As I sit back and slowly open the heart shaped locket left to me by my mother, I look at the beautiful, young, innocent, smiling face and a torrent of memories flood my mind.

I remember her as hard working, tireless in her endeavour to ensure that my siblings and I were always properly fed and clothed, and her home was always kept spotlessly clean. This was the normal role of women in the 1940’s and 50’s, but her circumstances were anything but normal.

About two years after marrying my father, who was seventeen years her senior, he left a secure plant job in the city and decided to purchase an ice cream parlour and confectionery in a small town 100 miles away. Suddenly, uprooted from her family, she was thrown into the task of running an enterprise of which she knew nothing about. I was less than a year old at the time and had to be left behind in the care of my grandparents until the business was established. It must have been a heart wrenching decision for my mother and it would be another 2 years before I could join them. For the next 25 years she would play the main role in the raising of the children, running of the household as well as all aspects of the business.

A few months ago I was assisting a granddaughter with a school assignment and asked the question: Did your mother influence your life and how?

My mom always seemed to be busy. Her days were filled with household duties as well as obligations to the store. I will forever remember the hours she spent ironing everything in sight and I mean everything. One day I asked why she felt compelled to put so much effort into something so unnecessary. Her reply, just because. I shook my head in disgust and felt time with her children was already scarce and adding this menial task constricted it even further. I was annoyed and resentful, giving no consideration to her own feelings.

Mom wasn’t one to display her emotions. There was a scarcity of hugs, and the words “I love you” were very few and far between. I didn’t think too much about it at the time because she was always there when a bandage was needed for a boo boo, when a nose needed to be wiped, in fact, whenever I needed something she always made sure it was provided. No matter how hard she worked or how much her weary body ached at the end of a long day, I never heard her complain. After all, in my opinion, it was her job, wasn’t it?

One of my fondest memories occurred on a night when my boyfriend and I were on our way home from a drive-in movie and the radio disc jockey announced it was two a.m., well after my twelve o’clock curfew. My head exploded, my heart rate accelerated and I started shaking. I didn’t know what or who to expect waiting for me at the door. 

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Sure enough, it was mom and I prepared myself for the worst lecture of my life and more. She asked if I was okay and told me to make sure I called the next time I would be late. Through my own, I saw a glint of tears in her eyes as she tenderly kissed me goodnight and walked away, leaving me in total bewilderment. History was to repeat itself when my own daughter overextended her curfew one snowy night. I, unlike my mother, expressed my feelings with the sage old words of wisdom, “you’ll never understand until you have children of your own,” all the while, tears of relief were flowing down my cheeks.

She was a perfectionist and this was reinforced one day when we were busy making cabbage rolls. I could never perfect her recipe and wanted her step by step instructions. I was having difficulty rolling the filling inside the cabbage leaves and she kept slapping my hand and rewrapping them as I attempted to put my very uneven, loose little bundles in the pot. “Why did they have to be perfect? I asked, after all they would be covered in sauce and nobody would notice. She gave me the look and answered, “If you can’t do something right, don’t do it at all.” I got the message loud and clear.

When my parents sold the store and moved back to their hometown shortly after I married, I was very angry and could not understand how she could leave her children and move one hundred miles away. Over the next 25 years we drifted further apart. Unfortunately it was the death of my father that closed the gap. Her health was deteriorating and my sister and I insisted she move back to our area so we could properly care for her in her declining years. We did not give her the opportunity to refuse and were relieved she immediately adapted to the transition. I suddenly came to the realization that she must have felt the same way about her mother those many years ago.   I felt very selfish.

Thank God I was given a second chance and the opportunity to become a better daughter, heard those three little words spoken more often and forged a very close bond with her before her unexpected, sudden death of a massive heart attack. I regret to this day leaving her alone in the hospital, only to receive a phone call informing me of her passing less than an hour later. I refused to accept this and immediately drove back. It was true, too soon my time with mom was over. I was not ready.

I know she is taking care of me still, because a few years ago, doctors discovered a severely blocked artery in my heart and told me I should not be alive, that a guardian angel must be watching over me. Thanks mom.

When asked the question – Did your mom influence your life and how, it did not take me long to reply. Of course she influenced me. Every day I emanate the high standards she set. Following in her footsteps I tried to be the best mom, I could possibly be, established a loving and caring relationship with my children and developed a commendable work ethic. She not only gave me life but also demonstrated how it should be lived. It is not necessarily what we say but what we do that speaks volumes.

There are no words that can describe the way I feel about my children. They have brought me my greatest joy and at times my greatest sorrow. They have made my heart almost burst with happiness but also with pain. These feelings cannot be put into mere words. As generations of women before me, I do the best I can and am just a mom.

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