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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.

 

A Good Home, Children, Daughters, Family, Family Matriarch, Family Stories, Grandmothers, Home, Juggling work and parenting, Mothers, Parents, Raising Children, Relationships, Travel, Women leaders

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. 

A Good Home, Aging, Authors, Book lovers, Books, Children's Books, elderly Parents, Parents, Reading, Relationships

Please Read to Me

Lee Gowan, author of Confession and other novels,  lives in Toronto, while his mother lives in western Canada. Time spent with her is very precious to Lee.

One day several months ago, Lee and I were part of a small group of writers invited to read excerpts from our books and chat with an audience in a large Toronto bookstore.

Photo by Hamlin Grange
Photo by Hamlin Grange

Out of the blue, Lee said something that moved me nearly to tears. (That’s Lee, extreme right, and that’s me, third from left, trying to compose my face — and failing.)

Lee told the audience that he’d read A Good Home to his mother.  She’d loved it, he said.   Day after day, he read the book to her.  They laughed together at some of the comical parts.  And at certain points, Lee said, he and his mother were both so choked up with emotion that he had to stop reading for a bit.

As Lee spoke, the image formed in my mind: of an adult child reading to a parent.

agoodhome_cynthiareyesWhy did I find that a remarkable thing?  Well – for one thing –  my relationship with my own mother is one of the major themes in A Good Home. But she died before the book was completed.  As Lee spoke, I realized that I’d never get the chance to read the book to my own beloved mother – who’d always encouraged my writing.

I also knew that Lee’ s mother’s health was already declining — and I felt happy that he had been able to read my book to his mother while she could still enjoy it.

**

We know that children love to be read to.  We read books to our children when they are young.  They clamour for more, even when their eyes are full of sleep.

via childcarealgoma.ca
via childcarealgoma.ca

But sometimes we forget that many adults – especially elderly people – like to be read to as well.

Letters and cards from readers of A Good Home have reminded me of this fact.  It turns out that a good many people have read my book – or parts of it — to a parent, other relative or friend.

Reading is a cherished past-time for many people.  Mother’s Day in Canada, the US and many other parts of the world is just around the corner and Father’s Day follows in June.  If your Mom or Dad (or favorite older relative or friend) is still alive, you might consider buying them a book.

Most people prefer to read a book by themselves — and it’s great if they are still able to do so.   Others would like to, but can no longer do so.  Whatever the situation,  consider offering to read a chapter of a favorite book to a relative or friend. Whether or not they need the help, the sound of a beloved voice reading to them might just be a balm to a person’s soul.

 **

 This post is dedicated to everyone who loves reading, or being read to.  And to those who read to others.