“And her voice is what keeps me here…”

It occurs to me that I’ve never actually explained how Shoemom and I came to live together. The whole ‘living with your parents’ stigma isn’t as much for daughters as it is sons (and I am appropriately grateful that I’ll never see myself in a Will Ferrell character). But it it probably does still leave some readers wondering.

The short version is that when Shoedad left he stranded her with no other option. Certainly no financial ones.

It wasn’t that he didn’t know how to make money, you understand; it was his ability to keep it that was decidedly erratic. His lavish generosity was legendary – partly out of a natural gregariousness, and partly from a desperate need to ensure that people liked him in return. When things were good his family shared in the largesse; when they weren’t, his friends were still taken care of in full, and we took the brunt of his frustration and failure. This had the effect of throwing my parents’ marriage a bit…off, at the best of times.

This, as Shoemom explains it, is what women did back then: they got married. And it was Shoedad who finally walked out, twenty-odd years and three daughters later, when – to summarise a long and fraught story you really don’t want to hear – the same Christianity he had introduced Shoemom to meant he might himself have to face up to his own consequences. Save occasional mutterings about ‘we really need to talk…’ he dropped completely out of our lives fifteen years ago, leaving Shoemom to completely rebuild hers.

By God, she has. With the help of her family and her own strong faith, she relearned step by step how to be a person in her own right. It’s been a tricky business for her daughters – who are also our father’s daughters, after all – balancing our need of our mother, while at the same time reassuring her that it was totally, absolutely OK to say no to us, that her own wants had priority, her ideas and tastes were deserving of respect. An awful lot to ask, both of naturally self-centred young adults and the mom who’d spent her life catering to us in ways we were only dimly beginning to understand.

But we all managed to rise above in the end. She saw my one sister married, moved in with the other and worked for nearly a decade with her cleaning homes. She took an increasingly active role in her congregations, making friends, learning to understand and accept her role in the past…swallowing hurt at the sight of happy couples.

As my respect for her courage – and understanding of her reasons – grew, a friendship sprang up between us, over and above what we owed each other. Thus when five years ago Shoesis decided to move out, just as I was looking for a room-mate to help cover my move back to the city, the saga of My Mother, My Best Friend, and Could We Please Figure Out How That Works Before We Kill Each Other was launched.

She is a lovely woman, my mother. She is to this day incurably self-effacing, down-to-earth, kind and generous in a wonderfully practical way – brushing polite demurrals aside as beside the point ("You need a ride, right? Well, then, let’s go!") . She adores her family and is never happier than in somehow seeing them happy. Her greatest pride is in looking well to her household, which she runs with the taste, shrewdness and attention to detail of the born homemaker. She is a master hand at baking, sewing, decorating; anything domestic you need done, she’s either right there or improvising.

All of which is not to say she fits neatly into one of those soppy little books from Hallmark. Told that she needed to sacrifice a limb to save one of her children, she would of coursedo it…but only after making very very sure there weren’t any viable alternatives. Not for nothing did she live all those years with a master salesman; she has no tolerance for anyone’s line of bull. She runs our mutual finances with one eye on past mistakes and the other, even more grimly, on me (the one who inherited my father’s non-existent financial sense). Go on, try to sell her something. I dare you.

One of the niftiest things about helping her get her life back on track has been introducing her to the delights of self-indulgence – helping her discover her favourite scents, for instance, or fashionable new clothes. Which sounds horribly patronising, but isn’t really, because again she won’t let that happen. She is fiercely stubborn about her likes & dislikes, sometimes reactionary; she is after all from rural Niagara, as she likes to point out when I make cracks about her movie choices.

On the other hand, it’s from her I inherited my love of all things beautiful and refined. She is what she calls an ‘atmosphere person’, fascinated by art and classical music, and I like to think she listens to my efforts to widen her cultural horizons not entirely out of fond pride.

She has, for instance, allowed me to teach her computer skills until she can now surf her own email account, online banking and shopping/recipe sites without calling me more than once a day or so. (And I’ve been repaid for the whole thing in spades just by watching her reaction to spam: "What?! Oh, that’s just DISGUSTING. I’m not even a MAN.")

Best of all, she has a sense of humour. This is really the key to the whole thing; if she hadn’t passed on her gifts of snark and sarcasm yours truly wouldn’t be sitting here writing this humble tribute…largely because I’d be serving a life sentence for matricide, that’s if she hadn’t gotten to me first. As readers of my Canadian Idol recaps might remember, we bounce off each other with the precision timing of a comedy team.

And my sisters are an able chorus. We have fun together, the three of us; we fuss and fight and laugh and appreciate each other all the more for having learned it the hard way.

These days, when I pass those spinner racks full of Hallmark books, I just grin and move on. Because if you need one of those to define the happiness family brings, then boy, have you got a lot to learn.

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6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. dendritejungle
    Jul 20, 2009 @ 22:47:18

    This? Is a wonderful testament to your mom. <3

    Who would probably be horrified at my icon. 😉

  2. dendritejungle
    Jul 20, 2009 @ 22:47:18

    This? Is a wonderful testament to your mom. <3

    Who would probably be horrified at my icon. 😉

  3. Trackback: dendritejungle
  4. Shoebox
    Jul 21, 2009 @ 00:16:00

    *grin* Yes, she would. And now I am considering ‘casually’ leaving the browser page open just to catch her reaction. Because I am an evil, evil daughter.

    Also…thanks. 🙂

  5. Shoebox
    Jul 21, 2009 @ 00:16:00

    *grin* Yes, she would. And now I am considering ‘casually’ leaving the browser page open just to catch her reaction. Because I am an evil, evil daughter.

    Also…thanks. 🙂

  6. Trackback: Shoebox

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