Tag Archives: Mom

Happy birthday, Mom!

2 Apr

If we hadn’t lost her in June, today we’d be celebrating my mother’s 88th birthday.

We are a family of storytellers and the ones I like to tell tend to be funny and not very flattering. There are a lot of stories I “remember”, but really, I was too young to remember. I have just heard them repeated so often they have become part of my memory. My favorite story I tell people stems back to high school. I was working at the local swimming pool after school and on weekends.

“What time is your dinner break?” Mom asked me before I left for school that day. Dad was either off or working a night shift because she continued. “Dad and I will drive dinner up to you.” Mom didn’t drive.

I must have told her. I forgot about the conversation during the school day and only remembered as I got off the school bus and walked to the pool. It was winter, and cold, and the warm scent of chlorine hit me as I opened the door to our small local pool and then entered the office.

I taught my before dinner classes and showered off before heading into the office for dinner. The design was poor. The front door of the office faced the front door of the pool. It was a half-door and also served as the front counter, so, every time the front door opened, pool staff got a blast of cold air. We generally huddled in towels.

I had just taken a seat in the office, wrapped in two towels, when the headlights of car flashed through the glass and I knew dinner had arrived. Another swim instructor sat nearby, huddled over the sandwich she had pulled from a paper bag as my mother entered, bearing a plate covered in plastic wrap. I said my thanks and Mom left, knowing I only had a short dinner break.

“Wow!” said my colleague as she looked over, her eyes almost popping out of her head. I had a plate with roast beef with gravy, mashed potatoes with a pat of butter (Mom knew I hated gravy on my potatoes), and a green vegetable.

Even though the cold air kept blowing in, I was warming up from the inside, with food and with love, as I ate the dinner Mom had prepared for me.

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Welcome to March! #sol16

1 Mar

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Today, the first day of March, marks the first day of the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Story Challenge. Yes, for the third year in a row, I will write a daily slice of month for 31 days. The first year, I was excited. The second, I was daunted because I knew how hard it can be. This year, I am up for the challenge. Like a good marathon runner, I know there will be highs and lows with my writing this month, but I vow to work through the slumps and cross the finish line on the 31st, exhausted, but triumphant.

March also marks Women’s History Month. I want to celebrate my Mom, who will turn 85 on April 2nd, just after the SOLSC ends.

My mom was born in the Northern Ontario town of Field in 1931, but spent most of her youth in Timmins, a stark mining town. Her parents were both French-Canadian Catholics and her mother, my Mamère, told her if she played with the English-speaking Protestant kids, she’d go to Hell.

She grew up very poor and tells a variety of stories that make us laugh and cry. How poor was she? She was so poor, they only had Jello in the winter because they didn’t own a fridge and that’s when it was cold enough outside to set the exotic desert. I kid you not. On a more poignant note, she also told us that she remembers standing in front of a store, looking longingly at a doll in the window display, wishing it might be her Christmas present. It wasn’t. She got an orange.  You just can’t laugh at that.

At the age of 15, my mother knew her fortunes were to be made elsewhere. She looked around her mining town and knew exactly what her life would be if she stayed, so she ran away. Hers isn’t a classic runaway story. She and a friend signed up with a factory recruiter from Southern Ontario and left home without telling their parents. Once they were settled in their boarding house, they called their parents.

She married young and had two children, my older sisters, before she was 20. She was also widowed before that age, leaving her alone with two young daughters.

If I remember the story correctly, my parents met in the early 1950’s while my mom was waitressing and my dad was working as a bartender. She was quite a catch!

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By the time my twin sister and I came along, my mom was “just a housewife”. She didn’t work outside the home until my sister and I were in middle or high school, but those years of “mere housewifery” were actually the exception. She worked hard all her life, in restaurants, factories, for the Red Cross.  She was a Girl Guide leader when I was a Brownie, but also when my older sisters were Brownies and guides.  Although I didn’t inherit her penchant for housekeeping, I did  inherit her idea that you do your best at whatever you do.

So, as we celebrate the movers and shakers of the women’s movement, take a look at your mom. She just might be an unheralded trailblazer.

Randy Ribay

YA author, teacher, nerd

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