Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms and moms-to-be. It feels weird not being with my mom today, but we see each other pretty often so every day is kind of like Mother’s Day.
I have to admit that I have three mothers. I can’t escape any of them. Obviously, there’s my mom. But there’s also my Gram. Although she passed away nearly four years ago, there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about her, or hear one of her hilarious sayings in my ear. Then there’s my Auntie Pen, my mom’s twin sister. She didn’t have children when I arrived, and she went over mountains, through forest fires, and trudged through lakes to see me as much as she could. Because she and mom are identical, I would get confused when I was little. They’d show up in matching outfits, and were even pregnant with my brother and cousin at the same time. If we spoke out of turn or in a rude manner, one of these three women had no fear putting me and my two brothers or my two cousins in our place. Three interchangeable ladies.
In the spring of 1998, I studied abroad in Lancaster, England. Gram was turning 80 and excluding Canada and the Bahamas, her passport had never had a stamp. Mom and Pen decided that they would take her to England and come visit me for her birthday. What was fantastic about this trip was Gram was first generation Canadian. Her parents both arrived in Vancouver at 18 or 19 from Scotland, so we returned to her father’s native Forfar outside of Edinburgh.
We saw his childhood home, and even went in. An old woman, Mrs. McLeod, who was 99, remembered my great grandfather from her childhood. We went to the farm where he worked as a boy. The four of us shared steak and kidney pie in a rainy Windsor pub. I got Gram and mom to drink a pint (Pen and I have no issues with beer). We laughed until we peed our pants one night too. Gram picked heather from Forfar, and made her own cards to send to her sisters in British Columbia, reminding them of the Motherland.
They didn’t know I would take the train and meet them at Heathrow on the Mothering Sunday in which they arrived from San Francisco. They also didn’t know I had cut my hair very short. Nor that I had put on a good ten pounds due to chocolate, beer, and bad English food. I waited in the arrivals hall in spring colors, holding three enormous bouquets of flowers. As they rolled in (Gram received royal treatment and got a wheel chair), I saw her pointing at me and smiling. My eyes welled up. She said something to either mom or Auntie Pen, and they all smiled at me, then started to round the corner.
They didn’t know me. I was shocked. I ran up to them and said, “Hey ladies, want a ride?” and it took a few seconds still. Maybe it was the haircut, maybe it was the jet-lag, maybe it was all things combined. But the moment was wonderful and I needed to be mothered by three women for a few days. As Sir Paul says, they are “my ever present past”.
My Gram’s name was Mary, but she went by Mae. She was a proud woman, so Creedence’s song is very fitting that it came up today. Some of her expressions were appropriate, some not quite appropriate. They were a hybrid between Scottish expressions her mother used, and Canadian expressions that continued to isolate her slightly from others in America. The first picture down below was of my first apartment in San Francisco. That kitchen, as she said, was so small, you couldn’t even swing a cat. Many of her sayings contained some sentiment threatening the lives of cats, not because she was cruel, but just because that was the way it was. Behind them all though was love; true, unconditional, and ever-present. As India.Arie says, “So Simple. I Love you (What more can I say) Simple (What more can I say)”.
I’ve lost some weight lately, and Mom has started using Gram’s expressions. Her newest one has been, “Wow! We’ll have to shake the sheets to find you”, a line I have known since I was little. And now I answer my students when they are nosy and ask who I am talking about with “Oh, just Kelly Green” without batting an eye. None of them know that’s a color, not a person. Or to not tell a Friday night’s dream on a Saturday morning, even if it was the most beautiful dream ever.
Lyle Lovett in “Sonja” says “But I can’t find the right way to tell her my feelings”. I can relate. I can write them. I have written them, many times. In the form of cookbooks and short stories, and family histories, and poems and artwork. And even here. But I don’t know if I say it enough. I do. I love these three women to death. I AM SO LUCKY. I know this, and I will never forget it.
Happy Mother’s Day to three women who have helped shape me, love me, scold me, and support me. It’s just that simple.
Kings Highway–Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
Proud Mary–Creedence Clearwater Revival
Ever Present Past–Paul McCartney
City of Blinding Lights–U2