I was a horrible child.
There. I said it.
I know that this comes to a great shock to all of you as my well behaved, mannerly, polite and lady-like posts as well as videos attest but it’s true. I didn’t just have a short phase of child’s curiosity where they rummage through everything in the house and snoop through all the places mother’s say, “Don’t go near that!” I frolicked there. In fact, as a child, I made it my toodler and early years goal to be awake and up well before my mother was with great, snooptastic excitement. My eyes would snap open the moment dawn blearily cracked one eye open between my blinds and LEAP from my bed cackling with delight. What shenanigans could I get into before my mother with her I-know-you-are-up-to-no-good-without-looking-Mom-Super-Power’s kicked in?
The moment I could waddle out of bed, apparently, on fat chubby little toddler legs I was out to pull the kitchen apart in a quest to whiten my mothers hair before her time. (My mother loved telling this story to everyone. Apparently it’s not just my dad that loved to embarrass me on occasion.) We moved to a base in Alberta that had low income and medium to higher income family housing. My mom and Dad, as a new family just married and just moved, were living in the lower income area: basically prefab homes/trailors from the late seventies with tin rooves and tin siding aptly named: Tin Town. The trailor wasn’t too terribly small for what they needed, three bedrooms, a kitchen, bathroom and living room.
Severe colds and bronchitis were a usual thing for me when I was small. I was sick with a rattling cough and my doctor had prescribed me a delicious Banana flavored cough medicine.
Things I learned from my mother:
- How to pick out the most expensive thing; be it coffee, food, perfume or makeup without even trying.
- If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again or until you’ve blown $800.
- If you are going to belch in a diner full of Truckers, go for the gold.
- Baby shit is not a viable paint.
- You don’t have to wear make-up if you don’t want to.
- Music, especially your favorite music cranked up as loud as it will go, makes everything better.
- Laugh like no one is watching so they can’t make fun of the snorting you do in between the crying and peeing yourself a little bit while you chortle like a hyena.
- If you have porkchops, onions, green peppers, mushrooms and butter you can make one of the tastiest fucking pan fried meals, cheap.
- Beer is okay. Five are better.
- Friends are meant to fill their bellies in your kitchen after spending the day with you laughing and talking.
- It’s ALWAYS time for Tim Hortons, bitches
- Taking yourself too seriously is never fun
- It’s okay to indulge yourself if you really need too, especially in times of stress and not feel guilty about it.
- Keep the small things that are important to you, even if they don’t make sense to anyone else. Material things disappear, memories remain.
- Ladies do, indeed, fart.
- Drive an extra mile around the corner: you never know what you will find.
- If you ask a child under the age of 15, “What are you doing?” And they take a few seconds to reply, “…Nothin’.” DO NOT BELIEVE THAT CHILD. RUN. FIND THEM NOW.
- Second hand doesn’t mean garbage. There’s no shame in wearing or owning something someone else owned.
- If you’re a whiny little shithead, the world probably won’t give you what you want and in fact, may just ignore you in a grocery aisle while you scream for chips.
- Love. Love passionately, love fully, love even when it hurts.
My mother told me that when she was very, very little she had a doll. It was one of those very-large, stand-up and walk dolls which quickly became her favorite. She took that doll everywhere with her and everywhere with her went it. I do not recall if her sister, my Aunt made mention of it for sure–but I want to say that anytime the doll is mentioned her sister would tease my mother about it.
I’ve searched everywhere to try and find the doll that my mother gave to me–a huge stuffed doll in very old fashioned dress with a bonnet and yarn pigtails. The yarn pigtails were a brown/blond and the bonnet might have been beige with flower patterns upon it. I don’t remember what I did with that doll or what happened to it, nor even what I named it. I do know that my mother would tell me that the one she had when she was little looked a lot like it. And that doll she named Melissa.
She told everyone that someday she would have a little girl and if she did, she would name that little girl: Melissa.
On a good day, I cannot recall what I ate two days ago for breakfast, let alone remember what I named my dolls when I was seven now. Occasionally I feel like I might have disappointed my mother when I was younger and so was she–I didn’t really turn out at all like that doll; I don’t really wear dresses that often and make up bothers me. I think however, as we grew older together (and after I was done being a horrible person to her in my teenage years) she began to understand that daughters like dolls, don’t always have to fit the ideal and can still be precious.
Afternoon sunlight angled in through a glass door at the end of the hallway, spilling light across a spotless black and white tiled floor. It was so clean; not a single tread mark or smudge, not a smidgeon of dust along the molding or under any of the black plastic chairs that littered it. The walls were nothing but white with tastefully non offensive photos or photos of paintings that were scenery: fields and flowers and faceless children near the ocean. There was a distinct smell. It’s the sort of scent that, if you spend a lot of time in a place like this brings up so many emotions and memories and it’s not just the smell of one thing–it’s many all together. The smell in the air is latex gloves, bleach, antiseptic and glass vials, it’s quiet hope and crushed expectations with the faint squeak of white work shoes. It smells like cold stethoscopes, unscented linens that are changed daily and plastic bed mattresses. It smelled like hospitals.
We were seated in a couple of those plastic chairs and my mother stared ahead at a closed wooden door. The plaque had a name in bold brass letters. I recall staring at the path of sunlight on the ground and then out the door where a tree and few cars were parked. Even in the parking lot, I thought everything seemed so much brighter out there than in here.
This part of the hospital wasn’t for actual sick people. At least, there weren’t wards or beds. This was different–there was the underlying scent of paper, printer ink and perfume here that the other smell couldn’t override but couldn’t smother either.
The door opened and an unassuming lady with a bob cut smiled and called my mothers name. I came in with her and for a while, the woman and my mother spoke about food. They talked about foods my mother couldn’t eat, foods she could. They talked about sugars and glucose and then she led my mother to another room that was less an office, more of a meeting place. A large fold out table in the middle with more plastic chairs around it was the center piece of the room. Along the white walls, posters with the essential food groups, images of the pancreas, smiling happy people by insulin advertisements, model anatomy in more faded plastic was strewn about. The woman with the bob cut presented my mother with a tiny syringe, a little glass bottle and…an orange.
That’s how my mother practiced giving insulin injections before moving on to finally do them on herself. They gave her an orange. When I asked why an orange, the woman told me that it came close to simulating what it was like to inject yourself. The woman and my mother talked a little longer, and I thought that I was going to explode in boredom. I wasn’t terribly old then, and I was still in the mind set that if I had to sit anywhere that wasn’t at home or with friends I might up and explode.
When we were walking out, out of the boring room, out of the hallway that smelled of hospitals, on the way to the car I looked up at my mom and asked her all sorts of questions. I asked her about the needles. I asked her about why she needed them. I asked her how many times and what for and why and why couldn’t they just fix whatever was broken then? She answered my questions with the absent-minded way of one not sure either as she drove us home. I am not sure my mother had thought that this was the answer to all those questions she had: like why she was always so tired and shaky and unwell and dizzy and such.
Finally, in the passenger side seat an idea hit me. I looked over to her and asked, “Does it hurt?”
“Does what hurt?”
“Giving yourself the needle.”
“Do you have to do it everyday?”
“How are you going to do it everyday if it hurts?”
She shrugged, her eyes on the road. “I just will.”
My mother lived with Diabetes for roughly 17 years. The type of diabetes that is so severe that pills, insulin, proper diet and weight couldn’t control. The kind of diabetes that ate away at her arteries and heart and kidneys and energy. She had surgeries and hospital stays, tests, needles, pokes, prods and pills. But she did it. She didn’t like any of it and I am sure that my father damn well knew it. She is a Rawding, after all–they are notoriously stubborn, cranky people–but despite that fact it hurt her, she survived for 17 long years.
I don’t know how I will continue surviving without her.
How will I do it everyday if it hurts?
I just will.
Love you mom!
You didn’t take my mother to a casino unless you had money. A lot of money. Alot of money that you might not want to see again. In Alberta, there seemed to be a Casino tucked away in just about any corner. Some of them were discreet, windowless buildings with parking lots that went on forever. Others were bright-lights, Las Vegas style squat monsters of flashing colors and bright signs. Couldn’t miss them unless you were blind really. My mother could had a list of favorite ones that she “had good feelings,” about. She often liked to roam around them and I suspected that my mother was a bit like me. She loved the bright lights, the flickering colors, the loud noises and the low murmur of voices. Slot machines that plinked and bonked and spun bright digital fruits and cards could mesmerize anyone.
I don’t know where this came from. I do know that as soon as my mother could teach herself enough to get onto a computer there were fruit slot machines and random blackjack games and that if she had loose change in her pocket burning a hole my father would say every once in a while she’d get a hankering and pester him to take her along while he went to play poker.
The thing is, my mother was really good at following her instincts when it came to people. When it came to the casino, there were times when my mothers instincts were–ah–less that very good.
When I went up to visit a handful of years ago, before she got really sick, she got to feeling restless and bored one night. She wanted to hit one of the Casinos.
“I’ve got a good feeling,” she said to me. “When was the last time you’d been to one?”
I thought about it with my eyes rolled up to the ceiling. “Uh, when was the last time you took me to one?”
Mom smiled as she started doing her make up.”I don’t remember.”
“Yeah,” I agreed. “Think it was when I won $200 bucks and that was my first time.”
She nodded and repeated that she had a really good feeling then. So we girls got ourselves dolled up and we got into the car. We hit the Tim Hortons on the way up, of course, because it wasn’t a night out without a cup of it. We listening to the radio blaring and them made out way through the night. Eventually we pulled up to a parking lot jammed full of cars. Junker cars, sleek, sexy purring cars that cost more than a house–men and women loitering outside to smoke (as laws passed in Canada made it illegal to smoke inside in most places), some of them wore cowboy hats and boots (which never ceased to amuse me because usually the ones in the entire get up, jeans, chaps, spurrs, snakeskin, ten gallon, had never seen a horse in their life let alone ridden one.) There were flashing lights and hand painted murals on the walls, painted to look like some desert with cacti.
We meandered in and were blinded by the multitude of lights. LEDS and little bulbs along side of machines galore. There was this HUGE MONSTEROUS spinning wheel thing that raised, lowered and wobbled with digital interactions and touch screen monitors at the center of the room with a few people around it. They had the crap tables and black jack too, littered with differing faces that showed boredom, typical poker-faces or frustration and happiness. My mother went straight to the slot quarter slot machines. They were always her favorite and I am not sure why–she felt they were luckier than anything else. She drug me along as we passed by computerized monitors that spun like the old fashioned ones: cherries and diamonds, hearts and bells. She took the choosing of a machine seriously, we meandered back and forth through several rooms as she squinted at each one. Eventually I wondered if we were ever going to pick one.
“Those two–” she pointed out. So off I went to sit on the leather bound stool beside her as she handed me a $20 bill. “I’ve got a good feeling about tonight, “she repeated.
There’s really not much to slot machines. You feed it money and if you are lucky, you win it back. If you aren’t–you don’t. My mother was wrong about this night however. The time passed and we talked about everything: marriage, kids, life, health, we laughed about the little things and bitched about the things we couldn’t control. We weren’t very successful and my mother insisted we try another machine. The night was wearing on and the place was clearing out.
“Are you sure you don’t want to stop?” I asked, warily trying to think how much we’d already spent as she tugged me along to one of the many convenient ATM machines scattered about the entire place.
“Just one more!” She said, and started giggling (I swear it) like a school girl.
“Mom I don’t think–”
“Just one more!” She insisted. She’s my mother you see. You don’t argue with mothers. Not too often when you get older, at any rate. So she slid a card and punched her PIN and more money that I’ve seen in cash in a long while was spit eagerly out into her waiting hands.
Off we went again to prowl around the machines to find ‘the perfect’ one. Mom found a machine she thought she liked, and tried to hand me some more money. At this point I shook my head.
“No, I don’t think I should help,” I grinned. She smirked and fed the machine.
We were horribly, horrifically, amazingly bad that night. I didn’t really keep track of the money my mother kept putting in the machine but it was so bad that at the end of the night we were both cackling like hyenas anyway at how horrible it was.
“Just one more–” She’d say.
“Mom, I think we should go, I don’t know how much money we’ve blown but I think we should stop before it’s too late.”
Still cackling like a bunch of hyenas however, we agreed. Some of the bouncers gave us quizzicle looks as we passed. They have people that make the quiet rounds along tables and machines even though there are cameras everywhere–no doubt to make sure things are on the up and up. I am pretty sure they were aware that these two ladies just lost a massive amount of money and had never seen anyone hooting and hollaring in laughter about it.
When we got to the car, I finally asked her, “So, how much did we blow?”
“Oooooooooh,” my mom said casually as she slid into the driver side. “Eight hundred dollars.” And then lost it laughing.
“OH MY GOD MOM!” I bellowed. I got into the car quickly because I thought I was going to die. “OH MY GOD. SERIOUSLY?”
My mother was flopped helplessly across the steering wheel losing her shit giggling. She nodded.
“FUCK. DAD IS GOING TO KILL US.”
“I KN-KN-KN-OWWWWWWWWWWWWWW,” Mom howled, looking totally unconcerned at her death.
We drove home and the entire way we were chortling like madwomen. Mom and I were doing our best Pissed Off Dad impressions, which sent us convulsing further until by the time we pulled up in the drive way sometime in the early AM, we were barely able to see the road through the tears.
“Okay, okay–Okay–oh jesus–” Mom said, “We’ve gotta go in. If Frank’s awake let me handle it.”
“JEEEZUSS CEEEERISSST DARLENE,” I tried in my best Dad-impression, which sent us off again.
“NO! Seriously, okay–okay we can do this. Oh my god, why did you let me spend so much?” As she tried to roll out of the car.
“ME?!” I squeaked, having a hard time breathing. “OH NO, nuh-uh you aren’t blaming this on me, I tried to stop you! I tried to be the adult here!”
We made it from the drive way to the door step, spring not yet sprung in Alberta, our breathes were little puffs of clouds as we tittered like teenagers and mom fumbled with her purse to get her keys.
“Frank is going to kill me,” she muttered, and we spent a few more minutes laughing so far we wheezed and collapsed on each other that neither of us could unlock the door.
When we got it open, I marvelled at my mother’s poker face. When she sashayed through the door she knew she was in for some serious shit–but breezed on in with a nonchalant look. I couldn’t follow her. I took my shoes off unsteadily and tried to go hide in the bathroom. I heard my mother say, “Going to bed, tired.” My father replied with–“How much did you spend at the casino?”
“Oh,” breezily. “Eight hundred dollars,” quickly as I watched her dart for the stairs and I heard my father begin cursing. I ducked into the bathroom like the brave daughter I am.
That was the last time I saw my mother laugh like that–laugh so hard that she cried, laughed until she couldn’t breath. It was the most expensive laugh I have ever had with my mother, but I like to think now that it was worth every penny.