A Facebook reminder today let me know that it was Mamie’s birthday – as if I needed that.
Since the last post here months ago things have been pretty wild. I think Mom would be pretty happy with Sundi and I now living a lot closer to her. She would be happy that I called and sent Halloween themed flowers.
I think of her every day and miss her dearly.
Especially her sense of humor.
For some reason she really loved this short that I made for her last year so here it is again – https://vine.co/v/OOurP2rP3HY
It smelled of summer for the first time when I woke up this morning. It has been a tough spring for me, getting over the fact that I just can’t talk to Mamie again. Next week, Sundi and I are headed to the Sarnia area for a short visit and just thinking about it makes me sad. It will be the first time I return after she passed away. I am torn about going. Almost like if I never return, she will still be there somehow.
Its ludicrous, this idea, but I realize it is what has been spinning in my head as I plan the trip. And that city is so entirely my mother to me. Pretty much every where I go I will have been there before, but with my mom. Stores and spaces change, but now when I think of them they are filled with what they used to be, when I visited them with my mom. So absolutely bizarre and unnerving to accept that she won’t be there. In my dreams over the past months we have gone down to the water and fed the ducks. We’ve had breakfasts in a few places. We were even in my old elementary school together as adults. For sure I will let go of these things at some point, but right now they are so tough.
And then I think about those in the city who miss her everyday and are confronted with that absence. You all have my thoughts and hugs. Must be so much harder, in a way, for you. Also easier maybe because you’ve had months of being in that place without the contact. For me it will be a shock again, for you it is more every day perhaps?
Either way, it will be great to catch up with you all and hopefully we’ll make it okay.
Pictured below are me and mom with the last pic I have of us before she left Hoskins.
There are tons of pictures of Mamie with babies because from when she was 17 on, she was constantly surrounded by them. Aside from her own seven boys, she constantly hung out with babies with a steady stream emerging from her sisters, friends, other family, and daughters-in-law. Looking through the finite pictures I have of her, many of them are of her hugging or holding babies or infants of varying ages.
What a life, right? After she started her own family she was constantly around infants, but she was that way from when she was born. Her younger siblings began her journey and she never diverged much from that. And what did she always bring forward? Her love. I have written about this before, but Mamie’s legacy (or one of them at least) was teaching people how to love. That was what she gave us. Sure she didn’t love everyone she met, but she did love her family intensely.
It is strange that as I started writing this post I had never thought of her as being constantly surrounded by babies. Not to mention the joy she always took in holding them and lifting and kissing and laughing and dancing with them. Quite a force really, to be able to do that over 70-plus years.
Selfishly I wish I had some pictures of me with her when I was a baby. By the time I came around I think Mamie was mostly behind the camera because there are plenty of pictures of me with my brothers and father and friends, but none (that I have) of me(as a baby) and her. If anyone out there has any, please do share.
Anyways, that is all a long preamble to this wonderful photo of Mamie and Paul in 1959.
Sundi and I went to Halifax this past weekend. As we drove there, signs for several of the places I had lived with mom over the years flashed by; Truro, Peggie’s Cove, Debert, Amherst, and Tatamagouche. And others. Places where we would pile into different cars and head off to/from for varying amounts of time.
Something that we often did while passing road signs was we would say the names of the places on the sign whether we knew those places well or not. When we would travel places with unfamiliar names, we would try to guess what the names were and their origins. During our time in Earltown, we would often go into Truro several times a month. Even when we went on the same path frequently, we would make up different ways of saying the names along a route and laugh. Nova Scotia was a particularly fun place to live for this as there are an interesting mix of names.
Friday, on our way to Halifax, just before the turn off for Truro, I clearly recalled this one time, where mom made me laugh so hard I almost peed myself. At that turn off is a sign for Tatamagouche, which my mother overly pronounced:
I was young and knew exactly how it was pronounced so I lost it real hard when she said that. It became a thing, that one way of over pronouncing and stressing each syllable. Looking back, it was a meme that Mamie and I shared for many years.
She was damn funny when she wanted to be. And she knew how to play to her audience as well. For me, this weekend, I realized how great she was at entertaining a bored little kid with a strange sense of humour. Now that kid realizes that a lot of her weirdness is why he’s so eloquently odd himself.
Mamie and I mostly talked on the phone, or through Skype, and occasionally she would send me a hand-written letter. She also had a Facebook account that she checked frequently for a while, but once she moved into Trillium Villa it went dormant. Over the decade or so since I’ve had a Gmail account, she was mentioned frequently in correspondence with others. And there were occasional mentions of her through notifications of various types as well.
When I search my Gmail account there are almost 300 emails that mention Mamie in some form. A lot of these are from my brother Art who included her on his group emails for many years. When I remove “Art” from the search, there are only 39 emails with mom’s name in them. Strange to be so analytical about this, but it is interesting.
Going through the years of emails, Mamie is talked about in conversations with numerous people. Details of her moving to different apartments, plans for surprise presents, reports of how we were doing and asking after her health. There’s even a few emails around the time she took ill in 2011 and was living in Sudbury for some time. At the top of the list are emails about her obituary, her death certificate, and links to this blog. Its quite a strange experience to go through all of those moments and remember phone calls with her.
Some of the emails are backdrops to weddings, birthdays, and events that I still remember quite vividly. Reading all of these messages and ending up here again, in the present, typing on this blog about memories of her is strange. Challenging. Fruitful some how. So few messages revealing such a wide swath of a life now passed. If a stranger were to read all of those messages I wonder what they would glean about Mamie from them. They would note how everyone who talked about her thought she was funny, yet stubborn. How she always seemed happy to hear anything from the ones she loved. But what of her actual life? Did she lead a good life? Did she enjoy her life?
The very first email in the list is from 2005 and was sent by Alina, my niece, who was studying photography at the time in London, Ontario while living with my brother Mike and his husband Keith. Alina’s email starts out asking about the Czech Republic, where Sundi and I were living at the time, and she goes on to talk about how her photography courses were going. Included as an attachment is the picture of Mamie below that I had entirely forgotten about for years. If a stranger were to see only one picture of my mother, I think this would be one of the best. You can see that her life wasn’t easy, but she always found a way to enjoy herself.
When Mamie suddenly entered Trillium Villa a couple of years ago, most of her stuff from her apartment had to be gotten rid of. It’s always an interesting question in these situations of what we take to remember someone by. Apparently she thought I would like a tea pot – and she was right. It’s a faux art deco design that holds itself just on the cool side of kitsch. I loved it and my only concern was that we were flying it back to PEI and how to make sure it didn’t get broken.
But it did make it and we use it regularly, as evidenced in this video that Sundi took as a camera test some months ago. It may seem an odd choice to include this somewhat candid moment, but somehow I thought Mamie would like it.
When I just came across it in a folder, I thought it was the view I have sat at a lot and has the same things in it that I described to her during phone conversations or on Skype.
She never did get to see our PEI home in person (we did a few video chats and she saw lots of pictures) and she often asked about our cat, beast – I can’t be certain, but I think the first time she saw a pic of him she said – “Isn’t that something?”
So here is a short candid video from our living room.
Mom loved animals. As long as I could remember, she always got excited at whatever kinds of animals she would see. As a kid this was great because I always had a dog or cat(s) around. Even after I went to university and mom was living alone in her sixties, she still tried to have an animal in the house – she had this one really cute but not so sharp alaskan husky that she gave away because he was too hard to train.
Over the past year I remember talking to her about the foxes, racoons, and skunks that live around our neighbourhood and she always had an excitement in her voice. When we visited her in Trillium Villa and we went out in the yard with her she just loved watching the squirrels that would run around scavenging. On a few of our phone calls she would talk about watching the squirrels for hours and report on how they moved, what they would eat, how many there were, and how close they would come to her before running off. We had an extended conversation about crows once that changed what I thought about them.
Winter, in all the places we lived, was not a favourite of Mamie’s and I think that’s because of the lack of animals. Sitting on a porch somewhere watching animals in the park was not possible. They were all hibernating or waiting for a time where there was more food around. I remember very clearly mom talking about how happy she was when spring arrived one year at the coop she lived in. As it was only a few blocks from the water, one of her favourite things to do was to walk down to the water (or drive if it was still to chilly) and feed the ducks. We did this with her one year and brought a picnic along. It was so fun watching mom get all exited about those birds.
Yesterday morning on the way to work I saw a flock of geese flying in their marvellous V formation and something came over me. It felt so wonderful to see them up there and the temperature was just warm enough to feel a soft breeze. My heart leapt and I immediately thought about telling Mamie about seeing the geese and her sharing stories of what animals she had seen. Then it hit me again and I got sad for a while.
But as today went on, I remembered her love of animals and how she used to so love the dogs of her grandkids.
I can just imagine telling her about the geese and her saying: “Well isn’t that neat?”