45: Wonder Mom

45: Wonder Mom

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: For Mom, with Love

Wonder Mom

Unconsciously, Canadians feel that any people can live where the climate is gentle. It takes a special people to prosper where nature makes it so hard.

~Robert MacNeil

It was a Friday morning in January of 1977. Gigantic snow-flakes swirled into drifts across the deck outside our kitchen window. I crunched my Flintstones vitamin and listened to the radio announcer list all the cancelled buses in Prince Edward County in southern Ontario, fingers crossed. At last he said, “6G.”

I stopped listening. Craig and I jumped up and down, sloshing milk from our cereal bowls onto the table. Daddy declared he was off to work and later to the Oyster Stag at the Yacht Club in Picton. Mom frowned.

No doubt there would be a crowd of loud men, lots of food and an endless supply of Canadian on tap where Daddy was going. I pictured Fred Flintstone in a tall, furry hat on his way to the Lodge of the Loyal Order of Water Buffaloes, as Mom closed the front door with a bang. She sent Craig and me to the basement. In our pajamas. Without even brushing our teeth!

The morning unfolded in a series of game shows, cartoons and floor hockey downstairs. Bologna sandwiches with mustard in front of the television for lunch. I was over the moon. If only Wonder Woman had been on instead of The Flintstones.

Wanting to check on the snow, I skipped upstairs. Mom sat at the kitchen table, where I think she had been stationed since Daddy left, with a coffee mug glued to her hand. The windows rattled. Wind howled as it often did from across Lake Ontario and over the Sandbanks toward our house, only louder than I’d ever heard it. This was the best snowstorm ever!

Mom puffed one cigarette to its end and lit another. I leaned against her shoulder. “I thought you quit.”

She crushed out the barely-smoked butt, reached for my hand and pulled me closer.

“Mom, is everything okay?” I asked.

She spoke into the top of my head, “Of course it is. How could it not be on a day like this?”

The house creaked as Mom got up and led me to my room. I took Alligator Pie from my bookshelf, and then Mom handed Mrs. Beasley to me as though the doll were real. I hugged her to my chest. A great sense of comfort wrapped around me like a blanket, and Mom headed back to the kitchen.

Hot dogs for supper without Daddy seemed wrong. As Mom tucked me into bed that night, she wrinkled her lips and said, “Your father is stranded in town. At the Oyster Stag.” She kissed my forehead. “Sweet dreams.”

I snuggled in deeper with Mrs. Beasley.

By Saturday morning, Daddy still wasn’t home. I knew he’d be back. Nothing could stop him.

From her post, Mom said to my brother and me, “You two can have whatever you want for breakfast, downstairs.”

I looked at Craig. Together we sang out, “Froot Loops!”

Mom agreed and reached for the bowls without hesitation. I made a face and she smiled back. “Special treat.”

Life couldn’t get any better than this.

That afternoon, dressed in Mom’s nurse’s cape, I sat on the basement floor in a pile of clothes from the dress-up closet. The phone rang and soon Mom called down, “Can you kids come up here, please?”

We clomped up the stairs. “Mom, what is it?” I asked.

She dragged her cross-country skis from the front hall closet. “I have to go out. The neighbours can’t get home. They want me to go next door to see if their lights are still on. They’re worried about the pipes freezing.”

Eagerly I said, “I can go with you!” The scrunched look on her face said “no” before she opened her mouth.

Mom wriggled into her lime green and brown ski pants and jacket. Then she pulled on Daddy’s balaclava over her goggle-sized glasses. I laughed. She looked ridiculous! When she opened the outer storm door, a drift as high as the doorknob spilled across the tiles to the edge of the carpet. Climbing up and over it, she shoved her way out into the storm.

There was nothing to see through the front picture window but a shifting wall of white. We waited. And waited. Finally, the front door burst open and Mom reappeared, covered. Snow cascaded across the floor and past the edge of the carpet. Mom leaned her skis in the corner by the door and slapped her hands on her hips, her eyes focused in a serious look. Just like Wonder Woman.

Wonder Mom to the rescue! “Did you see the lights?” I asked.

She rubbed her temples. “No, I got lost. I didn’t even get out of our yard.” Slowly she grinned.

Sunday arrived and still no Daddy. His phone calls were not enough. Mom seemed frazzled. Snow blocked every window and door in the house. Craig had become annoying and I was bored. Sunday afternoon TV was awful, and the stations didn’t come in clearly no matter which way I turned the rotor. Daddy needed to get home before bedtime.

That evening, the sound of skidoos whined outside. The engines stopped. I rushed to the front hallway and waited with Mom and Craig. We opened the inner wooden door and heard the crunch-swish of shovels. At last I saw the tip of a shovel, then a boot, then Daddy’s nose smooshed against the glass like a kid. Daddy was home!

A week after the storm hit, Mom held my gloved hand tight as the whole family headed to the end of the laneway. Joining with all our neighbours, we watched the huge snow blowers and plows from CFB Trenton clear the West Lake Road. As the soldiers worked and waved, above the groans of machinery came a collective cheer for the heroes who had come to free us from the remnants of the storm.

It wasn’t until years later I discovered just how protective Mom had been. For her, the storm of 1977 was a time of immeasurable anxiety and fear. Would the power go out? Or the phones? Did we have enough oil in the tank? And food? Would we stay warm? She had never been so overwhelmed as a mother, or so alone.

Ever since then, Mom makes sure to always have at least a month’s worth of supplies and food in the house, no matter what the season. Stocking up in case of emergencies became the norm. It still is. But the real lesson — the true gift she gave to me — came from a mom’s love: During that storm, and for decades after, Mom preserved the innocence of the experience for me like a true superhero.

This is the memory I hold dear in my heart.

I think Wonder Mom deserves a new cape, and maybe some shiny red boots.

~Susan Blakeney

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