My chores included gathering the eggs, assisting with meal preparation, washing and drying dishes, weeding the garden, picking fruits and vegetables from the garden, washing the milking machine parts, and bringing in laundry from the clothes line and ironing. When I was 14 years of age my youngest brother, Paul, was born, and tasks such as changing diapers and potty training were added to my list.
We were poor farmers and my baby brother slept in my bed until I left home. No one complained, least of all my mother. She rose early in the mornings to scrub, peel, bake and care for home, garden and children. I recall her spending hours canning vegetables and fruit on humid summer days for our winter supply.
The farm house at Robin Hill at the top of the long lane was her favorite home regardless of it having no kitchen sink or furnace. When she had extra time and energy, she’d paint an old table or find some way to make a junk yard find into something useful and appealing.
She was always a fragile woman, like a treasure in a china shop and Dad always felt like a bull in that china shop. I remember asking her what attracted her to Dad when they met before he went off to serve in the Second World War. “He was strong, fun and protective” she said before adding, “I’m sorry I didn’t speak up when he became verbally and physically abusive with you and your brothers.” There were no women’s shelters, outreach programs or awareness of the Post Traumatic Disorders soldiers brought home. She did the best she could with support from her Church.
Church provided our community, and Mom led the Sunday School, the United Church Women and the annual church bazaar. But her crafts were always one-of-a-kind in the form of bird houses, floral arrangements from her garden or Christmas stockings made from exotic fabric scraps she found at the church rummage sale. Many of her blouses were men’s shirts purchased at the church sale which she altered. Her sewing machine was used and used. She was creative, resourceful, compassionate and loving. That’s the abbreviated story of my Mom, Mary Cooke McLaughlin. I dearly miss her.
Lessons from her life include developing gratitude for all we have with our easier life, not letting lack of money or resources stop us from creative expression, and doing your best and then letting go the rest.
For me the word Mother conjures an image of
A gentle hand, wistful wishes for children grown,
And a sweet spirit that rests with me.
I have seen a tear shed for my struggles and a smile for my successes.
Mother gently and deeply empathized with the pain and pleasure
Of all for whom she cared.
She had twinkly-eyed moments when she told my once new hubby,
“You can now call me Mother Mary,”
Or created silly skits for the community Spring Thaw
Or as Bertha Honker mailed dozens of cornball and mushy letters to friend, Richie Davis
Or gleefully went off junk yard exploring in Jane Wyatt’s truck
Or told me on my 50th birthday, “You’ll always be my baby.”
My Mother because she brought me here.
Dearly Loved Mother because she was
Encouraging, listening, learning and looking over her bloom filled garden.
She fussed that she planted and weeded or sewed on her Singer or decorated her home or read a book . . . for too many hours;
Fussed they were selfish hours because someone, somewhere was suffering or lonely and she should take them a casserole.
But we saw a generous, open minded and lovable Mary–
A woman who rose with the sun eager
To explore the offerings of a country morning
With a glorious evening grosbeak
Awaiting her studious and delighted admiration.
By Patricia Morgan
I was blessed with a gentle, creative and loving mother. Many need to seek support, love and inspiration else-where. Who nourished your childhood dreams and gifts?