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meet my mom   11 comments

Posted at 5:49 pm in family,Uncategorized

my mom, Marian, around 1953

I wanted to get this post written and up online for Mother’s Day, but was sandbagged by technical difficulties. Better late than never are words to live by, and so I am posting this today.

In the past, I have written about my dad who passed away in 1999 from cancer at the early age of 69. However, apart from the odd brief mention in a story here or there, I have not written a post about my mom, so this one is long overdue.

If I’m correct, my mom will turn 80 in less than two months. She may not like it that I’m giving away her age, but it does seem some kind of milestone. Besides, we’re only as old as we feel, and it’s obvious that she can’t feel very old as she still moves like a 40-something year old person. When I watch her walking her Dalmatian out in the park in front of her house, I find it very hard to believe she’s not younger than me. She has always been very active, not so much into sports, although there were a few years in the 1960s when she set up a high jump pit at our cottage and she and I would see just how high we could leap. Mom was always a great swimmer and diver and on the few occasions that I saw her waterski in the 1970s, she was pretty darned good at that too.

my mom, her father, and a nephew, camping in the Thousand Islands region of the St. Lawrence River, around 1952.

My mom comes from a large family. They spent most of their growing up years in the Thousand Islands region of the St. Lawrence River. Her family practically lived on the water as her dad was a lockmaster on the old canal before the days of the St. Lawrence Seaway. Her parents raised their family during the Great Depression and then World War II. Several of her brothers went off to join the navy, leaving just the youngest family members at home. By the time my mother was in her teens, her father was quite advanced in age. He had been widowed and this was his second marriage and family. He loved camping and boating on the St. Lawrence River, so it fell to my mom and a couple of the other youngest brothers to accompany and actually pretty much enable the parents on boat trips to camp on the islands. In the above photo, my mom is sitting with her dad and a nephew who was along for the trip. The photo at the bottom of this post was taken on another such trip.

My mom always enjoyed being along rivers. When we kids were growing up, my parents bought a piece of forested land along the Ottawa River north of the city of Ottawa. They built a cottage and we spent over a dozen happy summers there – swimming, hiking, fishing, sailing, and boating. There is little doubt that our summer lifestyle played no small part in my preference for a solitary life roughing it in the bush, out on the desert or mountains, or along a river.

Mom was always quite resourceful and also rather impatient, and in fact, she is still like that to this day. If she wanted a picnic table, she would not wait for my dad to build one when he arrived at the cottage for the weekend. Instead, she would get out the power saw and make one herself. If she discovered a big poplar tree rotting out and looking like it might fall somewhere near the cottage, she would get out her trusty swede saw and cut it down. At night she would light a bonfire on the beach and we would bake potatoes wrapped in foil or roast marshmallows over the flames. She taught all of us and many of my visiting cousins how to swim at an early age.

mom and her older brother, Bill, around 1950

In addition to being an outdoors person, my mom was also very artistic. For as long as I can remember, she was always making something, painting, sewing clothes or something for our house. She is quite an expert upholsterer and could sew up a set of curtains in no time. She made some pretty interesting stuff up at our cottage during the 1960s, casting fountains in concrete, decorating the cottage with fishnets and shells, amd she even built a huge rustic entry sign over the lane – a rustic cedar pole affair with the name KON-TIKI spelled out in short cedar sticks with a big colorful Polynesian mask in the center – which she also cut out and painted. This was all a response to reading Thor Heyerdahl’s books about the expedition of the Kon-Tiki raft in the South Pacific. Mom read from the book that summer and we were all carried along by her own excitement. Probably much to her chagrin, it could be her interest in Polynesian adventures and North Pole expeditions that encouraged my own adventurous streak!

Music was another of my mom’s interests. Inspired by the many folk musicians headlined on Oscar Brand’s “Let’s Sing Out” weekly show, she taught herself to play guitar and sang tunes by Gordon Lightfoot, Peter, Paul and Mary, Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, among others. Around the late 1960s, in the wake of Canada’s centennial celebrations, my mom composed a patriotic folk song which she entitled Walk Around. A music school teacher in our neighbourhood recorded it with her class choir, and it started getting some local airplay. One way or another, it ended up that Walk Around has become a favourite Girl Guide campfire song here in Canada. The lyrics appear on many Girl Guide resource websites and I even found a short sound file that provides the melody for a typical verse and chorus. Anyhow, suffice to say that music was always a part of our household back in those days, so it is no real wonder that all three of us kids have either played music for fun or as a profession at various times in our lives.

mom and her younger brother, Bert, around 1950

Another of my mom’s interests has always been social activism. For many years, she wrote letters to city newspapers on subjects dealing with public safety, shelter for the homeless, and a host of other topics. For perhaps a decade, her letters regularly appeared in the papers and she has a thick scrapbook filled with clippings. One of her most concrete civic activist achievements was to work as part of a small group of concerned parents who eventually succeeded in having a pedestrian overpass built over a major highway and multiple railway lines that cut between our neighbourhood and our high school. Many of us risked our lives dashing across the highway rather than suffering the almost hour long school bus ride to travel a distance that took just a few minutes in foot.

There are many other things to know about my mom, but the above provides at least a partial glimpse of the person. Life was certainly interesting around our house. Never boring. Always creative and evolving. Many of my friends admitted envy of our somewhat bohemian lifestyle. Looking back on my years at home, I realize that we were always a little out there compared to other families as both my parents were so innovative and ahead of the curve. That is something that I have come to value greatly as I forge on with my own life in the wake of all the upheaval that has occurred. How better to equip one’s self for a strange and unexpected journey, than to develop creative strategies for dealing with adversity.

My mom reads my blog all the time and will be as surprised as any of you to find herself the subject of this blog post. Mom, this one’s for you. Love, Bev.

mom on a camping trip in the Thousand Islands on the St. Lawrence River around 1950

Written by bev wigney on May 16th, 2012