Tag Archives: Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day Isn’t For Everyone

ScanA week after my son was born my mother called me and said, “Where have I been for the last week?”

It was the beginning of a long letting go.

Now, my son is 21 years old and has no memory of his grandma but knows, I think, that she was one of the greats. As in mothers. I tell him stories about her, try to bring her alive for him so he has a faint outline of her in his mind that can serve as a proxy for a grandma.

The fact is, Mother’s Day isn’t for everyone. I well up in tears a lot during May because I lost my mother when my son was not yet three years old. I mourn the loss of him never having heard her gut laugh, or been fed by her or been able to turn to her with secrets that would be kept from me. He was born on the cusp of a mind slipping away, but during the months she was still present, she loved him fiercely. She wanted to hold him though her hands didn’t have much strength left in them. She tried to balance him on her hip and I crossed the room just in time to catch him before he hit the hardwood floor. It broke my heart. It broke hers. We just tried to love as much as we could before the fog crept in and muted everything.

I have failed in so many ways as a mother, countless really, and have spent thousands of moments asking myself, what would she do in this moment?

If you are like me and have scar tissue that gets pulled in painful ways today, just focus on the lessons you’ve been given —by men, children, animals, nature, art — and feel blessed you’re learning and being taught, and mothered in some way by life. And extend this back to your circle. Maybe that is to someone who needs help in a lineup or a tourist who needs directions or is a younger co-worker lost in a miasma of twenty-something angst. No matter. Just be mothering. Be loving. This might make Mother’s Day less specific and hopefully, a little less Hallmark hell full of should’s and thickly sweet Facebook posts of intact families.

To all of you without mother’s today, be overly kind to yourselves. Forget calories. Eat something you love. Wear something soft and enveloping. Write something loving with no expectation of hearing anything in return. Listen to a piano concerto. Or birds. Lie down and watch sparrows. Find some innocence— the world will come back tomorrow and ask you to be a grown-up. Love the minor note you feel playing inside you today. Whistle it out loud, even if no one is around to hear it. And of course, be a good mother to your self.


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Filed under Non-fiction

On mothers, imperfection and love

It is Mother’s Day and I’ve been very blessed with a son who not only took me to lunch but to an art gallery then dinner! Can you imagine doing all that for your mom? I know. But it isn’t all bliss on the parenting front. In fact, being a mother means your worst self will be scrutinized and commented on for as long as you are alive. Your children, in all their innocent and not so innocent honesty, will bring you face to face with your shortcomings like no one else.

Recently my son said he felt like I didn’t teach him enough tasks and that I was annoyingly positive. Well, there you are. But as I ruminated on my failings at 3 am, I thought of my own mother and her imperfections and how they now endear me to her even more. Where once I was a critical 20 something I am not a not-so-smug 40 something who can, with empathy and love, look back on some of situations I was in with my mom and hold them close as cherished memories instead of damning her for being, well, human. To that end, I wrote a poem about a time when, in today’s politically correct world, my mom would have been seen as lax or worse, negligent. But I see it very differently. I my son will too some day.

Imperfect Mother

It is the imperfections of my mother

I hold dearest—

The time for instance when turning off of

West 16th near UBC in her red Beetle the

door beside me swung open and since it was the seventies

I wasn’t wearing a seatbelt

and I went with the door, grasping the handle to

avoid the road rushing below me.

I looked back at my mother who

while still turning with her left hand lunged across to snatch my

flimsy t-shirt with her right and pulled me back into the car.

It was a one shot deal but she managed it. The door banged shut as

she completed the sharp turn and we kept on driving as though

I hadn’t just about fell out of the car and onto the road.


A block later a small eruption of laughter burst

From my mother. It made me clap my hands together

In gleeful loopy agreement of what I wasn’t sure but

The sun was streaming through oak leaves as we drove

Creating a beautiful pattern on my mother and I kicked my legs

Out from the edge of the sticky car seat to the radio played


Hot town, summer in the city
Back of my neck getting dirty and gritty
Been down, isn’t it a pity
Doesn’t seem to be a shadow in the city


I could say my mother was negligent

I could get maudlin, drink myself silly

Recount her imperfections that had caused

My life to zig zag like a silverfish on the run


But then I remember how she didn’t pull over

And fuss and fawn and make a big deal of

My near death fall and how years later this

Would give me courage when real death

And real heartbreak would pull me pull me down


And I would swim up to the surface, clapping my hands

Ecstatic for life’s small moments of survival.


*Song lyric from Summer in the City by Lovin Spoonful, 1966.



Filed under Memoir


Scan 5


Let me tell you how I felt

how I felt when you used to talk

about the Prairies & your busy hands

paused and your eyes went somewhere else–

to the open sky it was always the endless open sky

there in your face–a beloved thing,

a Prairie prayer like a fragile origami

you had folded deep within your heart.


It called to you and so it called to me

and yet–

we were surrounded by fences that went on forever

ordered behind you like a legion

my brothers the laundry the bills

the Catholic Charity League the slowing heart of

my father the sounds of dishes and diapers and laundry

row upon row upon row.


I wanted to run away with you

into the wide open blue our hands out behind us

as our heads leaned toward the harvest the rolling

land for as far as we could run

for as long as we could live.


Filed under Poetry


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.

Me in pink, mom in blue, grandma in purple

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.

My mom, on her honeymoon, before all the damn kids

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.

My photo of my mom's hands.

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.


Filed under Memoir