Mom’s The Word

mom 4My mother had only one expectation of us: that we make ourselves interesting. “Only boring people get bored,” was her motto that stuck to me like a hotel shower curtain.

Of course, there were other words of sage advice, but the stand-out messages were:

“How would you like it if a big giant did that to you?” This was used in situations where we were poking eyeballs out of dead, bloated fish with sticks, or collapsing ant hills with even smaller sticks.

“You’ll go to juvenile detention centre for that!” This threat was often issued for a myriad of activities, like being on the roof of our house, reading my sister’s diary, honking the car horn in the parking lot, etc. There was no connective tissue between the “crimes” but we lived in fear the detention centre even though the mythical wherabouts were largely unknown.

“Don’t touch that, somebody could have pissed on it.” In my mother’s eye, people are pissing everywhere! It was difficult to earn a small income as a child collecting beer bottles chucked in the ditches of our country road because all the bottles had been pissed on. In my adult life, I have begun to question the merit of her warning. I have yet to intentionally urinate on a beer bottle, but maybe she has and is speaking from experience.

 mom 3

We were lucky. Tremendously lucky. The only wish my mother ever said no to was the Wet Banana. Oh, how we pined for that long strip of yellow plastic that we could slide our bikini-clad bodies across. Like a Slip n’ Slide, the Wet Banana was connected to a hose, and provided a horizontal water slide-like experience. But, we had a country well and zero water pressure and the Wet Banana was creatively replaced with a skateboard, a unicycle and a pogo stick. All of which proved to be extremely challenging to use as we lived on a gravel road with a gravel driveway.

We weren’t subjected to church or piano lessons (and for this we were/are forever grateful), or vitamins. Well, there was an attempt to ply us with cute Flinstone multi-vitamins for a short period, but we fed them all to our dog, Xanadu, and his fur and teeth fell out shortly after that. Clearly, the vitamins were full of poison.

mom 2Every Saturday (in my memory at least) we made our pilgrimage to the local library where we checked out stacks of books heavier than our body weight. Mom made certain that we were readers, because readers were never boring. We watched a necessary amount of television (Little House on the Prairie, The Jetsons, The Littlest Hobo), but when our TV intake began to climb, the television was relocated to the basement. The dreaded basement where mass murderers, boogeymen, ghosts and pits of snakes existed. This kept us from any TV-watching addictions and childhood weight gain.

As for weight gain, with my mother’s generous use of butter and sugar we should have been of pint-sized Sumo wrestler proportions. Our teeth would hum from her chocolate macaroons, marble brownies and Nanaimo bars. But there were rules. We could only have pop on Friday nights with take-out pizza.

When we discovered the fun that burping could provide (on those Friday pop nights), our behaviour was quickly curtailed when my mother implemented the Burp Tax. Each burp cost 25 cents (if she heard it). If the burp was disgusting, too long, intentional or at an inappropriate time, the fine climbed to a steep dollar. If they were funny burps, sometimes we could get her to laugh and not fine us.

My mother has always been adventurous in the kitchen, clipping recipes that sometimes requires my dad to make a substitute buttered toast dinner. The first time she made tofu for us she told us it was frog legs, which oddly, made it more appealing.

My sister, brother and I all played soccer. Sometimes all on the same night. My mother would avoid the sideline chatter and gossip of soccer moms and sit in the comfort of her car, surreptitiously reading and quickly beeping her horn if there was a sudden burst of cheering. My dad was the more pro-active cheerleader but my mother ensured we had our exposure to athletic activities too. However, at any given opportunity, she would remind us that it was okay if we wanted to quit. I remember a badminton match when I was 10 or so, and my doubles partner, Kyle, whacked me in the face with his racquet on a backhand. I left the court crying my racqueted eyes out. My mother followed me into the bathroom where I hid in the stall, my face with a heartbeat all of its own. “You can quit you know, I don’t care.” I can’t remember if I went back to the game or not, but I liked that I had a mother who supported me in quitting. Any perfectionist overtones that I have are all self-inflicted.

I can’t say that my parents were thrilled when I quit highschool to go work at an art camp up in northern Ontario, but my mother understood, eventually. In the fall, when I wanted to move to Vancouver to work as a freelance writer for Cockroach magazine (earning a whopping $400 a month) at 18, she understood that too. “I know you have your own personal geography to explore.” When I called home a week later saying I was going to protest the clear-cutting at Clayoquot Sound her only request was that I didn’t get myself arrested.

I didn’t find myself in handcuffs, but I became the Sir Francis Drake of my own personal geography. With her mild consent I signed up to volunteer in the jungles of Costa Rica for three months. My first choice of exploration was tree-planting in California but she thought the organization “Peace Trees” had cult written all over it and pushed me towards the jungle instead. I’m surprised she has any hair left on her head at all from my bold travels. Her emails when I’m abroad generally come CAPITALIZED and with several exclamation marks. ARE YOU OKAY? HAVEN’T HEARD FROM YOU IN 12 HOURS!!!!

I paved the way well for my younger siblings. Pierced nose, tattoos, a girlfriend with a motorcycle– there was no possible way they could surprise my mother. Even when I announced I was going to Africa for four months, her initial fear-based response turned quickly to a supportive role. How could she protest? She instilled my love of exploring, travel, birds and anything new.

mom 1My mother was our family trip organizer, she wanted us to see the world and as we grew older (and less likely to beat the crap out of each other in the backseat of the car), we drove further along the eastern seaboard of the states. We made our way through all the states clean down to Florida. The itinerary was strict, with army boot camp wake-up calls at 7 am and marathon driving expeditions between museums, cemetaries and wildlife sanctuaries. She could push aside hunger just to fit in one more must-see. My dad would be forced into the back of the van and Mom would tell my brother to turn up the heat to keep him quiet. “It’ll put your father to sleep.” My dad would resort to eating packets of hotel peanut butter before drifting off as my mother navigated and drove.

She has continued to support all my hair-brained adventures and schemes. There was no pressure to be a lawyer or doctor, she has only insisted that we are happy because life is too damn short. As for my writing, “just don’t write anything rotten about me.”

As if. I wouldn’t be able to think of a single rotten thing. Well, except for that time in grade nine when she confiscated the jeans I had carefully ripped a hundred holes into and carefully distressed with a razor and artistically bleached. Now, that was rotten.

My mother, me and my grandmother

My mother, me and my grandmother

Love you Mom. Happy Mother’s Day.

Categories: Wild Women | Tags: , , , , | 16 Comments

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16 thoughts on “Mom’s The Word

  1. Wendy

    Your mother sounds wonderful – and that’s a great tribute ot her – I hope she is reading your blog.

  2. jules09

    If she hasn’t been she’ll be tuning in now to see what else I might have to say about her!

  3. Love this, Jules 🙂 Your mom is a gem! I’m glad she encouraged individuality and greatness in all of you. Thanks for sharing!


  4. jules09

    I knew she was a gem when she gave me “How To Live On Nothing” by Joan Ranson Shortney when I was 16 (how to make your own dandelion wine, using dryer lint to stuff stuffed toys, using pill bottle cotton for disposable powder puffs and more). I’m not sure what kind of life she imagined me living when I was older (a recluse in a cabin or a Tibet monk I think), but she knew it would be different, and she has saved every letter and postcard about it all, if not for the cool stamps.

  5. Your mother sounds very neat.

  6. I think you’re mom’s right about beer bottles on ditches. Maybe not so much on as IN. Truckers have GROSS habits and don’t like to stop for little annoyances.

    And hey… the Art Camp. Was that in Walden? If so… totally went there when I was 10.

  7. karin

    I love the quote, “only boring people get bored”, will have to remember that and pull up my socks! what a lovely tribute to a fabulous lady. She’s done well to produce the likes of you. She sounds solid, strong, vivacious and hearty, like one of those soups you want to wolf down for being so yummy at the same time knowing (reassuringly) that it’s so good for you.

    cherish the love and be cherished and keep writing as you do

  8. connie

    This was a most enjoyable piece to read Jules as it fills in some of the missing puzzle parts that I didn’t know about you and it is a very special tribute to a rare gem – your Mother. She must have many special Motherly moments when she reflects upon you, your adventurous, wild-spirited life and the risks you have taken to develop into the multi-talented, strong individual you are today. How fortunate is she to have you share some of your delightful memories of her with such wit and warmth?
    As a mother, I know that giving a child the opportunity to test his or her wings at every turn requires much inner strength and an abundance of love and belief in that person. You are fortunate to have had that treasure, in your wonderful Mom.
    Thanks for sharing Jules!

  9. Linda L

    What a wonderful tribute to your Mom on Mother’s Day, what more could a Mom want than to be appreciated…and what more could a child want than a Mom who so totally accepted and encouraged her…you are both blessed! Love the influence of books and libraries!

  10. SAN

    You have fulfilled your mother’s dream; you Kylie and Dax are not boring and anything but. What a wonderful wish for children and each new adventure you embrace her words and wishes. Keep dreaming and following your dreams. Well done Sandra….congratulations for creating our Jules.

  11. Pingback: Go With the Flo « Alphabet Soup

  12. Jules, I love your mother. And not just because I too was misguided enough to give How to Live on Nothing as a Christmas treat (to my husband). You’re the daughter of a funny, bracing, spontaneous woman who believes in you and does not expect to live her own life through you. Here’s to you both.

  13. Sue

    Oh Jules…this is beautiful and wonderful. Your mom is an incredible person that understands and loves your love of life, sense of adventure, responsibility to give back and individuality.

    Thank you again for another heartwarming read!

  14. Yeah, what they said.

    And buttered toast for dinner rocks.

    Way to score a great mom.


  15. Freda and Dan Chapin

    Beautiful–shows your great respect and love for a person that has added to your life~~

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