I have finally gathered the courage to write this… It’s probably the most heart wrenching post I will ever write. First let me extend my best wishes to all you great Mothers of all kinds out there! Here’s the story of my Mother: as a lovingly say my ‘making’ is all my mother’s fault.
‘Born at a tough time:
I owe a huge amount of gratitude to the woman who made me what I am today; my amazing mother! I can’t imagine how she was able to become what she was from where she came. Imagine being born the 13th child to a family with no indoor toilets just before World War 2 in Germany! She had 10 brothers, 2 sisters but was then raised by a relative to allow her to have a somewhat better life in the city.
Luckily she was in a loving home and made it through the war somewhat unscathed, but did learn many important lessons of life. The stories she told were of ways they managed to survive and be resourceful but I was spared from any stories of the atrocities of the war, thankfully.
After the war ended and things got better, she emerged with quite the style and met my father who unfortunately lost his dad in the war. Life was looking up… There are photo albums of sweet little pictures of travels around the country. Vespas and head kerchiefs and wonderful scenery!
Start of a Family:
And then came me, first of 3. Imagine how emotionally difficult it was for her to be raised by a family member, so that led to much love and stability towards her own children.
She worked as a milliner apprentice at the night shift in order to be with me during the day. Brigitte Bardot was alleged to be one of their customers. The memories of living in the apartment in Germany are somewhat vague to me but I love that they were able to have quite the photography of the time.
Sleek cars and chic attire were the norm it seemed, considering that they endured a war all would seem so cheerful & celebratory!
I only recently returned to see the town we had lived in and am baffled that we would leave such a beautiful place to immigrate to Canada but it was in an effort to make a better life for the family. My parents learnt english prior to departing so they could assimilate well into their new life.
Who gets dressed like this to visit the Botanical Gardens?! It was expected that you donned your sunday best even if it was for a country walk. Canada was such a fresh start and we embraced all the amazing nature here!
Canada has so many wonders (including the Niagara Falls) that we were constantly searching out more. Trips to Algonquin Park, Six Nations Reserve, fishing in every body of water we could find and settling down not far from the shores of Lake Ontario.
I had a great childhood with the kind of freedom we were allowed back then. Even as a young child I had a liking to be in the forest and spent many days ‘futzing’ around in the Escarpment of our city Hamilton.
Things to do, places to go…
Mom was always stylish and made sure the latest addition to the family did not get lost; the days when you could keep them on a leash. Our life revolved around family outings, non-commercial but still awe-inspiring places and things to learn. (Fort George Niagara)
A respect for nature was taught in our household, even when it came to raising a baby squirrel that was fallen out of the nest. (oh, and I see I was already painting on my t-shirts…) These are the kinds of memories that children will hold on to for their lifetime. We were not a family with much disposable income so we managed to make exceptional experiences with what we had. I never felt as if I was missing something; a valuable lesson that I would then pass on to my children.
My Mother the Maker:
My mother always believed that it was best to be home for the children. To offset any loss in income she did what ever was needed for family good. Our one and only furniture was reupholstered many times, re-stained and repaired. Expenditures were little. She sewed most of our clothes (made my wedding dress) and then taught me how to sew my own. Our home always looked amazing and coordinated.
She guided me well into my career so that I too could make a happy family life.
My mother did not let gender designations stop her form doing anything within her physical power. Outdoor maintenance, fixits, vegetable garden were a few of her tasks.
From living through a war my mother learnt how to save. I inherited so many zippers, buttons and notions that were salvaged from items rather that being thrown away. Re-use & up-cycle were our way before it became trend.
However there did come some obstacles along the way like cancer; but I think that just made the challenge greater! I saw no pitying or complaints.
No Challenge too much for my Mother!
Her courage to take on a project even when it seems daunting was remarkable, and I must admit it has given me that identical characteristic. I think ‘I can do that’ before I really understand. Then I figure what it is and then I am so determined to make it work, no matter what. Yes, she made a patio in the backyard…
It is really just lumber and tools to finish the ‘rec-room’, even add the electrical wiring! And of course the house-dress is the perfect attire.
The Retirement Years
The dreams of living in the North for retirement were adjusted a bit to include a posh trailer on a quiet lake in Muskoka. Canoeing and chipmunk feeding were part of this heaven. They could not be happier than when the Grandkids would come and stay at the trailer (they made sure it was large enough). Again it was what they had wanted but on their own budget.
Sadly in my mom’s later years another cancer took the use of her arm. ‘The glass half full’ mentality stilll kept her active; having worked hard raising her family she was not going to give into the disease during retirement. She was determined to still enjoy the things that made her happy. Sitting at the sewing machine in the sunroom overlooking the lake was her paradise. She dreamed up ingenious devices to help sewing a quilt with one arm. I know I have subliminally absorbed her determination and many wonder where I got it.
Children absorb what they see even though you may not feel like you are teaching them; it sticks with them. I know this all too well; when one day my daughter called me and said; ‘bring the truck, I need to pick up this credenza from the side of the road’. I knew then that she was already starting to emulate my determination! (more on her credenza makeover & more later) That is the positive payback I am seeing in my children; that they understand that they too can do whatever they put their mind to!
Happy Mother’s Day Mom!
I hope you can read this from heaven and I thank you for all that you did to make me what I am today! I am forever grateful and can only hope that my children will feel the same! ‘The best Rose ever’!
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Thank you so much for sharing your mother! My Mom also died of cancer but lived every day to the fullest. She was also a doer and a sewer – made all of her own clothes even jeans and bras – couture level sewing – all of her outfits were masterpieces. She also taught my sister and I to sew and cook and preserve food. My Dad was a State Park ranger and we always lived in the parks in the most beautiful places. Animals were, and are, my love also – wild and domestic.
More proof that we are twins separated at birth!
Wonderful memories of your childhood – thank you for sharing!
Oh, that’s amazing! I think you were even luckier than I! it’s funny as my brother’s dream job is to be a park ranger! In Canada we do not have many rangers… We are quite fortunate and I hope to instill the same for my children especially my daughter. I’m hoping that there may be a shift back to these things 🤞🏻, for the better of all!
Thank you for sharing your memories of your wonderful mom. I appreciate your generosity in sharing them. I am also the daughter of German/Austrian immigrants who arrived in the wonder that is Canada after WWII. Your mom reminds me a lot of my own. Sadly my mother also passed away last summer and I miss her deeply. These brave, loving and industrious women forged a positive path for their children in their new chosen country. A path I am happy (and privileged) to follow.
Awe, aren’t we lucky. I marvel what she managed to do and I hope I can be as much of that inspiration for my daughter. I miss my mom everyday and it’s been over 20 years, unbelievably! I use all her treasured supplies that she never got the chance to use.