Family relationships can be complex, but I can honestly say that my relationship with my mom was not complicated at all. However, my mom had a complex relationship with herself, and it is this complexity, along with her personal values, that strongly influenced who I have become today.
Mom came from a good, solid, farming family in Alberta. They had an acreage, but not a mega-farm. Her wholesome values revolved around family, good food, an organized home, and believing in the best in people. She was raised to be a good farm wife with traditional values around boys and girls. Her cultural background was Danish and American.
Mom had a lot of common-sense rules, like dinner every night at 6 pm on the dot, play hard and sleep hard for the kids, meals which included meat, starch, vegetables (ideally from the garden) and a salad plus milk. We were always encouraged to drink more water. She made sure to spend equal and individual time with each of us 4 kids. Frequent family visits with our grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins enabled healthy bonds with our kin. Overall, she was fair and ethical.
As the only daughter, I was either privy or more in touch with Mom’s inner voice. Or both. This was the complex part of her. She was open about her values through her commentary on the world around her. I knew she was teaching me through her stories and insights into other people. She did not want me to have the same struggles she experienced.
There are very few pictures of my Mom. Her big-boned structure (from the Danish side) and weight were her demons. She was loved and accepted by her parents, but as a child and teen, she was teased and bullied – she looked older and was, therefore, treated with different expectations beyond her age and emotional ability. In her mind, she was not ‘the pretty one’ or ‘the glamorous one.’ That was her sister Val. Her inner voice reinforced not being smart or pretty enough by social norms, and for this reason, very few images exist of her.
Although she never said it, I am certain my mother had a learning disability. She never read books or the newspaper, and she never finished Grade 12. As my one brother went for remedial reading support and through alternative schooling, she was his biggest advocate for education. But my mom was smart, had an impeccable memory and was a quiet champion for others to believe in themselves. What she did not have for herself, she wanted for others.
In the 70’s, a new neighbor became Mom’s best friend. “Lou” was from the tea-growing area of Ceylon in India. As the only girl, I got to go on all the little adventures they would think of – they were both foodies before that became a thing. They were always laughing. And this carried on until Lou died suddenly from a brain aneurysm. What made their relationship special was that Lou was an Indo woman married to a Caucasian man. In British Columbia at that time, there was clear racism against Indo immigrants and new Canadians, but Mom adored Lou and her culture. Both the mixed marriage of Lou and the ‘mixed’ friendship with my Mom were almost unheard of for that time, and I recall them talking openly about these issues. They chose to embrace a friendship with love, acceptance, and a sense of fun. And in my mind, this was Mom’s happiest time where she felt accepted, appreciated, and confident.
There are favorite sayings from my mother that I cherish, which really represent her teachings:
- I never regret marrying your father.
- You always have to root for the underdog.
- Don’t kill someone’s spirit.
- Let’s go to the nursery.
A favourite memory of mine stems from our annual spring trek to the nursery to buy our plants. She always allowed me to pick my own flowers and plant them. Purple pansies were, and still are, my favourite. To me they represent maternal love, tradition, nurturing, new growth, and spring awakening. And the flowers look like happy faces.
As I reflect on my relationship with Mom, I realize that even though she had her own struggles and challenges, she always put her family first. She made sure that we were all taken care of, loved, and supported. Her simple yet profound teachings have shaped me into the person I am today, and I will always be grateful for that.
Despite Mom’s personal complexities, she was a loving and supportive mother who instilled in me the importance of being a better person. Many of these values are foundational to being a Notary Public — the highest level of integrity, openness and acceptance of people, and finding the best in people and in situations. In every interaction I have with my clients, friends, and family, my Mom’s spirit and legacy live on.
Thanks Mom! I miss you.