No matter how old, no matter what circumstance, I still miss my Mom on Mother’s Day.
My daughter wandered into my room yesterday morning to plan what we were going to do. The boys had gone diving, so she and I were left with a day of “girl” things. Neither she, nor I, are particularly interested in the typical girl things , though. “What do you want to do today, Mom”, she asked.
I really didn’t know. On sunny days, I love to garden. But it wasn’t sunny. She and I enjoy playing SCRABBLE, so that option was on the table. We debated further. We could go shopping, but we are not big shoppers. We could see a movie, but that didn’t interest us on that day either. Suddenly, I was struck with the desire to pick morals. And there was no better place, in my mind, to pick them than the property.
The property was the name for the 80 acres of land where I grew up. It was pretty much a hobby farm with raspberries and maple syrup being the primary industries there. It was a beautiful piece of property just north of Barrie through which meandered a small stream. There were meadows and groves of big sugar maple trees. The trilliums would definitely be up at this time of year and so, if we didn’t find morals, at least we would find some trilliums. The property was ripe with memories of my Mom and Dad and me… a younger me.
“Let’s go, then!” said Katya.
She drove. Of course. Isn’t that the way it goes as one ages? The child drives the parent? In any case, it didn’t take long until we arrived at my old home-stead. Now owned by a new family, it would not be possible to just park and walk the land. Katya drove up to the house and I got out to knock at the door. No answer. sigh. Perhaps there was someone working in the giant shed that had been built where our family garden used to be?
Sure enough, the owner of my childhood property was there. “Of course you are welcome to walk the woods! There are beavers now, so you may be able to see them! Take your time, and wander where you like.” she offered.
Well, Dad would not have been pleased that this new family had welcomed the beavers as they caused so much destruction of the forest when they established their dams. So often, we, the kids and our friends, would be commissioned to pull the dam apart. So often, the beavers would have repaired the dam by the next morning. It seemed an unending battle for the most part. Dad always won – somehow or another.
Katya and I began our excellent adventure via the road that began the “loop” through the woods that lead to Helen’s Mountain and back to the house again. It felt like I was home. If I closed my eyes – I could feel myself slip back through time to a place in my life that was so much simpler and innocent. It was a time when I didn’t need to worry about finances, or health, or about responsibilities. It was a time when I was the one being cared for. Mom and Dad were entertaining, swimming in their pools, or working in the field. There were friends that called on them every week-end and family that lived in trailers and cabins in the woods during the summer months. There were great bon-fires that burned the brush that Dad cleared to keep the property looking nice and free from fire. And then there was Mom’s cooking. Oh, how she could cook! These memories of her cooking remain some of my most powerful memories today.
Auntie Doris and Uncle Russ’ cabin was the first “land-mark” Katya and I encountered. It had certainly not aged well, but the steel roof the new owners had put on it was promising. “Mrs. Clean” , was how Mom referred to her dear friend, Doris as she kept the cabin, the patio surrounding the cabin, and the woods surrounding the patio so immaculate. Auntie Doris loved the cabin in the woods. It was her escape from the hustle and bustle of Toronto. I imagined her sweeping the leaves off the patio as Katya and I walked by that little cabin in the woods.
The forest where I used to ride my bike had changed as any forest does. Some of the big old maple trees that Dad and I had tapped in the spring to make syrup had fallen down and new saplings had sprouted instead. The trilliums were everywhere. I had, as a child, brought arm-loads of them to Mom thinking what a great treasure I had brought her. I remember, too, Dad advising me that I may want to change my choice of flower the next time since it was “illegal” to pick those trilliums. I was mortified to discover how much of a criminal I had been – and Mom just hugged me and thanked me for the beautiful flowers. “Don’t worry, Stacey.” she reassured me. “I’m sure they will understand that you just wanted to pick them for me.”
The sugar shack was in rough shape. As I lead Katya down the till to see where all the syrup production had taken place, I was thrilled to see a sight that I had long-ago forgotten about. The marsh marigolds were in full bloom. Mom had loved those flowers. In fact, I remember her gushing over them. How could I have forgotten? But, oh, this visual prompt was like music to my ears. “How beautiful!” I heard my Mom’s voice whisper in my ear.
The sight of the sugar shanty was so powerful it was haunting. “If you listen carefully, Katya, you can hear Nanna and Poppa’s voices. You can smell the syrup as it boiled in the evaporator, and you can feel the warm spring sun against your face. ” It was the spring when this place used to be the hub of action. The shed was still filled with wood that Dad had cut and stacked. The evaporator was wood-fired. That was never a problem as Dad was as keen to cut and stack the wood as he was to use it.
The frog pond, the meadow, the out-house, the cabin, the tree-fort, the beaver dam, the sand-bank. There was a name for every land-mark we passed. And for every land-mark we passed, there was a memory.
I am sure Mom and Dad walked with us every step of the way that day. There was no doubt in my mind they were alive – still – in that wonderful place. So alive, I found it almost impossible to believe they were no longer with me. Oh, how time changes everything. How lucky I was to have been able to imagine, for just a short while, what it was like to be a child once again, to have my Mom with me to take care of me as only a mother can.
Too soon, it felt, Katya and I had climbed back into the car and were driving home again. “I could have stayed there all day, Katya”, I explained to my daughter several times. It had just felt so natural to be there. “I would have spent the whole day just clearing the brush out of the woods. I loved doing that.”
What was it about that memory that was so comforting? Why would I want to spend time way back in the middle of no where, surrounded by the singing birds, the fresh air, and childhood memories? On the other hand, why wouldn’t I? Who wouldn’t?
The last stop we made was for an ice cream cone at the local store. “A cone, please”, both Katya and I requested. A cone had been Mom’s favorite. Here I was, once again, in my mother’s company – now, eating an ice-cream cone.
They never leave you – mothers. She had promised me, “I will always be with you.” And she was. She was in my head, my soul, and my heart, just as she had promised.
It was a day that left me refreshed, fulfilled, and recharged.
It was a day I would not soon forget.
It had, indeed, been a very happy Mother’s Day.