Tuesday, 21 January 2014

More on Mum and Daffodils

Today it's 19 years since Mum died. Our Sunday bulletin had daffodils on it, and Wordsworth's poem on the back cover. After our Black History celebration planning meeting, we said it together - only I got teary. Grief has its own time frame - and a reminder that we don't 'get over' it. We just bump less into the furniture with it. We negotiate around, under, over, or whatever.. And, of course, I keep telling myself, tears are normal. 

Thinking back and remembering some of our experiences - 

After Lorne died in July 1950, she returned to work at Pratt & Whitney. She said she used to run home from the bus stop at the end of the day, afraid something had happened to Jim or me. Most people could not deal with her grief. As children, we didn't know how or to deal with our own. (Not surprisingly, I am very, very aware of the needs of grieving children). 

In 1959, Mum was the cook at Wa-Thik-Ane - Girl Guide Camp in Morin-Heights, near St-Sauveur where Lorne drowned. The lake was the same dark brown, deep water. And cold. 

Three Mum memories - as I had a bad cold, I slept with some of the others in the dining area. Open, it was. In the dark as we were lying quietly in our sleeping bags, Mum whispered - "Don't move...!" A skunk was wandering through at our feet.... kept going, apparently not too worried about Girl Guides. Phew! Fortunately, not Pheeewwww!

Do you know the song? 
'I stuck my head in the little skunk's hole....
little skunk said, 'Well bless my soul, 
take it out, take it out, take it out, remove it!' 
'If you don't take it out,' the little skunk said, 
'you will wish that you were dead. 
Take it out! Take it out! Take it out!' 
Pheewwww! I removed it."  
We probably learned that song at camp! It was certainly a Guide song.

Then on the Sunday, we had a chapel service in an open building down the hill by the lake. Partway through the service, Mum left sobbing and went up to her cabin. I, being worried (quelle surprise) went up after her, not knowing what was the matter - but the leader wouldn't let me near Mum. Sigh ... how much better we understand children's needs today... it only terrified me more. I don't know when I found out that Mum was crying because we sang, "Unto the hills around do I lift up my longing eyes." Those words were the last words Lorne had written in his school notebook - part of printing practice, I guess. 

Then, my smart Mum won the staff swim competition - she had, as a child and young woman been an excellent diver at the Longueuil Boating Club. One of the tests was to carry a match across in the deep water from one float to the other and be able to light the match at the other side. Mum put the match head IN her mouth, away from her tongue, and so no lake water got on it. :-) Hers was the only match to light!

We had wonderful food - much better than most camps. She'd done an amazing job ordering food and preparing it with her helpers. Johnny cake was one special item. I'm going to make some tonight... remembering her, and Gram, who also made the best Johnny cake ever. 

Mum had begun teaching in the mid 1950's. She had completed her BA at Sir George (now Concordia) and took education courses in the summers after a bit to get her teaching certificate. She was like me in the classroom - kind of disorganized. My gift to the children I taught in Grade 3 (my only year) was to turn them into avid readers. Part of Mum's gift was her ability to recognize the gifts in children - and it was at the time when people were beginning to acknowledge learning disabilities. She learned about dyslexia and put that knowledge to use. I think of one little boy - who had by then become a big boy who had been required to repeat Grade 1 three times!! She figured out the problem and began to address it. He was a bright boy with dyslexia - and he'd thought he was stupid.

In 1956, she decided she would drive and camp across Canada with Jim and me (he 12, I 10). We had five weeks - Dad flew out to Vancouver to meet us and drove back,  as he had fewer weeks holidays. How brave she was. Our first view of the Rockies. Meeting up with family in Vancouver (Peg and her Mum, Doris, are still there). Ferry to Vancouver Island. 

The journey is a story in itself. I remember stopping at a restaurant, seated on stools at the counter, ordering breakfast. Usually, we had our Coleman stove, and this was special. Jim and I each wanted our own plate of pancakes. "Are you sure you'll be able to eat them all?" says Mum. 'Yes! We will." Pleeeaaase."  Guess what! We couldn't! :-(

Those were the days when we didn't know about the suffering of First Nations peoples, when we played cowboys and Indians and sang Davy Crockett. I cringe now - we knew no better - Jim and I each bought a cowboy hat.

Over the years, we camped all sorts of places - CT, MA, NH, Acadia National Park in ME ... Rollins and Meacham Lake in NY. We stopped for picnics by streams and I twice forgot my red sandals (different pairs) by the water. Mum was not amused. We had more than some did, but funds were tight. 

One night on Lafayette, Mum suggested she and I star-gaze and sleep outside on a  blanket . We lay on our backs looking up - less city lights in those days, and plenty of stars... also, we soon discovered, plenty of mosquitoes - so, after a decent interval of star-gazing, we picked up our blanket and walked - into the house.

Mum belonged to a knitting club. During the war, she had worked at Drummond McCall as a secretary after completing her office course, along with some of her chums, at the convent in St. Lambert with Sister Delia Louise, SNJM. These young women and others they met in their office formed the knitting club. Though little knitting was done, lots of chit chat happened. When we were children they met at each others' homes all over the Island and off-island. At Christmastime,  they held a cookie swap. Everyone baked cookies - enough for each of the others, and each came home with 6, 7, 8 different kinds of baked goodies. These women stayed friends all their lives, even though some moved to Calgary and other points west.

So many stories. I look at the photos of her as a young woman and wonder... how does it happen this life - aging, dying? She was beautiful though she never believed she was. 

Mum, sometimes when I hear the music of the 30's and 40's I imagine you and your friends dancing, laughing, off for a week-end at Slaters in Lac Megantic... marrying, Dad overseas, having children (when Dad was home) ! :-), wrestling with the meaning of it your lives as we do... 

Mum c1936 - aged 17 - the year she was confirmed

As with all Mums and daughters, we had our issues. There are things I wish I'd done differently - and that I wish she'd done differently. However - our relationship didn't end with her death early, early in the morning of January 21st, 1995 at the Brome-Mississquoi-Perkins Hospital in Cowansville. It continues to grow. I do. I expect and hope she does. With each passing year, I become more aware of who Mum was, her history, and how awesome was her strength of character. 

So many memories besides the family quoting "I wandered lonely as a cloud..."  Smiths Florists call me the daffodil lady. As soon as they get the little plants in, I start buying and sharing. Remembering you. Continuing your spirit of giving. Thursday this week the first ones will be in!!!  :-)

Daffodils are such a sign of joy.  It IS fun to bring a bit of yellow joy into others' lives. You'd approve, Mum. You brought joy. You really loved people, and reached out in so many ways. 

I love and miss you, Mum. I wish we could chat. There are so many things I'd love to be able to tell you and ask you. Did you know about our Bermudian slave ancestry? We'll never know. 

I really hope, whatever heaven is, that there are daffodils dancing in the breeze and that your heart, as  does mine, "with pleasure fills and dances with the daffodils."

Taken the only time I've been in the UK in spring to see the daffodils


  1. What's wrong with Davy Crockett? I thought he opposed Andrew Jackson's Indian Removal Act?

    1. Verse of the song we sang lustily as children - in our I won't say innocence - but... we never thought - or were taught.

      Fought single handed through the Injun war,
      Till the Creeks was whipped and peace was restored.
      And while he was handling this risky chore,
      Made himself a legend, forevermore.

      source: http://www.lyricsondemand.com/tvthemes/davycrockettlyrics.html

  2. pat.D.
    Love your blog. I'm hooked. When you write about your Mom, i tear up about missing mine. One night this past year I had a dream of finding her in a park sitting on a bench.I turned to my husband and said "Look Mom's here! I went to the bench, knelt and put my head in her lap as I often had done, even as an adult.
    As I burrowed my head in her lap I said to myself"what a gift" I was referring to the fact that I knew I was dreaming. Mom was a Flapper in her 20's. She died 49 yrs ago the same day as Winston Churchill.. She was 65. She is with me always. Your Mom was pretty; beautiful curve to her lips and great brows

    1. Pat - thanks - what a beautiful dream - I wish I had dreams like that... Your Mom was so young...

  3. I see so much of you in that photo of her... We loved visiting with her and of course my kids adored her. I think of her on Kate's birthday every year:) She was always so thoughtful. I also appreciated her fondness for Bren- when he was a tad less than fondness-provoking:) And sometimes I think of Lorne when I see him.

  4. Yes - we all remember kate's birthday ;-) And yes, she saw the good in Bren - and I think he also reminded her of Lorne.

  5. My memories of my Auntie Fran are bountiful. But one memory related to some of your post and her mourning over Lorne has always haunted me.
    Sitting in the bass section of the choir at St. Marks, invariably singing Canon B's favourite #230, I remember watching the long procession of communicants every Sunday awaiting their turn at the rail. Out of the dozens every Sunday morning there was one always in tears as she approached. Mum explained to me that it was the solemn moment of Eucharist which always reminded her of Lorne's loss.

  6. thanks so much, Mike. I never knew that. Please share some more memories - if not here - just to me...