My mother turned 90 yesterday, and my seven siblings with spouses, as well as several granddaughters and great-granddaughters, travelled to Winnipeg to mark the milestone. Mom was born in the former USSR, in today’s Ukraine, in 1922, and fled Russia with her parents as a small child. She grew up on a farm near Winkler, Man. She enjoyed school. Her father was somewhat unusual in the Mennonite community of the time in that he insisted his five daughters get an education and profession. Three of them chose nursing, and two, including Mom, chose teaching. Mom left her teaching career when she married, but her teaching gifts continued to be exercised in various ways, not least of all as mother of eight children.
Her interests were always bigger than the domestic. My older brother recalls how CBC news was a mainstay of Mom’s day, which in turn influenced his own ongoing interest in global affairs. Mom initiated and organized a girls’ club program in Linden, Alberta, where we lived for many years, as well as leading church women’s groups. When my parents lived in Carman, Man., where Dad pastored, she did various kinds of small group teaching and was instrumental in starting the MCC Thrift Store in that community. On Friday morning, two of my younger sisters took Mom to Carman on something of a nostalgia tour (for the sisters as much as Mom, I think) and stopped at the thrift store, which is still doing well. They bought Mom a pretty vest, which she wore for the come-and-go party we held in her honor yesterday.
At the end of his tribute and presentation of a family photo book on Saturday evening, my second brother invited us, sitting in a circle in our basement TV room, to stand up and do literally what it says about the “worthy woman” in Proverbs 31: “Her children rise up and call her blessed.” We did so gladly. We feel fortunate to have had a mother like her. At 90, Mom is frail and has limited mobility, but in spite of some mild dementia, she is still fairly alert.
That same evening, at about the hour we used to have to go to bed so my parents’ adult conversation could begin, it was Mom who was tired and had to go to bed, back in her room at the personal care home. The rest of us stayed together after that to reminisce. (With a mother her age, of course, we’re not exactly new to the world ourselves.) It was a wonderful time, jumping from one incident to the next, everyone supplying details to augment the others’ stories. It’s been a long while since I’ve laughed as much. Even though it was an achievement of 90 years that brought us together, the act of celebration allowed us, for a few hours at least, to play with time, to turn it inside out and round and round. Via memory, Mom was young and Dad was alive, and we were still just a bunch of crazy kids.