OK, so Mother's Day was last week...but who needs a label? Um..not me anyway...
I've been running the From My Mother To Me series for six weeks and now we've reached the final installment. I've loved the little glimpses into the lives of some wonderful creative women. The stories have been touching - and the advice wise!
Now it's the turn of my dear friend Natalie of La Gang a Nat. Natalie started her blog about a year ago, about the same time as me, and has been metaphorically holding my hand ever since. Her enthusiasm and support is wonderful - and that's before I even start talking about her sewing. Three beautiful daughters, a full-time job, yet still some stunning clothes and creativity (have you seen her lovely 'Just my type' skirt?) Things have slipped a little, and Natalie's here a little late, but, hey, my mantra of the moment is 'be kind' to mums, and Natalie, I'm thrilled to have you any time....
Victoria, thank you so much for asking me to take part of this very special series. I am so honoured to be here. "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 at 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.
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.
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.
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. 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. Is it any surprise that I am a lawyer today?
|Maman fetching me at the airport, after a spur of the moment solo trip to Europe when I was 20|
|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!)
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.
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!