have inherited much of what enabled her to give us such an awesome childhood, and to continue to be the support that she is now, years later, as I raise my own kids. It may manifest a little differently, and that’s OK, so long as it’s there.
If, down the road, my children feel about me the way that I feel about Mom, then I will be grateful and blessed.
Thanks for everything, Mumsy. You rock.