THEN – New Beginnings
Completely disillusioned with the concept of family Olivia and I agreed that walking away from both sides of our family was the best result for both of us, for the time being anyways. Family was definitely not all it was cracked up to be, so we were going to move on, move ahead and move forward with our lives. We wondered what we thought we were missing and how much time we had wasted following some dreadful dream.
We made the formal tie of walking away from our father, but left the proverbial door open for our mother.
I won’t lie and say it was easy to be on our own at the age of 17 – but compared to what we were used to, it was wonderful. We found a room in the home of an older couple whose eldest child had just gone off to university and I was able to go from part to full time in my retail job. It was a step in the right direction and at that age, for the first time in my life, my friends were envious of me for not having to go to school, not having a curfew and having my own money in my pocket.
The next few years flew by and I flourished in my new found freedom. My confidence and my abilities grew and soon I was working in a well paying office job and living on my own. It was then that I was offered a job that would change my life forever. Because it required moving to a new city – it wasn’t suitable for a lot of candidates, for me it was perfect. I had always been a sucker for a new start – and I was determined to make this one stick. After all, it wasn’t just a new city, it was a new province! I’m embarrassed to admit it – but at the time, I wasn’t even sure if the currency was the same! *lol*.. I didn’t care; it was a new lease on life a second chance and I was going to take it.
I gave my notice at my current job, packed up what little belongings I had, arranged for their shipping, took some clothes in the car and left. I don’t even think I said goodbye to anybody. Well ok, I really didn’t have anybody to tell other than my workmates, but I did wave goodbye to the air when I crossed the border.
I drove across the country and was both amazed and bored to tears during the drive. Maybe it was age related – but at some points, all that flat land was fairly depressing. Mind you, when I was going through the mountains for the first time – my knuckles were so white they resembled bone left out in the sun for a few years – I would have given my right and left arms for some flat lands. I had to stop for a long time after that – my arms and legs so stiff and sore from that journey. Oh, and I was scared to death of having to drive through any more mountain ranges.
Luckily for me I was only 7 hours from my destination and had passed through the roughest part of my trip already.
I believe in Karma and all that good stuff and was sure I had made the right move when I was able to find an apartment within my price range that was nice, in a great neighbourhood, had all the amenities and best of all, I could walk to work. In this town, I have since learned that was no small mercy.
As fate would also have it, I met the man that would later become my husband within two weeks of my arrival. That fact that he was married to someone else at the time wasn’t relevant, because I didn’t know yet that he was going to be my husband. That revelation did however come a few months later and for the first time in a long time, I prayed to know the right thing to do in the situation.
I knew he was the one and honest to god, I really did hear that voice in my head telling me it. He was loading the dishwasher at a mutual friends’ house and I was in the middle of a conversation with his wife when it happened. I told the voice in my head to stop it because he was married to someone else, tried to say if it was meant to happen it would but kept on getting stuck on the part about wondering if he felt the same way. Still, I was able to remain strictly friends with him for a few more months before it was obvious he felt the same way.
How did it become obvious you ask? Well – he told me. That should have solved things in a perfect world, but needless to say it made things harder for quite a while. I never wanted to have an affair, be a rebound or the other woman and told him that. I knew that good things never started that way. I knew that good endings made for good beginnings. I said I would remain his friend and that he would have to get his business sorted out on his own without me, but that I would wait for him. If after all that was done and we still wanted to be together, then so be it.
I think that was the hardest my life had been in a long time. The happiest day of my life came when a few months later he came to me, told me he had taken care of everything and that he loved me.
I was on cloud 9 and terrified. I loved him more than life itself but didn’t have a clue how to be in a serious relationship. I can remember one night him being angry about something – I don’t know if it was even related to me – and I told him to just go ahead and hit me to get it over with, so I could stop worrying. I don’t know what was worse – my saying it, or his reaction to it. The look on his face told me everything I needed to know, but it took me a long time to get the message.
No matter what happened, under any circumstances – he would never hit me nor would he would never to anything to purposely hurt me. That took me far too many years to understand and thank goodness he had a solid upbringing to help him get through my insanity. Well that and his parents. Not to say his brother wasn’t important, but having a brother I could handle – a boyfriend, soon to be husband and in-laws/parents I had no clue about.
I also was not prepared to handle what I was about to learn about these people. I learned that parents were good and decent people, that loved and cared for both themselves and their children. I learned that a parent’s love had no limits and no boundaries and extended to those that your children loved. That is I believe, where I come into the picture and the true comprehension of my past raised its ugly head.
Then – Learning to Love
I don’t know how many years I was afraid of his parents. Not physically – but emotionally. I had no idea what you did or said with parents – I’d never had any. I had no idea that you could have your own opinion and if it was different, that it wouldn’t cause a problem or some earth shattering event resulting in a withdrawal of love.
I had no idea someone could love you unconditionally whether you gave back 100% or not. I actually had no idea someone could love me at all and still expected him to change his mind every day. I must have driven them all completely nuts most of the time. I thank god most days that they saw past my needy neurosis and saw the person I could be, not the person I was.
I’m fairly certain that besides his good looks and his sense of humour – I fell in love with my husband because of his mother. Well not entirely – he did get his sense of humour from his dad as well. *lol*…
I say that because of the man my husband is. He is warm, generous of heart and spirit, as previously mentioned is the owner of an incredible sense of humour and wit, driven, talented – has a great smile and an even better voice. I’m sure I’ve left a thousand other qualities out, but you get the idea. I love him to bits and am proud to be his wife. That said, I’d like to talk about his mom now – my mom, my real mom.
The first time I met her was at Christmas dinner. It was the first home cooked Christmas dinner I had ever had. I’m not sure if have ever told anybody that before. It’s funny to say how much it means because having spent so many Christmas’s alone, with something bad happening or with nothing at all, I didn’t think I was missing anything and actually tried to avoid it at all costs. It was usually other peoples discomfort with the situation that made me participate at all.
When I arrived – and boy was I nervous, I was welcomed with open arms and asked to sign the guest book. I’d never seen a guest book before – certainly not one that was used in regular life and wasn’t in a church or principals office. I signed carefully knowing that it would be there forever – even if I wasn’t.
I was offered something to drink and didn’t know what to ask for, so asked for water. Having seen so much drug and alcohol abuse in my life I surprisingly enough – didn’t really know that much about either subject. I had previously heard the saying “better keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool, than open it and prove it” – and thought it might apply in this case. I didn’t want to embarrass myself in front of these nice people.
Well plain and simple – whether it was intentional or not, mom concentrated on ensuring I had a nice evening and helped me with everything. I met her eyes across the table and watched as she showed me which fork to use, what spoon to use and other basic table manners I hadn’t known about.
She never tried to embarrass me when she asked me questions and seemed genuinely interested in knowing something or helping me to learn or experience something. This was my first experience of that and I was hooked. It would be 6 more months before I saw her again, it was a long wait, but well worth it.
This time I was back for good – and under the right circumstances, I was dating her son seriously and we were living together. I was daughter in law material and I was out to prove it *lol*.
Dad was always so polite, warm and welcoming and full of fun, I must admit – I had never experienced anybody like him either. I loved his jokes and was always so interested in everything he had to say – I felt like a sponge, but was embarrassed at being so openly interested, so quite often beat a hasty retreat to the comforts of the kitchen and mom.
The kitchen and mom – what an unbeatable combination. I simply cannot count how many hours we have spent there on an incalculable number of occasions. I wish I could say I remember each and every one in exact detail – but that is simply untrue, and probably unrealistic.
I remember one day in particular in such detail that I could reproduce it completely. We were in the old house that had just had the kitchen renovated. Lunch was long over and the remaining bread had been wrapped and put on the back counter in front of the toaster beside the oven, but not too close because it was a cook top range and usually stayed hot for a while after use. The men were outside relaxing, chatting about all the things that men talk about.
We were on the other side of the counter when she pulled out two great books and led us to the dining room table for our tea. She poured the tea, we each chose our special biscuit and she began to show me the books. One of them was actually a binder/photo album thing. Now given my past experience with one of these things you could understand my hesitation at getting too close to it. This one however, was absolutely positively wonderful. This was one chock a block full of recipe’s she had either copied by hand, taken out of one of her magazines or had been given by a friend. Each pocket had more than one recipe in it –sometimes even 3 or 4 in the one space – the book was overflowing with ideas. Each paper had been touched by her hand and she made notations or alterations in her familiar script – and as a final touch had marked how good it was/or wasn’t and who liked it best. The other book was a “manual” of the A to Z’s of the kitchen and cooking, with even advice on marriage *lol*. Mom said that she and dad had picked this out before they were even married. These were here two “bibles” if you will and she used them both all the time.
She was always so pleased to be using a recipe from one of her collections and even more pleased when we liked them. From that day on any time I opened a piece of mail from her it most likely had a recipe from some magazine or newspaper in it. When she became more technologically advanced (or should I say when dad did) she would have him scan them to make a copy for me – but still send them via snail mail. *lol* Or if she could wait that long – until our next visit.
The recipes books – old and new - always came out at Christmas time – which I now loved and she found some great recipes – there was one that we got served for years called “Vegetable Medley”. She was so proud of herself for finding a dish we all loved that had vegetables in it.
We all had our favourite parts of Christmas dinners – Robert the little sausages, dad the stuffing, mom the cranberry, Katherine the trifle, Anthony the previously mentioned “vegetable medley” and me, well now I loved it all. But especially the after dinner conversation where both mom and dad would sit with Robert and I and tell us stories for hours of how they met, about their courtship, their early married years and anything else that time allowed for, or until we were all ready for bed.
For many years Robert and I stayed over night and woke up with mom and dad on Boxing Day. I think it was our first year doing this that mom came into our room quite concerned because she could hear us talking and because it was 3am thought something might be wrong.
She told us the next morning that when she got into our room she was so surprised – we were both talking to each other, but were sound asleep and that she started to laugh and was laughing so loud she was afraid she would wake us up. I hope we weren’t talking about anything embarrassing – she would never tell us *lol*
Throughout the year, I loved going over on Sunday afternoons to either have lunch or dinner – and sometimes even both. This was all so new for me, I just drank it in. I loved spending time with her. I adored it actually.
I remember another day when she went and got her jewellery box out of the dryer (her number one hiding spot) and we sat together on the floor as she went over every piece with me. We tried them all on together, laughed, played a jewellery version of dress up and told stories with each one and laughed in mock horror at the piece made by her grandmothers’ hair.
I can’t honestly say I ever saw her use that part, but she did wear her baby sapphire as she called it often. (It obviously couldn’t compare to her engagement ring, but she loved it just as much). We were exactly the same in wanting our sapphires, our wedding band and our anniversary rings – and to stack them on the same finger *lol*
I used to by her all kinds of earrings for her un-pierced ears and she had every pair in there, whether she actually wore them or not. Actually I think most of my choices were good ones and she did wear all of them. But if they weren’t I would never know as she would never have wanted to hurt me by telling me so. She had such a beautiful face and the earrings framed her face so very nicely. They made her eyes sparkle even brighter, much like they did when dad walked into the room.
Those few hours with her going through her personal pieces when she spoke about her mom, how and when she received each of the pieces, were some of the best moments of my life. This is exactly what I thought girls did with their mothers and it was finally happening for me. I didn’t even have to ask, she shared so willingly. That was the essence of her, a pure love that came naturally.
Speaking of her essence, that would not be complete without acknowledging all she talked to me about life, love and gardens. To her, they were all the same things. She talked to me about which plants to plant where and when.
She taught me about “mommy magic” which was really just a hose on the right angle that you could make a rainbow to make wishes on and send hugs and kisses back and forth on. She taught me how butterflies would take messages from you to loved ones who had passed and how ladybugs were your loved ones coming for a visit. She said it could work both ways, but her mother had taught her this way and that is what she would tell me and that I would tell my children.
She taught me about how dragonflies were the light bulbs for the others to follow. She said they all talked but not loud enough for adults to hear, unless they got down close to the ground in the garden, where they would share their secrets. She said if you listened close enough you would hear them say thank you for the sun, the rain and the love they receive from you.
Her absolute favourites were the ladybugs though. They were constantly around and every time one landed on or near her should would talk to them and figure out which relative was talking to her. Most times it was her mom. She was always happy after having a visit with a ladybug and you know what, most times just after a butterfly showed up that she sent a message back on.
Mom also said that after you had send your message to remember which plant the butterfly, ladybug or dragonfly had been nearest and to pick it for your memory book when its time was done.
She taught me how different flowers represented different people – yellow roses meant mothers or babies, babies breath meant toddlers, peonies meant grandmothers and lavender meant your father or his mother. I’m sure she told me a lot more, and I know I wrote it down somewhere and will find them one day and plant them accordingly.
Mom made every day life magic; we didn’t need to wait for special occasions.
We did all of these things and so many more over the many years we were together and I love and cherish each moment. There are however a few moments I wish I could have do-over’s *lol*
When Robert and I got engaged she was so excited and so much wanted to be part of things. To be plain, I was a selfish idiot that was so insecure I didn’t see what I was being offered. If there is one thing in my life that I could do over, it would be that.
She lovingly tried to talk about flowers to me she talked about pink roses, white lily of the valley and white freesia. All I heard was pink roses. I knew Roberts’s first wife carried pink roses and would not, absolutely would not under any conditions have pink roses. I think I may have stomped my feet and thrown a pretty good temper tantrum at that time as well – at least in my head I did.
It wasn’t until I had the idea to duplicate her wedding bouquet for her for their 40th wedding anniversary that I realized that her wedding bouquet was – you guessed it, pink roses, white lily of the valley and white freesia. Needless to say I also sent 40 pink roses in hopes she would understand and accept my silent apology.
I was mortified; absolutely mortified that I had to horribly thrown away such a heart warming gesture by a woman I loved so much. I swore if I ever had the opportunity again, I would make it up to her. It took me many years to have the courage to explain this to her – and in her own immutable way, she made it ok for me and forgave me.
The second thing on my regret list started at the same time as the flowers. As was the protocol for most weddings the bride and her mother chose a china pattern. With me not having a mother, I didn’t know this so when asked, rather than admit I didn’t have a clue about that sort of thing, said I didn’t want/need one.
As I grew older and began to listen to her talk about her china pattern and how it is a mother that starts her daughters’ collection my heart sunk. I didn’t realize that I had messed up in such a large way. She had waited so long for both of her sons to get married so she could have her girls – and here I took another of the essential mother/daughter things away, without even knowing it.
That year for her birthday I bought her a set of 4 cups and saucers she said she had liked. I hoped she understood it was my way of say I was sorry and that I understood now. I was too afraid to bring it up again, and she thinking I wasn’t at all interested, never brought it up again.
I do know her pattern, its’ called “Old Country Roses” and I love it. I am going to start collecting it for myself – for her and hope she notices one day. If not, I’ll try to find some subtle way of letting her know.
I know its’ not really about the china or the flowers, the are but symbols of the joy and beauty of mother/daughter relationships. They are part of lessons learned, traditions handed down and what makes mothers and daughters so special.
I could go on and on about special things we shared, but they are too numerous to count. From shopping for clothes, watching movies, chatting for hours, planning our girls time, gossiping about Coronation Street, teaching me about gardening, going to concerts, craft fairs and planning for the children her son and I are planning to have. There wasn’t anything we didn’t share.
From the day we met, she has been instrumental in every aspect of my life and has been there for every smile, every laugh, every bump, every bruise and every tear. I am so lucky to have found a mom, a true mom and to me, she is the only mother I’ve ever had.
While I haven’t mentioned too much of dad in this book because it is primarily about mother/daughter relationships, I would be remiss if I didn’t say that just as I would have chosen mom to be my mom, I would have chosen dad to be my dad as well. I was just lucky to hit the jackpot twice in one family. Well beyond lucky actually, but I don’t have the vocabulary to express it.
My heart bursts knowing that I have heard from both mom and dad that they feel that I am their daughter too. My life is absolutely perfect. I couldn’t have dreamed of anything better or more.