International Women's Day: My Mom

Today, March 8th 2012, is International Women's Day. I took this opportunity to write a bit about one of the most amazing women I know.

Doing art on the sidewalk in Montreal
My mom is far from perfect, but she's an incredible person. She never thought she'd have kids until she did at (almost) the last minute. She never got married because she didn't (doesn't) believe in it. She was 38 when she had me and 43 when she had my sister (pretty unusual 20 years ago!). When I was pregnant and planning a natural birth, she told me that her labour pains were so bad, "If I'd had a gun, I would have killed myself."

I had the natural birth anyway. She was there and it was beautiful.

I guess I took it to heart when she told me that she always liked it when someone said she couldn't do something, "Because it just makes me know that I'm really going to do it." She bought our home when she was a single woman in her early 30s for the astronomical price of $100K (for a house in Vancouver!). Everyone told her she was crazy. She put the down payment on her credit cards. It put me through college.

One time, when she and her friend were visiting Salt Spring Island, they biked to the top of a mountain only to see their ferry coming in. They raced down to the docks but they missed it and they had to sleep on the floor of a restaurant nearby. No big deal. I was enchanted by this story as a kid and whenever we walked by that restaurant I would picture her with long blonde hair, resting easily on the floorboards beside her bike.

"Less is more."

One time, she was invited to spend a weekend on a boat with another friend and some guys. Her friend liked one of them but she found them all crass and rude. She got them to drop her off somewhere she'd never been before to enjoy a weekend by herself.

My mom regularly walks out of movie theatres. "Well I've already wasted my money on it, why would I also waste my time?"

She has a great sense of humour but she can't tell a joke to save her life.

She has a special extendable pole she uses to push the button at traffic lights – from her car.

"Just do it, that's what I always say." 
"Um, no mom, that's what Nike always says." 
"Well, I say it too."

She never baked cookies with us, but she sure made a lot of banana bread and cabbage salad.

She always encouraged me to share my feelings with her, even when they were about her and they weren't very nice. I wish I had taken her up on this offer more often when I was younger and it really mattered.

My mom is an artist. She put her art on hold to raise my sister and I. Now she [sometimes] prioritizes it, when scrabble, tennis and tenants don't get in the way. She's always very busy.

My mom has ADHD and she isn't afraid to tell you all about it.

My mom is the least sentimental person I know. She doesn't believe in hope, regret, or missing people. Even her grandson. Also, she throws hand-made gifts from my sister and I in the trash.

She has taught me not to take things too personally.

And that, "when in doubt, throw out."

She let me attend my sister's birth when I was five years old. So I asked her to be present at the birth of my son. She was tasked with driving my husband and I to the birthing centre. It was the middle of the night in the middle of a Montreal winter. Baby was coming hard and fast. She forgot the car keys inside the house and had to go back four blocks to get them. I was eight centimeters dilated by the time we got to the birthing centre.

My mom is very, very smart. But she still needs someone to remind her not to lock her keys in the car.

And to rescue her when she does (hi Bruce!).

She gives great hugs. Also, massages.

She plays great tennis. Someone told her she had the best female backhand in the entire tennis club. She knows this is because she's in touch with her anger.

She let me quit public school when I was seven years old because I told her I hated it and it was making me depressed. I'm grateful she trusted me so much.

She taught me how to dress like a million bucks when you've got nothing to spend and how to meditate on the remedy for a broken toilet when you can't afford a plumber.

She always said, "If you're bored, you're boring." Also, "Being self-conscious is boring."

I am never bored.

Though sometimes I am self-conscious.

My mother loves to eat but she hates to cook.

I married an excellent chef.

One time I got really mad at her when she said, "Keep talking, I'm listening" and then turned around and walked away.

My mom always thinks outside the box. Sometimes, like the time she taught me French while driving across Canada in a third-hand camper van with a loose part that rattled like a jackhammer, this is inspriring. Sometimes it's frustrating, like the time I told her I don't really wear necklaces anymore and she asked if that was because I was "afraid someone would kill [me]. Because, you know, someone can choke you with a necklace." 

Always, it is interesting.

My mom does not tolerate fools, princesses, macho men or drug dealers gladly. But she will teach them how to meditate.

My mom and I

One day my mom sat me down to talk about finances. She said that she had a little bit of money put aside for my college education, but that she couldn't afford the education I was getting already. We agreed to prioritize my current schooling and that I would figure out paying for college when the time came. I was nine years old.

My mom was raised in 1950s Ontario suburbia. She says things like "hard of hearing" (partially deaf), "going with" (dating) and uses "suicide" as a normal verb ("he suicided"). She also told my sister and I not to give her the "hairy eye-ball" and that, when we were being sassy, we were "cruisin' for a bruisin.'"

My mom is gentle. The only person she (regularly) beats up is herself.

She makes friends faster than anyone. She likes Montreal because people talk to her. And somehow they never seem to switch to English.

She used to have these bright orange stickers that said THIS EXPLOITS AND DEGRADES WOMEN. When I was homeschooling she let me stick them up on egregious advertising.

These are some of the things on our windowsill when I was growing up:

 - A life-sized four foot-tall papier-mache camel bust.
 - A large river stone cut in two.
 - An over-shellacked heart-shaped box.
 - A rotation of forgotten, half-drunk coffee mugs.
 - A human femur.

Jock, artist, highly sensitive person with ADHD, sprite, fighter, survivor, writer, landlady, activist, biomedical expert, tennis player, competitive scrabble aficionado, world traveler, "retiree", workaholic, partner, grandmother, mother, woman.


  1. Amen.

    Thanks Svea for writing this. Can I link your post on my livejournal blog?


  2. I would be honoured. What's your url?