I was terribly spoiled by my mother. Not with things but with love. It made me quite intolerable I am sure to the rest of my family, my hoity-toity imperiousness, always protected in the folds of my mother’s skirt. It did not help that my mother would loudly assert that ‘This one is mine’ and end any further discussion around what she could or could not do with her youngest female child.
I loved when my mother would bring me in to introduce me around to her bridge gang. Both doors to the dining room were closed to indicate that this was a non-family event. I always, however, knew I’d get access to the warren of lady-time-gin-drinking-smoking-card-dealing partying that was happening right under the proverbial family nose. I stood by each lady as they hugged and squeezed me, ooh’ed and ahh’ed and pinched my cheeks. I asked if I could get them anything? I was their child concierge and they ate it up. The smell of smoke, Chanel No. 5, and smart knit suits was intoxicating. Mrs. Miller, one of my mom’s best friends, was stylish beyond belief. My mother would cluck, and smirk in a funny way about the fact she still dyed her hair blonde but I thought well, why wouldn’t you? She looked fabulous and glamorous and twenty years younger than my gray-haired mom. I didn’t love my mother any less but it did sometimes get awkward when we were out and people would lean down to me and say with syrupy kindness, “Oh, how adorable you are out helping your Grandmother shop for her groceries!” I would loudly protest but find my breath cut short as my mother’s sharp knee came up into my back indicating I was to go along with the ruse. Clearly, there was some shame around having me at 48 but I was born to it so I didn’t suffer the social ostracizing that I later found out my mother did at the Point Grey Golf club.
I was my mother’s friend from the get go. I was her chattering, dramatic, animated, little Raj that she willingly brought along in her day to visit friends, go to Church, head to $1.99 days at Woodward’s (where she always lost me only to find me dressed in head-to-toe feather boa’s in the women’s lingerie department), lunches with the nuns at the Convent, and even to some of her spiritual retreats where I would cry all day about the children starving in Africa.
I knew the gossip at home was that she was spoiling me into a brat but no one was keeping me from getting in that car with my mother, my only nice pair of nice shoes on, and heading down Seymour street to go to the Vancouver Playhouse every month. Nor would they keep me from sitting in the 10th row at the Vancouver Symphony, the melancholy strains of Debussy drifting my 4-year-old mind off to imaginary worlds where I likely spent far too much time as a child. These were nights that shaped my entire life, sitting in the dark theatre with my mother, her beautiful hands folded over the program, smelling of Chanel, the blue pool of light opening on the actor as the crowd settled into reverent silence. At intermission, we would beeline up to the second floor lounge and stand in line for her glass of wine then walk over to the red velvet benches and she would slowly draw a No. 7 cigarette out, light it, and let out a long, deep sigh. I would watch the people walking by and give her my commentary on what they were wearing and she would say, ‘Oh Margaret‘ when I would cross the line but she was laughing and I knew it made her happy.
All that my creative mind is or ever will be comes from the moments my mother fiercely protected our experience of art together and this gift, above all else, is one I hope I give to my own son now.
Happy Mother’s Day mom, I miss you. I love you.