From My Mother to Me – La gang à Nat

After six amazing weeks off, it is back to work for me tomorrow.  There was very little sewing or creating in these six weeks… instead, I spent time with Chaughan and the girls, camping, swimming, exploring and living a million little adventures.  I also spent four glorious days in New York City with fellow bloggy friends… I’ll have to tell you more about that later.  But for now, I thought I would bring back a very special post that I wrote a few months ago for my friend Victoria’s blog As It Seams.

“From My Mother to Me” is a heartfelt demonstration of love and appreciation for the women in our lives that have made us who we are today… our mothers!  I’ve been extremely touched by reading the stories shared by the other bloggers that came before me, how their parents and grandparents helped shape the person they are today.  My “maman” Claire has had a similar impact on the woman that I’ve become.

Maman, the fourth of eight children, started teaching high school in her early twenties.  She had just met my father the summer before, at teacher’s college, and had married five months later on December 28 during an insane blizzard that had made it impossible for over half of the invited guests to show up.  I love how they married so quickly… maman is a intelligent, reasoned and logical person, but when she’s made up her mind about something, she goes for it.  She knew dad was the man for her and there was no point wasting time!  I followed in her footsteps 37 years later by marrying Chaughan nine months after we met.

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Maman and papa on their wedding day in 1968 (top) and on their honeymoon (below).

She was extremely well-loved by her students and known for her creativity and her ability to think outside the box.  Teaching was not limited to the four walls of the classroom… she taught various subjects over the years but spent the greatest amount of time teaching the French language to francophone students in our small town of Sturgeon Falls, Ontario.  Her lessons were filled with poetry and theatre and songs and story telling.  She invited francophone artists from Ontario, Quebec and beyond to come and perform at the school.  Her students loved her and felt her passion for learning languages.

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Maman and me, 1973

At home, maman was just as creative.  She painted, she sketched, she macraméed, she knitted, she spent hours making crafts with me when I was little.  Although mom did sew, I don’t remember her spending much time at it when she was younger.  She did make the most amazing Halloween costumes a few times!  But the art of sewing came more to the forefront once she retired  and took formal sewing classes.  It was this passion for sewing at a later age in life that inspired me to pick up the craft myself at the age of 37…  I don’t think I would have realized how passionate I would become about sewing had it not been for maman and the wonderful creations she was making for daughter Maïan.

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Maman and me, celebrating my 3rd birthday

Maman is for me an endless source of inspiration but perhaps more importantly, of strength.  She is my moral code, my compass.  I often think of how my mother would react in a situation and then I do that.  I thought I would share with you a few of the life lessons that maman instilled in me growing up and that are still so important for me today…

Stay Calm Under Pressure

In every family, there needs to be a pillar of strength during times of crisis.  My mother is our pillar of strength.  In my early 20s, my grand-maman Irene (papa’s mother) passed away unexpectedly on Christmas night.  Her sudden death was extremely hard on her children (dad being the oldest of seven) and as we returned to my grand-maman’s home after her funeral, emotions were high.  Suddenly, the telephone rang.  My aunt picked it up and a second later, sunk to the floor screaming.  We were all stunned… except for my mother who calmly grabbed the telephone, moved as far as she could from the lot of us (cordless phones didn’t exist back then so she was rather limited by that curly cord), explained to the stunned Sears clerk that unfortunately, grand-maman had passed away and would not be needing the package that had just arrived at the local Sears pickup office and to please refund her credit card. She then hung up and came back to console my aunt.  That is my mother.  That is her strength.  That is who I try to be everyday.

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My beautiful maman, a few months before meeting papa in 1968

 

Stand Up For What You Believe In

My mother is the strongest person I know.  She taught me at a very young age that I had the power to affect change, that injustice was not acceptable.  I was 11 years old when maman taught me about stereotypes, discrimination, and feminism.  A year later, I understood what she was talking about…  Once a week, in grade 7, the girls in the class would head off to Home Economics, while the boys went across the hallway to Shop Class.  This was back in 1984 and was deemed perfectly acceptable as it had simply always been the way those two classes were taught.  I didn’t mind at first, enjoying the sewing and cooking classes.  But somewhere during the year, I started becoming envious of those wooden napkin holders the my male classmates were making… I became insanely curious with the loud noises of the machine and the smell of the sawdust.  And I started questioning why it was that girls and boys were taught gender stereotypical trades.  It felt unfair and discriminatory.  I asked our teacher if it would be possible to try Shop class one day.  I was laughed at. The answer was simple: girls couldn’t use power tools and boys couldn’t cook.   I mentioned to mom that I thought that that was completely unfair and discriminatory (mom had taught me that word).  Of course, she agreed.  She made calls, she persisted, she pushed things, and by the next September, things had changed at our school;  going forward, girls and boys would alternate on a weekly basis between Home Economics and Shop Class.  The girls were insanely excited and took quickly to the tools and machines.  The boys grumbled at first but I distinctly remember how proud they were when they cooked their first pizza… This moment in time has always stayed with me…

When my mother’s mother, grand-maman Marcelle, passed away, maman was devastated and heartbroken.  In the last years, since maman was retired and had had a bit more free time, they had spent a great deal of time together, enjoying each other’s company.  Grand-maman Marcelle’s passing was a huge emotional loss to my mother.  As we prepared for the funeral, maman and her sister Lyse wrote together a beautiful eulogy that they planned to have maman give at the church.  Unfortunately, the local Catholic priest was completely new to the community and not only did he have very little knowledge of my grand-maman (unlike the former priest who had known my grand-maman for decades), he was also against any individual (or perhaps woman?) speaking in his church.    Well that was that, right?  Not quite.  Just before mass, my mother asked to see him.  She told him that she was intending on speaking during mass and that she had prepared a eulogy that would properly honour my grand-maman.  He still refused.  She explained how important this was for the family.  He still refused.  She tried to get him to understand that grand-maman would have wanted this.  No budging.  She finally told him quite stoically and diplomatically that she would be reading her eulogy during mass, whether he agreed to it or not.    I’m not sure I was ever prouder of my mother! We sat in the church and waited patiently for all the traditional and ceremonial rites to happen.  I was insanely nervous as I didn’t know if a scene would ensue.  Finally, the priest finished his sermon.  He paused.  Looked at my mother.  She stared right back at him.  And he proceeded to invite her to the pulpit to read her eulogy.  She gave a beautiful and meaningful eulogy that properly showed the love and respect that we all had for grand-maman.  In that moment, Maman taught me that you have to stand up for what is right, for what you believe in your core to be correct, whether it is the popular thing to do or not.  Is it any surprise that I am a lawyer today?

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Maman fetching me at the airport, after a spur of the moment solo trip to Europe when I was 20

 

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Maman walking proudly next to me during the Changing of the Guard ceremony, Ottawa 1992. Can you spot me? I’m the soldier in the second row, close to maman.

When All Else Fails, Use Phentex (AKA Good enough is good enough)

 Growing up, it seemed that my home was frequently invaded by maman’s beloved Phentex, which we appeared to have in never ending supply.  (If you’ve never heard of Phentex, or you need a good laugh, head over HERE).  Broken shoe lace?  Use Phentex!  Need a hair elastic?  Here’s Phentex!  Can’t find rope to moor the boat to the dock?  Phentex to the rescue!  Yes, mom loved her Phentex but more importantly, she had this amazing knack at finding simple and quick solutions to most of life’s problems.  She taught me that problems can always be solved with a bit of creativity and imagination, and that the fix doesn’t have to come in a fancy package or be perfect.  Basically, it’s doesn’t always have to be pretty, but it just has to work.  To this day, I struggle with this lesson… I constantly analyse my actions, question everything that I do, assume it should have been done better or at least differently.  I am working on this one guys…  Blogging is a prime example:  When is good enough good enough?  Sure, I could spend even more hours writing and re-writing my posts to perfect them… I could spend thousands in photography classes to improve the photos on my blog… I could start over those sewing projects that are just.not.quite.perfect…. But I won’t do that because in the end, it’s good enough and let’s face it, I have to move on to handle the next crisis (which is probably a poopy diaper or a glass of spilled milk!)

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Maman and papa, Thailand, 1997. They had come to Asia on a 2 month long backpacking adventure in order to visit my brother and sister-in-law who were working in Beijing, as well as little old me who was teaching English in Bangkok and Taiwan at the time.
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Easter 2014. The happiest and proudest grandparents on earth, surrounded by all of their grandchildren (yes, all girls!!!!)

Maman taught me many more lessons (and still does) but those are probably the three that guide me on a daily basis: Be calm under pressure.  Be courageous and stand up for what you believe in.  Do your best, accept it, be proud of it, and then move on.  My mother is an incredibly empathetic person, a generous and kind soul, and adventurous spirit, and my best friend.   Oh sure, sometimes she drives me a little crazy LOL, all mothers do, but I am the luckiest little girl to have her as my maman.

Maman, je t’aime de tout mon coeur!

Natalie

XXX

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4 thoughts on “From My Mother to Me – La gang à Nat

  1. I began following your blog on Facebook when I saw the lovely dresses that you sewed. Today, I started reading your tribute to your mother and was startled when I got to the picture of you and her at the airport because I worked with Claire for a few years at Hillcrest High School. In fact, she taught at least one of my children in the bilingual program. I remember her as having a lovely singing voice. You have written a very nice tribute to her and revealed sides that I would not have known. Well-done!

    1. Cathy, that is the coolest thing! What a small world… I passed on your message to maman and she was thrilled! And thanks for the sweet compliments about my post… means a lot to me!

      Natalie
      XX

  2. What a beautiful tribute! I really enjoyed reading it! And I’m in the got-married-quickly-club too! 🙂 My husband and I got married just less than six months after our first date (though we had known each other for a couple of years before that, first casually and then as friends). I love that that’s part of our story… and sometimes feel really, really lucky that everything has worked out so well! 🙂
    Your mom sounds like an amazing woman!

    1. Hi Rachel,
      So cool to hear that we are in the same club… I have to admit that I also love to tell our little story of 9 month courtship… I suppose those stories are only cool when the marriage works, haha! And I hear you about feeling lucky that it worked out so well. There are days when I am shocked at how well we get along!

      Thanks so much for stopping by!

      Natalie
      XX

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