Self-Sufficiency (Jul 1992)

Thank you to friends and strangers alike for their warm cheers about last month’s Musing column. It was fun doing the research on Grandma Tessier and Great-Grandma Kost. My Mom loved answering the questions and was delighted to haul out the newspaper clippings which prove that both my Grandmothers were driving forces of energy.

My Mom made sure we kids knew that Grandma and Grandpa lived in the Arctic but when I was a teenager, her stories about them did not impress me. Then I got married and didn’t have time to listen. But now that my boys are in college and I’m single, I acquiesced to Mom’s desire to have Grandma’s story told and I had lots of fun doing it.  One day I may use some of her pictures on the front cover.

I often get asked “How do you decide what to write about?” I try to live in the moment, so I usually write about things that are on my mind. To get started on my column, I browse through the photo album and choose a picture that feels right, I title it and then try to stay focused on just one small aspect of what growing up was like for me.  It is wonderful to get a second chance to upgrade my English and writing skills and since you good folks always give me such encouraging comments,  I think I shall continue.

As you may have noticed, I have a new photo of myself surrounded by orchids.  My Mom loves orchids and often would buy me a bloom. People would “oh” and “ah” over it, and a week later it would die.  Just before the Spring Festival of Awareness two years ago, she went to Vancouver and bought the biggest and best plants she could find and gave them to me. These flowers are very special to her and giving them to me is a way for her to express her love and her pride in the person I have grown up to be. With a full orchid plant instead of a bloom,  I get to enjoy their incredible fragrance even as I write this Musing column, a month later.  I never would have known of their beauty or appreciated their fragrance had my mother not insisted that I have the entire plant. I just marvel at how one plant can give off such an incredible perfume for a good two months.  I’m just starting to realize the effects of smell and the influence it can have on the health of the body. So thanks Mom for your persistence in finding these beautiful flowers. They are truly a blessing.

My mother spent a year with Uncle Larry in California when she was a  child. His hobby was to develop a black orchid and he eventually did. She told me that every morning for breakfast she had a fresh orchid on her plate and that it takes seven years for the first bloom to develop. As a child I can remember my mother having pictures of orchids in her room.  One day she even took the time to paint one in detail…about 3 feet across. We thought it pretty silly of her, but she loved the colours, purple and magenta, and now I realize that by creating that painting she was intuitively healing herself.

This month’s front cover shows Mom inspecting a perfect batch of bread, buns and cinnamon rolls. There is also a rare picture of her just standing still, ready for the big hike up Mount Goaty. This was everybody’s favorite pastime, for it offered a real challenge to climb and the panoramic view was spectacular.

Self-sufficiency and a do-it-yourself attitude certainly prevailed in my family. I was expected to be strong, independent and a creative thinker.  As I watch Mom on the telephone, trying to get what she wants, I re-learn a lesson that cannot be taught in school. Now that I’m an adult, I love and appreciate all she has taught me and I’m very grateful that we are best friends.

Recently she moved to Terrace to be a grandma, for my brother Mike now has six children and a new home.  Twenty-two years ago when I got pregnant she was not so understanding. But I persisted in my innocence and eloped to the States and got married.  After we moved back to Terrace she announced “I am too young to be a grandma,” and she was, for she wore her mini skirts shorter than I did.  Her stubbornness was her loss for she never got the privilege of babysitting my children.

Now, twenty years later, she is lucky to have a second chance and I wish her all the success in the world. For nowhere is there a (grand)mother as unique as she.  She always encouraged me to be different, as a child I can remember her complaining about some boring white women (housewives).  Her friends were mostly quite diverse… Natives, East Indians, Negroes, anybody who had interesting stories to tell or did unusual jobs. She never wasted her time talking about dirty diapers, or the latest houshold gadget, she never watched TV Soaps or played Bingo.

One day I played hookey from school, with encouragement from my boyfriend and the school phoned to see if Mom knew where I was. The only scolding when I got home was, “The next time you decide to do that, phone me so I can tell them I know where you are”. My mother never had time for women who gossiped. In my teens when I asked her about a rumour that was going around town she had me start a second one, and I learned very quickly how tales spread and change as they are retold.

In closing I would like to thank my Mom for all the support she has given me over the years. I feel like I’m graduating from high school.  Moving out into the real world, earning my own living by doing what I love, driving my own car and paying rent on an apartment with my very own telephone makes me feel like a teenager. I intend to enjoy that feeling now, for when I was a teenager, I was too busy being a Mom. I did enjoy being a Mom and I never missed “working for a living.” But I intend to enjoy “working for a living” now too… if you can call what I do “work”!

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