Did you know you are my hero?

My mom. She has always been my rock. My support. She doesn’t pull any punches with me, she never sugar coats it, the truth as she sees it is always laid bare for me to absorb. For me to learn from. When I was that horrid teenager I really did not care for her much and I made her life hell. Even in my twenties, we had a very rocky road. Now though, now we talk about everything and I realize just how many of her lessons I absorbed throughout my life.

As I have mentioned before my mom was the first and probably only woman on our block to be on her own in 1979. I remember when I was older she admitted to feeling guilt at leaving my father because some of the mothers of my friends would not let me play with my friends after that. But can you imagine how strong she had to be?

She left my dad, kept the house and began to raise not one, but two children. On her own. Without any help at all.

She learned how to drive a standard with my grandfather as her teacher. I am sure that I can imagine the conversation, the yelling that came from my grandfather, but she did it and got her license to boot.

She became the Nursing Unit Director of the psych unit at one of our hospitals. And than proceeded to work her way up and into career choices that to this day hold me in awe. She is so smart my mom. Anything she decided she wanted, she worked her ass off and got.

Her reward. The ability to retire at age fifty-five and move to Mexico. This was her dream and this she did at the end of 1999. I cried when she left. I cry every year that she leaves. I cry when she comes home. She is my mom, my best friend and I hate leaving her.

When I am with her, she gives me courage. She walks me through the plans to make my life happy. She steers me in the right direction and than wipes her hands clean and tells me that I am to get off my butt and just do it. JDI, her favorite three letters.

However, there is one thing my mom has given to me that I am failing to see in the younger generation that resides in the town I live in. I will not paint all those in this generation of 20-27 year olds with the same brush, but I see a lack of independence and cutting of the strings.

My mom, she never wanted me hanging onto her apron strings. She never wanted the bro to hang on. He just chose not to let go until she booted him out. Granted she probably did not want me to move out of the house at age eighteen but she allowed it. I mean how could she stop me?

I have stood on my own two feet forever it feels like. My mom fostered a strong sense of independence in me and a desire to do it on my own. I have some difficulty in asking for help because I should be able to do it on my own. My mom did how come I can’t?

I look at the dreams that I have. To write. There really is no other dream. I just want to write. Maybe make enough money so I could at least go down to Mexico to see my mom. Even if I do cry when I leave. (As an aside, every time I leave and I am sobbing, tears rolling down my cheeks, my middle aching with pain everyone is so concerned about me. And there is mom, assuring them that really I am fine, this is just me.)

I misinformed you. I have one other dream. My dream is that I will be a hero for my son the way my mom is my hero. We all imagine how our lives would be different if small things changed, but I know what I would be without my mom. I would be a selfish whiney girl child who blamed others for the misfortune in my life. I know this, I know she resided in me at one point and time. But mom drove her out as sure as if she was exorcising the devil.

She taught me to stand tall and firm in my beliefs. She taught me to have the strength to admit when I am wrong but to fight when I am right. She taught me to accept my weaknesses, embrace and learn from them. She did not teach me how to cook though, I can tell you that one! (Asked for the recipe for her banana bread and cookies and she could not remember either)

My mom, she has taught me all I need to know about being a strong independent woman. A woman who still needs her mom sometimes to reassure her all will be fine. A woman who has still crawled into her mother’s lap and cried her eyes out. My mom, she is awesome.

Would you jump too?

When I was a little girl and well let’s face it right up until the time that I moved out of the house, I did not get all the things I wanted. Cabbage Patch Kid phase, I was the only kid on the block without one. One of my friends had two and I was green with jealousy. I cannot quite recall the other things I wanted in life that all my other friends had but what I can tell you is my mother’s comment on all these passing phases. (And yes I realize that having a Cabbage Patch Kid now would earn me some serious cash but alas, I am missing out. Thanks a lot mom.)

My mother was a single mom in a time era where divorce was still frowned upon. But that is a subject for another story. Here we are discussing her absolute disdain for popular phases and my desire to follow them. (Just remembered another one, in grade 7 it was Melissa Jeans with a white stripe down the side. Finally got them as they were on the down swing. And the pair I had were defective. The zipper refused to stay up. I walked around half the day with my zipper down, showing off my scarlet granny panties for everyone to see before one of my friends alerted me.)

Our conversations would always start off the same. ‘Mom I really really need a Cabbage Patch Kid.’ ‘Jay, it is really close to Christmas just wait until Santa comes.’ So I was excited. Ten years old and although I knew Santa was my mom, I had expectations. I wrote a letter I believe to Santa. And than came Christmas. There was no Cabbage Patch Doll under the tree. What on earth! Santa always got me at least one of my asked for gifts on my list. Why had he forsaken me?

Now every smart child knows that the time to ask for a much needed item is not during the holiday season. So I waited. And waited. My Amma passed away just before Christmas that year and in January I was struck with (as the doctor put it) good old fashioned Scarlet Fever.

Finally I asked again for a Cabbage Patch Kid and this was my first (probably not but the first time I recall it) introduction to what would become my mom’s famous last words. ‘Jay-lyn Anne you are not going to die without a Cabbage Patch Kid. If all your friends were to jump off a bridge would you do the same?’ I think I may have made a smart ass comment about knowing how to swim but alas, it failed to impress.

Let us fast forward 33 years. There is a new fad in town. It is called a Fidget Spinner. It is a plastic toy for kids to keep their hands busy. Are you kidding me? It is literally a piece of plastic that kids spin around their fingers. M has indicated to me that it is kinda neat but I am appalled.

She bought K one. I said when I saw it, no way in hell is T getting something dumb ass like that. His dad has agreed to ‘make’ one for him at home in the shop. Not sure if his dad is waiting for him to forget or will actually make him one. I do not care. I refuse to spend money on something this dumb. Which brought back the statement ‘If all your friends jumped off a bridge would you too?’ and I understand now where my mom was coming from.

T and his dad came to the store to shop yesterday. We had a conversation about the Fidget Spinner and how I most certainly was not going to buy him one. With a slight pout and whine T asked me why not? I did not use the statement my mom used on me but I did tell him that the reason why was because his interest would last as long as it did for his talking Elmo and Chuck the Truck. He asked how long was that? I said one day!

As I said one day to him, the statement if all your friends jumped off the bridge would you do it too? And I finally understood what my mom meant.

The Invisible Brake

I am sure that as every teenager passes into that realm of being a responsible adult by learning how to drive every last one of us….we have driven with our parents.

I am unsure if when a father teaches his daughter or son that the same things occur when a mother teaches the same children to drive. I will actually never know. My mom taught me how to drive. Kinda. I mean, because of her, I learned how to drive a standard. The rest of it, I learned in an automatic. Most cars I drove were automatics because well my mom did not trust me enough to let me drive her car.

When I was 14 we took a trip down to Texas. My mom allowed me to sit in the driver’s seat in a McDonald’s parking lot and practice shifting gears. Totally awesome right. I am one of those summer babies. So while all my friends hit their landmarks in school, I hit them all before the next school year started. (Try being the only 17 year old in your group of friends graduating, sober, boring and watching everyone else have a grand time) PSA Drinking does not lead one to have a good time. But in moderation and with good friends, it can enliven an evening and make for good memories.

So while all my friends were getting their driver’s license’s I was held back by my age restraint. And than the fact that the first time I went for my driver’s test, my brake lights did not work, second time I failed everything but the parallel parking aspect and third time is the charm. Got my license.

Alright, I have my license. Hey I even had a job. I was well on my way to becoming a responsible and active adult member of society. But mom, well mom had some issues.

The first time we drove together after I got my beginner’s was in the Kmart parking lot near our home. There was a lot of shouting. It was a Sunday. (This was before Sunday shopping was a thing, so the parking lot was empty.) I stalled a lot. Do you know, that really to shift gears is so easy, 20, 40, 60 and 80 and 100. Learned that from a boyfriend. Prob only good thing cause I don’t recall his name.

Mom yelled. I slammed on brakes. A lot. Not the invisible one. The real one. I stalled. She drove home.

Which leads me to this recollection.

One Friday evening mom is going out with the girl friends. I am going to babysit for one of them. Mom decides that I should drive from one end of the city to the other. Back in my day it would take about 1/2 hour to 45 minutes depending on how I hit the lights. Today, it would take us close to an hour and a half.

Hyundai Pony. A blondish gold color. Very basic. Had the radio on to my station. Yes, mom allowed me to have my radio station on. She sat in the passenger seat which underneath the glove box had a shelf that held the interior warmer. This is an item that you have when you live in Manitoba.  One plugs it in along side their regular block heater. This one though kinds takes the chill outta getting into a car in -40 degree celsisus weather.

The drive from home to the downtown area of Winnipeg is uneventful. It is twilight and I have made most of the lights so it has been clear sailing. Part of my route is a known route for it is the way we drive to my grandparents every week. Mom and me we are talking. Laughing. Having one of those really rare mother daughter (when she is a teenager) moments. Where all the animosity, the ‘you know nothing attitude’ the exasperation because well how do you understand a daughter who is nothing like you? That night mom and me, we were in a groove.

We are driving up Donald Avenue. This area is center downtown Winnipeg. It is a bus route. It is Friday night approximately 7ish in the evening. Traffic is enough to make mom a little nervous. So we are cruising along. I am doing all the right things. I am, for one, in the damn lane I need to be in. Two, I am watching all angles of traffic…..including the buses to the right of me. And yes, I am aware that the bus has it’s flasher on. Yes mother I am aware, I am watching.

Well mom had very little faith in my ability to gauge traffic. To this day she still grabs the door handle if she thinks I might be about to kill us all. First she says ‘Jay, watch out.’ I look at her and say nothing. (From the corner of my eye) ‘Jay-lyn do you see that bus?’ I glance at her and return my concentration to the road. Please note, the bus is 50 feet in front of me, edging out and I have already taken my foot off the gas because a) my depth perception is a little off and would rather be safe than sorry b) mom is starting to panic.

The bus swings out into my lane. There is more than enough room to spare. I am no where near crashing into and killing not only ourselves but the bus riders. Mom shrieks. I look at her in dismay. Radio is playing Bon Jovi. And mom slams on her invisible brake.

Her invisible brake? The shelf that held the interior warmer. She slammed her foot into that shelf like it was going to bring the car to a complete and utter halt. My head whips around and in a split second I gape at her than return my attention to the road. The bus soars off into the distance and four cars are able to slide into the gap.

I glide to a stop at the red light. And my head swivels to look at mom. Mom stares back at me. I cannot even ask the question. But I do. ‘Mom what do you not trust me?’

Mom looks at the the shelf. She looks at me. (and this is poetic license)

‘Onward Jeeves.’

**If memory serves I think there was a lot of giggling and accusations shouted in fun. I demanding to know if she didn’t trust my driving skills or what? And her defending her actions……’but that bus was soooooo close.’**