A Good Home, Mothers

A Mother Still

No-one dared wish this mother

A happy Mother’s Day

Her son had died the year before

They didn’t know what to say.

 ~

The silence cut her to her soul

The hurt too hard to tell

For though her son was not alive

She was a mother still.

 ~

“I bore a child”, she cried to me

“Raised him to twenty two

Death doesn’t change that fact, you know

I am a mother too.”

 ~

I choked back tears and hugged her tight

Willing her pain subside

And wondered what I would have done

If I’d been by her side.

 ~

Would I have braved discomfort then

And found the right way through

Or would I have, like all the rest

Just not known what to do?

Dedicated to my dear friend C., and all bereaved mothers.

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A Sweet Sound

Twang, pling. Pling twang.

Pling, twang. Pling, twang.

Pl–ung???

My daughter is learning to play the guitar.

Blog Photo - Playing guitar 1

I knew she was committed when she bought her own guitar less than a week ago.

Next she cut her beautiful fingernails. One by one.

Then she watched a YouTube tutorial and downloaded a guitar chords app.

Pling pling. Twang twang…

Blog Photo - Guitar Playing CU reverse shot

She sings softly, willing her fingers to follow her tune.

Pling, pling, twang twang, twung…. Shi….!

She senses my presence and doesn’t finish that word.

She utters a loud sigh instead, rolls her eyes, shakes her head.

Blog Photo - Guitar playing with sky reflected

I’ve joined her on our farmhouse verandah. The day is crisp, cool, but beautiful. (Can you see the blue sky and evergreen spruce trees reflected on the front of her guitar?)

Birds are singing, her father’s gardening and our daughter’s little dog Mr. J.  stops and listens for a moment to the guitar playing, before running off to bark at yet another squirrel.

Blog Photo - Guitarist plays, Mr J watches

But Daughter is entirely focused on the guitar strings.

Head down, dark hair falling forward and almost covering her face, she returns to a wordless, intense concentration.

Pling, pling… 

She keeps going, singing and strumming, no mistakes this time. Even the flowers in the garden bed nearby seem to be bopping along to the tune.

Blog Photo - Tulips in garden near verandah

I applaud when she finishes.

Blog Photo - Fernleaf Peonies

In her twenties, she’s learning to play a new instrument.

How to hold it.

How to position her left hand, her right hand.

What to do when her fingertips get tender, even sore.

Soak them in cider vinegar,she says.

“Oh!” I’m surprised to learn there’s yet another use for cider vinegar. “The thing’s got as many lives as duct tape.”

“It really works!” she says, smiling. “It helps me to keep going till my fingertips toughen up. Smells awful, but it’s soothing.”

It was the same routine the day before.

Her father, who has his own guitar but hasn’t played it in almost a year, stuck his head out the door, saw her strumming and disappeared inside.

He came back a minute later with his guitar. Soon they were strumming together.

Pling pling, twang twang. Twang twang, pling pling.

Another stray twung (or maybe it was a plung) sneaked in and they started all over again.

Finally, they were playing in tune.

“We’ve got a jam-session happening right here on our verandah,” I thought.

One of life’s sweet moments.

Today, Daughter is practicing again, and — hooray, she plays the song perfectly, again!

Blog Photo - Daughter plays guitar long shot

She’s conquered the tune to this good, simple, 3-chord song for beginners.

Amazing Grace.

And I listen and think, without saying:

How sweet the sound.

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Mother’s Day in the Garden

One garden here at the old farmhouse is extra-special. 

Partly shaded by a large red maple, it has two dogwood trees, two purple lilacs, a Japanese maple and a forsythia shrub. The Japanese maple was stuck there “temporarily” but was somehow forgotten and has outgrown its spot.

Blog Photo - Spring Trees and Flowers

“One of these days, I’ll have to move it,” my husband says. But that tree is so big now that I suspect it’s not going anywhere.

Hydrangea shrubs and tree peonies also flourish here.

Blog Photo - Lilacs and forget Me Nots

In front of them are smaller plants: Solomon’s seal; ferns; the intriguingly shaped “Jack-in the Pulpit”; the occasional trillium (Ontario’s official flower); may apples and another woodland plant whose name I never learned.

Solomon's Seal
Solomon’s Seal

Pink tulips come up every spring, as do daffodils, astilbe, and hosta. It’s the only garden bed that’s home to such a variety of characters: woodland, shade, and sun-loving plants.

Blog Photo - Mama's Garden1

No wonder it’s called “Mama’s Garden”.  The children she mothered are a variety of characters too.

Throughout the spring, pink lamium borders one side of Mama’s Garden, while blue forget-me-nots border the other. Recently, though, they’ve both strayed into the path.

“Your garden would look better if I could weed the path regularly”, I apologize to Mama.

And I can hear her voice saying: “Ah, m’dear. It’ll get done. Right now, there are more important things on your plate.”

Blog Photo - Mama's Garden front arbor

My husband named the garden in tribute to Mama’s great love of gardening.

Blog Photo - Mama's Garden - CR and mug of coffee

My mother died several years ago.

On every Mother’s Day since, I head out to Mama’s Garden, no matter what the weather, no matter what condition I’m in. I bring a sturdy mug of coffee, walk through the entrance arbour and down the short pathway, looking at the growing things around me.

I sit on the stone bench at the back of the garden.

“Thank you, Mama,” I say.

Blog Photo - Clematis on Arbor

There are so many things to thank her for.  

So I thank her and I thank God for her, and sometimes the talk with Mama gets mixed in with the prayer and it feels like the beings I am talking to are one and the same, but I don’t think either Mama or God would mind.

I give thanks.

Blog Photo - Mama's Garden CU of CR

For a mother who loved and tended her family.  For a mother who taught us the importance of growing things.  And for a mother whose love and faith live on in our hearts.

Blog Photo - Tulips Hosta and Forget Me Nots

Garden photos by Hamlin Grange. Photos of Cynthia by Dale Ratcliffe.

 

This post is dedicated to my mother and mother-in-law, who mothered not just their own children, but all our cousins and friends when they needed mothering too.

Happy Mother’s day, and happy belated Mothering Sunday, to all women who tend and care for children.

 

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My Proudest Achievement – Part 2

My career took flight during the women’s movement in the late 80’s and kept moving.

Each job paid more, demanded more, involved more travel.

For the most part, my life was unlike my mother’s (she never traveled abroad till she was in her late forties).  But, at times, my life was also strangely reminiscent of hers. For long periods, I got to work at home. Got to be there when the kids came home from school. Like my mother did.

I have two wonderful men to thank for that. My husband’s support allowed me to travel on business. My boss’ support allowed me to work at home often, in return for all that travel.

Image via airport-technology.com
Image via airport-technology.com

Support came from remarkable women.  My own mother, who’d been denied the career she wanted, sometimes moved in temporarily when my job took me abroad. My husband’s mother often cooked the Jamaican dishes we loved (but weren’t good at making).  My sister, who taught me to cook dishes my kids would like.  And a very caring nanny; we lived very frugally so we could afford her and it was money very well spent.

And so, my proudest achievement – raising children who’ve become strong, decent adults  — is something I’m not very confident about, had a lot of help with, and cannot claim as entirely my own.

**

Even with all that help and support, my husband and I worked hard at parenting our children, sometimes completely unsure whether we were doing the right thing. We got advice from our parents, but sometimes screwed up royally when we tried to apply that good counsel to our own family.

Looking back, we sometimes joke that the girls turned out alright, in spite of us.  We’ve watched with pride, astonishment and awe as our daughters have grown up and made choices about their lives.

They’ve done well at school and work.  They know when to “step up and stand up”: stepping up to help others going through tough times; standing up for what they consider to be right.  They have strong values.

Photo by Hamlin Grange
Photo by Hamlin Grange

And – to my astonishment — each has a great sense of style, is a good cook and a great wit.  These are talents which I’m sure come from their father and grandmothers, since no-one has ever accused me of any of those things.

Our daughters are strong, decent adults and I am proud of having had something to do with that outcome.   But, more than that, I am thankful for having had the chance to parent them and watch them grow!  As they have grown, my husband and I have also grown.

I’m thankful for my career. The doors it opened, the confidence it built, the money I earned.  The people I met, the travel to foreign lands.

But when someone asks me about the proudest achievement of my life, there’s no debate: I’m proudest of raising children who have become strong, decent adults.

Photo by Hamlin Grange
Photo by Hamlin Grange

Dedicated to my daughters, my husband and our mothers, with thanks. 

And to all those who, like us, learned parenting as they went along, and all the people who helped.