Happy day-after-Mother’s-Day to all the not-my-mothers!

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Yesterday was Mother’s Day. Unless you’ve been in a coma since stores started advertising pink stuff (right after they marked the Easter chocolate down by 75%), you know that. Hopefully, you took the opportunity to show your mother that you appreciate her. If you are a mother, hopefully, you felt appreciated. Because being a mother can be a tough task (if you’re doing it right, anyway). Those little angels start by wrecking your body as they exit, and they spend years metaphorically drinking your blood, sweat and tears – and, at least for the first little while – they can’t say thank you. In fact, until they’re about four, they don’t give a damn about you and wouldn’t say thank you even if they could. As far as they’re concerned, you’re like the sun and the moon. Up all day and all night, shining for them – it never occurs to them that it could be any different. Bridget expressed utter shock, and a healthy amount of skepticism when she found out, at the age of four, that I actually sleep. And children are expensive! The amount of money I’ve spent on wine and anti-wrinkle creams since becoming a mother could have bought me a yacht by now, I swear.

For years, Ryan did the heavy lifting when it came to making me feel good about being a mother on Mother’s Day. He still gives me a beautifully worded card, and flowers or garden trinkets, makes food and does housework – and, of course, brings home a big ol’ bucket of fried chicken for dinner because nothing tells this Beth she is loved like disgustingly, deliciously greasy food. Now, though, my girls are old enough to treat me well on Mother’s Day – and they do. They gave me fancy bath junk and flavoured teas, two lovely cards and a collection of homemade coupons for everything from dishwasher emptying and lunch-making to a spa day. I had a nice chat with my mother and my mother-in-law. I scrolled my Facebook newsfeed (yes, I’m back) and marveled at just how much people had to say about mothers. Boy, do we ever love our mothers! (Well, on Mother’s Day on social media, we do, anyway.)

Yesterday had me thinking about a different category of women, too, ones that I didn’t say anything about because I didn’t want to take Mother’s Day away from all the deserving mothers out there. I owe my mother alot. More than I’ll ever be able to properly repay. But she isn’t the only woman who mothered me. Over the years, my aunts have spent hours listening to what I have to say. They’ve offered comfort and advice and encouragement. They’ve put me up in their homes and generously shared their fine cooking with me. They’ve celebrated my milestones with me. Likewise, the mothers of my good friends. I ran in and out of their houses, grabbing snacks and making messes and staying the night more times than I can count. They schlepped me to Brownies and piano lessons and figure skating and youth group events right along with their own kids. They took the time to listen to me in a way that showed me they really cared about me – they didn’t have to, and they already had their hands full with their own family, but they did. Even their grandmothers knew who I was and welcomed me at their table right along with everyone else if I happened to be there at dinnertime. Sweet ladies who gave me a hug and kiss just as if I were their granddaughter. My mother’s friends showed up without hesitation when I called them for help (which I did more than once). My mother did the same for my friends. Many of them called her “Mom Two”, and she still asks about them when we talk. I have no doubt that if any of them turned up at her house she’d be thrilled to let them open the fridge, grab a snack and slouch on her couch like they did all those years ago.

I had a series of long-suffering babysitters. My energetic, mischievous, saucy arse surely made them question how badly they needed the money my parents gave them. Yet, they made me feel like I was one of their own children whenever I was dropped off at their house. They’re still cheering for me today, from miles away, complimenting my photos and asking about my vacations and saying “I remember you when”.

I had wonderfully involved female teachers – strong role models, all. They didn’t put up with any bullshit, but they encouraged me to think critically and question what didn’t add up and proudly express myself.

Fiona and Bridget are now benefiting from the same thing – aunts who listen to them, teach them things, make crafts with them, and watch movies with them. Their Auntie Di is even letting them use their baby cousins as test dummies on which to sharpen their babysitting skills. Great-aunts who spoil them from a distance with a little gift for every occasion. Friends’ mothers who kindly open their home to them, offering gentle discipline and encouragement and endless granola bars and popsicles. Friends of mine who rarely show up at our house without a treat for the girls, chat with them with genuine interest in their thoughts and lives, send cards and letters at Christmas and Valentine’s Day and Easter and birthdays. I am certain these friends would be there for Fiona and Bridget without pause, if ever they are asked. They have had wonderful experiences with daycares of various types. The women (and, yes, they were mainly women) looking after them treated them with a tenderness and concern and emotional generosity that made it clear that Fiona and Bridget were more than just a job to them. Their teachers, from kindergarten all the way to today, have been more than just educators. They’ve been carers. Channelling Fiona’s exuberance into positive change for other students. Reaching through Bridget’s shyness to draw her out of her shell and show her how strong she really is. Taking the time to make sure neither girl is ever left behind in any subject. Finding the best in each of them, and helping them polish it to a high gleam.

Yesterday was a day for mothers, and rightly so. But today I celebrate others. Hallmark has yet to come out with cards for some of these people. I have a few suggestions:

Thank you, sixth-grade teacher, for putting an arm around my shoulder and telling me I was doing just fine in gym class when I hadn’t made a single basket in four weeks of learning basketball.

Thanks, friends’ parents, for not throwing me out of your car on the side of the highway when I led the whole backseat in yowling “There’s a Hole in my Bucket” all the way from Robert’s Arm to Springdale and back.

Sorry for my sass. You didn’t get paid enough to listen to that.

Sorry I broke your stuff even though I didn’t live in your home, and won’t take care of you in your old age.

Thanks, Auntie, for picking up the phone every time, knowing you were going to listen to God-knows-what for God-knows-how-long.

And on and on. Maybe this is more of a Thanksgiving post, but my thank-yous were already long overdue – they couldn’t wait til October. Happy day-after-Mother’s-Day, not-my-mothers!

Now, I know why.

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We are lucky enough to live near beautiful Frank Ryan Park. It’s a large park with play structures, a wading pool, basketball and tennis courts, a baseball diamond, and many woodsy trails. There are lots of old trees that are perfect for shading a picnic. In the winter, there’s a great hill for sledding, and a rink. There’s even a small area outside the rink flooded and maintained for skaters who are not up for the rough-and-tumble inside the rink. There are hay bales tied to trees and stacked up against the fence at the bottom of the hill to protect the skulls and limbs of the kids who go blasting down the hill (well, not just kids – I’ve enjoyed a few runs myself this winter). These stand in stark contrast to a harshly worded sign placed by the city that says it is not responsible for any injuries or loss of life caused by having winter fun – which I’m fairly certain everyone ignores. I know I do ….

After school yesterday I took Fiona and Bridget there to meet some friends. I laughingly introduced my skates as “the world’s ugliest skates”. That’s an exaggeration, but they were a Christmas present when I was fifteen – almost twenty years ago – and they are definitely the worse for wear. They’re mildew-stained in places because they were stored in a damp shed for a while. They’re yellowed and smudged. The metal hooks at the top have rusted, so the laces are rust-stained where they’re not dirty grey. The blades are rusty in several spots – one crater of rust is at least two inches long. But …. I can still skate in them. So I do. When I called them ugly, it triggered a memory of my mother’s skates when she was about my age. They looked exactly like mine do now. At the time, I couldn’t figure out how they had gotten that ugly, and why she still used them. My skates were always so white they glowed, and the blades were pristine. Like Fiona’s and Bridget’s are now. Now, I know why – if your feet aren’t growing, and your skates still skate, and your kids need new skates every year because they are growing like bad weeds, you don’t bother with new skates for yourself. Now that I’m in my thirties, I’ve got answers to other whys, too ….

I know why some of my mother’s clothes were nearly as old as her skates (though, of course, not as roughed up). I vaguely remember asking my mother why she kept wearing this one particular shirt that she had been wearing for years. I don’t remember her reply to my snotty question, although it should have been something along the lines of “what’s it to you, shut up”. Now, though, I get it. You just really love some items of clothing. You don’t care whether they’re in style. Sometimes you don’t feel like shopping, even if you need a new whatever-it-is. Just like the skates – you’re not growing anymore, and you still like it – and your kids need new everything, all the freakin’ time. I have (and still wear) a jacket that I wore in high school. I have underwear that’s older than my daughters.

I know why my mother fell asleep on the couch. My mother hardly ever stopped moving. She worked shifts at a hospital 45 minutes down the highway. She kept our house so clean that, most of the time, we could have eaten off any floor without ingesting anything other than our food. She made a great meal from scratch just about every day – and we had no dishwasher. She did nearly all the laundry, and hung it on the clothesline rather than use the dryer – even in the winter. She went for long walks every day. She sewed and read novels. At the end of the day, when she sat on the couch, she fell asleep. I snickered over this regularly. I once took a picture of her sleeping on the couch, chin on her chest, and printed a copy for her to treasure. Well, karma has officially kicked my deserving ass …. I’m now a champion couch-sleeper. I go and go and go – and when I finally sit down, I crash hard.

I know why my mother lost patience with our TV habit and evicted us from the same couch. Fiona and Bridget are squirmy little people. They can’t sit still longer than 45 seconds – unless they are in front of a screen. And it is, to say the least, mildly unsettling to see twitchy, wiggly kids making like catatonics in front of a flickering square for an hour or more. The idiot box is aptly named. Though I have to admit that it makes a great babysitter sometimes ….

I know why my mother had so much face junk. I remember thinking, in our tiny bathroom in my childhood home, that my mother’s make-up and other face junk took up a quarter of the counter space. What did she do with it all? Now, I know. Because I have two shelves’ worth of face junk myself. Eye cream, day cream (both tinted and clear), night cream, toner. Mud masks. Concealer. Two kinds of mascara. About a dozen half-used eyeshadows. My face never goes anywhere naked.

I know why my mother had all those perfumes. She had at least half a dozen half-used scent bottles on her dresser at any given time. When I was a teenager, I used to buy one perfume, and use it all up. Usually, it was something really awful, too – remember Tribe? How about Malibu Musk? I had the econo-size bottle of Malibu Musk. This has inspired me to take a trip down scents-of-the-nineties memory lane ….

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NAVY_Wenhanced-buzz-7691-1379359544-2enhanced-buzz-1859-1379360046-0C77010-HI-11_large (Yes, Gender One, not CK One. Because I couldn’t afford anything by Calvin Klein.)

Sorry for the sidetrack …. Back to the topic at hand. I was using a perfume. Then I got a Hudson’s Bay gift card for Christmas, which I used to buy perfume. Then I bought one while cruising through the duty free shops in an airport during a stopover. I saw that scents were on sale at Shoppers’ Drugmart, and took advantage. Then I really just felt like a change, and rummaged through the cluttered cosmetics section of Winners …. Guess what I have on my dresser. Yep – half a dozen half-used scent bottles.

Oh, and finally ….

I know why my mother’s mouth always hung open when she applied mascara. It’s because you can’t help it! It actually takes a conscious effort to keep your mouth closed while putting on mascara …. Scientists will begin searching for an explanation after they’ve halted global warming and cured cancer.

These days, I’m the mystery – to Fiona and Bridget. They shake their pretty heads over alot of things I do. Someday, though, they’ll be all grown up, and they’ll have their own list of finally-answered whys. They’ll look up from their cluttered bathroom counter at their reflection, already daydreaming about their next nap even though it’s not even noon, and suddenly it will all make sense. On that day, I hope I hear from them – we will laugh together at the joke that’s on all of us.