Category Archives: love

My Best Mothers’ Day Gift Ever

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My beautiful daughter came into the world, foot-first, on Mothers’ Day. She arrived two weeks early, as if to say, as she has so many times in the decades that have followed since then, “Come on Mom! Let’s just get on with it!” She has been my cheering section ever since. Never one to dawdle, she still approaches life with her best foot forward, and at break- neck speed. No matter what difficulty the task ahead encompasses.

I had no labour pains on the afternoon of her birth. Just a little snap as my water broke, minutes after a bountiful Mothers’ day supper at my Mom and Dad’s. We left our two-year old son, Steven, in the care of my younger siblings and headed off to the hospital. I made my husband stop the car at our home on the farm next door. There I hastily removed my mascara (I didn’t want post- labour racoon eyes; I was twenty-one and vain), and I grabbed my hospital bag.

Fifteen minutes later I was standing alone and naked in a small room in the maternity ward,in Strathroy Hospital, putting on the gown the nurse had just given me. Meanwhile my husband Rolly was at the front desk, signing the admittance papers.

Suddenly I felt a strange sensation and glanced down in shock, to see a loop of the umbilical cord in full view. Shouting ensued! Me, shouting for the nurse! The nurse shouting for a second nurse! That nurse shouting for someone else to summon the doctor!

That was when a little foot made its appearance. The first nurse knelt on the floor and sprayed the cord and the little protruding appendage with antiseptic.The second nurse attempted to push the foot back up where it belonged. Then the two of them hastily assisted me onto a bed, where I was told I was to attempt to stand on my head to avoid the baby pressing down on the cord.

After a few agonizingly frightening minutes I was transferred to a gurney which began rolling down the hallway. At this point I was unable to see anything but the white sheet under my forehead, in my imitation of a “Downward Dog” yoga pose a humbling position, but one obviously very conducive to prayer, as it was prayer that I was frantically engaged in at that particular moment. Meanwhile, Rolly was shocked at being handed a surgical consent form, on the very heels of the admittance form he had just signed.

And that was how I met the hospital’s surgeon. He came running up beside my breathless entourage and said “I’m Doctor Hoffa. We are going to do a Caesarean Section.” I asked him then if everything would be alright. His answer was honest and brief. “We’ll have to wait and see.”

I woke an hour and a half later, in the middle of a booming thunderstorm, aware of my husband’s soft hair against my arm as he rested his head on the bedside. “We have a baby girl” he said quietly. “Is she alright?” I asked. “She’s perfect.” he answered.

Much like the circumstances of her birth, it seems that Carrie Ann doesn’t have any speed but fast when she begins a task. Sometimes I have jokingly said that even before her arrival she just put her best foot forward and got on with things. Albeit there were a few people who were determined to try to put that little foot back in that day.

As an adult, Carrie has also been the one to take the lead in most situations involving the two of us. When I started up a bakery in the village of Komoka, when she was still a teenager she took a keen interest in perfecting her already notable culinary skills. She began training under the mentorship of some extremely skilled pastry chefs and instructors, while also working with me and very soon I passed the management reins over to her. She just knew how to say “Come on now, let’s just get on with it.” so much better than I ever could. After ten years of working together and successfully bringing our bakery to a key milestone we made a mutual decision to sell it and move on.

Carrie moved on up in the food services industry. At Western University, she trains and teaches others, and motivates them to do their very best. She is very successful in her profession because she gets actively involved in the process of making good things happen, rather than just standing on the sidelines waiting for things to happen.

She is also very loved and treasured by all of her family and friends for those same reasons. In all areas of her life she is always putting her best foot forward, and bringing people joy.

That is why, Carrie Ann, you were and always will be my very best Mothers’ Day Gift ever, Happy Birthday, dear daughter!

Ethan’s Friend

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Siri ( named Sirius, the Dog Star), shortly after leaving her mother is now two.

The woeful sound rose in the crisp early morning air, strengthening in volume as it grew from a cry to a wail, as I approached the driveway from the back yard.

I hurriedly passed under the overhang of the workshop, en-route, and then rounded the corner. From there I could both hear and observe the struggle going on—“No Mummy! No! I wanna go home! I don’t wanna get out! I don’t want you to go to work! I wanna go home!”

“But Ethan, you have to get out. Mummy has to go to work. You need to cooperate!” Apparently, the negotiations had already been going on for some time—but to no avail.

Ethan, my heart’s delight, my three-year-old great-nephew, whom I am privileged to babysit on Thursdays, had apparently dug in his heels (if there was any place on his car seat that he could possibly have dug them into.) If he wasn’t physically doing that, then it must simply have been the power of his will that held him there. He was immovable, determined, anchored— a beautiful, lovable, but, nevertheless, stubborn little linebacker, firmly holding his ground against his strong young mother, his determined old aunty, and the ticking of the clock. Sadly, the latter waits for no man— or in this case, no little man.

I had heard that this stubborn streak existed in Ethan, and that it had occasionally emerged in the past, but I believed, until then, that surely it was an exaggeration. I had never witnessed it before. This incident put me in mind of my own son, forty years earlier. When he started kindergarten, for three mornings in a row, he wrapped his arms tightly around the light standard on the corner near our house, and refused to be dragged away from it. This memory seemed like eons ago until that very moment with Ethan. Strangely, it brought back that same mother’s pain.

With one of us pushing Ethan forward from behind, and one of us pulling from in front, we finally dislodged him from his seat. Realizing that he was defeated, he tearfully turned himself away from us, put a knee down onto the carpet and backed himself  slowly out and onto the gravel driveway.

His mummy then kissed him, and hugged him, and reassured him lovingly of her imminent return, but his persistent sobs prevented anything he tried to say to her from being understood. Finally, he took my hand— tears still streaming down his face.

We waved goodbye together and I quickly turned with him, to preempt him from having any last-minute thoughts of running towards his mother’s  car as she backed it out of the driveway. “Aah! Poor Mummy,” I thought.”I know how you feel.”

I decided we would stop and snuggle on the garden bench, against the wall, under the shop overhang, on the way to the house. Maybe I would be able to decipher then what it was he was trying to say, amidst those gasping little sobs.

My own heart was pounding with both empathy and exhaustion as I seated myself. He snuggled in close as I reached towards him to wipe away a big tear rolling towards his chin.

Suddenly— Boom!— Siri, our family’s big golden retriever, bounded up from the backyard and leaped right up onto the bench, positioning herself on her haunches, right next to Ethan. Like a loving mother dog she began licking his face with great enthusiasm.

“Siri’s kissing me! Siri’s kissing me!” Ethan cried. And, for all intents and purposes, I do believe she was!

For some reason, in my belief that words are important, that words can solve everything, I had just been out-manoeuvred in my attempt at communicating— by a dog! Siri had let Ethan know all that he needed to know, without asking a single question, or waiting for a single answer—“Everything’s gonna be alright!”

Could it be that Siri remembered the pain of being separated from her own mother when she left that big barn on the farm where she had been raised?

Or was it just in her nature to be loving towards this little boy, who has been patiently trying to teach her to obey him, with his commands of “Sit! Siri, sit!” or “Up! Siri, up!” and his handful of dog treats that he asks us for the moment that he sees her?

Or perhaps this was simply something that I like to call a “God moment”— a moment when God puts whatever is necessary for us  into our path, just when we need it the most.

Whatever it was, it was  beautiful.

Ethan’s Gift

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Some of the stone “castles” my grand-nephew Ethan likes to be the “King” of.

There is nothing more precious than the snuggling-in and holding-on kind of hug a three-year-old will sometimes give when it comes unsought for, unrequested, just plain out of the blue.

Sure, we had been playing hard outside all afternoon together, what with racing back and forth in the bright sunshine across the brown lawn as he gleefully stepped on my poor slow shadow’s head numerous times to my once on his— a game he always delights in.

And then, I had willingly taken a seat on the too-small bench at the window of his pretend hamburger joint, a little playhouse under a backyard spruce tree. I “enjoyed” with gusto the takeout fries and burger he prepared— somehow magically transformed from the pieces of cedar mulch and the dried out pine cones he hurriedly gathered for my order.

Later he picked a fist-full of yellow miniature daffodils, and nodding Snowdrops and placed them on a crumb-covered plate on the patio table— a gift for Mummy. Next to it was a scattering of small coloured stones from the driveway— collected for Daddy.

A screeching flock of black grackles dispersed in a flapping rush at the sound of his shouts of “Go! Go! Go!”. This he accompanied with the clatter of two old dented cake tins that he banged together beneath the locust tree each time the birds returned. The bespattered backyard deck, under the tree’s budding branches, revealed their other annoying habit, and he did not want them to mess on the table where his treasures lay. Beside those lay the pile of coloured paper clips and magnets he had abandoned there earlier— all but the red ones, his favourites, which were protruding from the cracks between the deck boards under his chair, next to his yellow bulldozer.

We capped the afternoon with a game of King of the Castle played on every boulder and berm around the three acre yard with me doing all of the boosting up and him doing all of the boasting down: “I’m de King of de castle! You’re de dirty rascal!” I chose not to protest my perpetual “dirty rascal” position, even as he clung tightly to my uplifted hands while teetering four feet off the ground on slippery granite, his chubby little fingers drawn into tight little fists around my own.

Looking up into his laughing eyes, as he looked down at me from his elevated position, I said to him “You know Ethan, you are growing bigger and bigger every day. One day when you are all grown up you will be as big as this all of the time, and then you will have to look down at your old Aunt Vonnie all of the time.” Just then he let go of my fingers and bent down a little to get his arms around me. He snuggled in close and gave me a hug so tight it practically took my breath away. Or perhaps it was not really so very tight at all, but it had the same effect. I realized then, that I had just experienced one of life’s unforgettable moments and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.