Who Will You Honour on Mother’s Day?
Next Saturday, May 11, I’ll be participating for the third year in an event known as Walking in My Mother’s Shoes – a multi-disciplinary arts celebration of our mothers held annually for the past seven years at the JW Marriott, The Rosseau Muskoka Resort and Spa. Musicians, writers and artists will use their talents to express their thoughts and feelings about mothers.
Last year I wrote and presented a piece honouring my mother-in-law (please click if you
would like to read it) and I created a small painting, Sheltered from the Storm – A Mother’s Love . This time I want to come at the subject of mothers from a different angle. My spouse suggested I talk about Mother Nature. I found the idea intriguing and pursued that avenue for a few days, racking up research from the internet and recording my own thoughts. But it didn’t come together until two days ago when I realized what I really wanted to talk about was Mother Earth – our shared mother. I’m taking a look at what she has in common with those we call, Mother, and how we treat her as compared to our own mothers. The piece isn’t finished but is well on its way. Next weekend, I’ll post it along with a small acrylic painting I created for the event.
The painting I call Mother Earth-a View of Africa. The image honours both Mother Earth and the amazing African grandmothers who, as a result of Aids, are raising their orphaned grandchildren. I’m a member of a volunteer organization known as Grandmothers to Grandmothers, an initiative of the Stephen Lewis Foundation. Our the sole purpose is raising funds to assist the African Grandmothers in caring for the children. At Walking in My Mother’s Shoes, our Muskoka chapter will sell products made by us and by African women.
Now, as Mother’s Day approaches, I think about my own mother who’s been gone for over thirty years. Although we’re very different women, there are times when I look into a mirror and see her looking back. To honour her memory I’m sharing the piece I wrote in 2011 for Walking in My Mother’s Shoes. Thank you for reading; I’d love to hear your comments.
Walking in My Mother’s Shoes
When I volunteered to read at this event I wanted to present a piece related to the theme of Walking in My Mother’s Shoes. That seemed simple enough until I sat down to write. Both the blank page and empty computer screen stared back as mute reflections. Our lives have not mirrored each other’s, so how could I talk about walking in Mom’s shoes. Besides, my mother could walk in 4 inch spike heels . . . not me . . . I’m in flats all the time.
My mother and her siblings lived through the depression. Winter coats were made out of blankets and toys created from whatever they could find around the house. I grew up with new clothes for each season and all the toys a child could ever want.
Maybe it was going through those tough times that developed some of Mom’s innate skills. When I was much older, she shared her unrealized dreams of owning and running a fashion or catering business. But like many of her generation, she had opted for a career as a housewife and mother. She remained a housewife, stay-at-home Mom, and a community event organizer until my father’s death when I was fifteen. Then she went back to work . . . not because she had to but because she wanted to. Compared to my mother, I’ve worked full-time most of my adult life while maintaining a home, being a stepmother and for a few years owning and operating a business with my late husband.
So how could I talk about walking in my mother’s shoes? I continued to ask myself this question and then I it came to me.
As a child, I loved to write and draw; my parents responded with gifts of John Nagy, Learn to Draw, and paint by numbers sets. They didn’t discourage my interests but neither of them had leanings in the creative arts so there wasn’t a lot of encouragement either. When I went on to high school, I wanted to enrol in art class but lacked confidence so my curriculum focussed on academics. My parents did support my plan to study journalism but when my Dad passed away, my belief in my ability to express myself creatively died with him. My mother didn’t see my dreams shrivelling up before me. When I spoke of what I wanted to achieve in my life, she would not so much encourage me, as bring some point of reality into the discussion. Don’t dream too big or you may fall hard when things don’t work out. Adjusting to life as a single mother, she didn’t push me like my father had and I finally chose another easier, career path. Unfortunately, just like my mother I locked my dreams away for years. I followed other paths, never feeling fulfilled.
More times than I can remember, I’ve reflected on my mother’s walk and attempted to learn from it and adjust my life direction and focus so that I could work towards achieving my abandoned dreams. Over and over again, I’ve set off on a new path only to discover I was wearing the wrong foot-ware for the journey. A wall of doubt would rise up before me and I’d be stopped in my tracks.
The exercise of writing this piece for tonight has brought new understanding to my life. Even though I thought I wasn’t walking in my mother’s shoes, I was. This is how I learned what worked and didn’t work for me. I kept those shoes on until one day very recently they felt just too tight; they were cramping my toes. It was time to step out of my mother’s shoes and into my own.
Those new shoes of mine appeared when love unexpectedly entered my life again a few short months ago. With the encouragement and support of my partner I began to write and paint and am for the first time in my life I feel truly fulfilled. I don’t regret the years of walking in Mom’s shoes. All those years of following other paths, of avoiding trying on my own shoes have made me rich in experience; they’ve made me the person I’ve become. Now when I think about Walking in My Mother’s Shoes, it’s not so much about the actual walking as it is learning from her walk, examining how her shoes wore down, learning what fit, what didn’t and then finding the right shoes for me.
No, my life has not mirrored my mother’s; it was never meant to do that. Her walk and her life taught me about me. That’s what our mother’s shoes do. So in closing here is what I hope for each of you.
May you discover the gifts in your mother’s shoes,
the love in each scuff mark,
the tears in each tear
the patience in each well-worn sole
the resilience in every broken and re-tied lace
and from that learning
may you step into the perfect shoes for you
and walk before your children
leaving gentle footprints on their hearts.
© Wendie Donabie 2013