On June the 12th, 1970, which is approximately the date our first baby was originally expected, Mum arrived in Canada. On June 1st it would have been 20 years since she had given birth to me, her first child, after her long, lonely climb up the hill called locally, "the drainpipe," while not realizing that the pain she was in was labour.
I had not seen Mum since September 27th--almost 8 months! I could barely contain my excitement at the fact that she would be here with us in Canada and staying to the end of August.
I remember her delight at and immediate bond with the tiny baby who had come to the airport to meet her, her first grandchild, Peter.
Her suitcase was filled with gifts from friends and family and little baby clothes that she had been collecting and knitting.
This visit was to be the first of many over the years. During her visits with us she was so very happy, as we were to have her.
Peter had developed colic, and every evening, like clockwork; at 6.00 p.m., he would begin to suffer terrible gas pains that caused him to scream inconsolably for three hours. I was not successful in breasfeeding during the first couple of days in the hospital and in 1970 there was not a lot of help and encouragement given. In fact my female doctor actively encouraged me to bottle feed since it wasn't working right away. I regret not persisting, but I was so inexperienced that I followed her guidance. If I had been able to breastfeed, Peter may not have had colic.
As all mothers who have gone through this know, there are no words to describe the desperation that descends when trying to comfort a baby that cannot be comforted. I don't know how I would have survived those first few months without Mum, who gladly more than shared the hours of rocking and soothing every evening. I was so grateful for Mum's help.
On the other hand, there was also a little tension around Mum giving advice, when I thought I knew what I was doing. I hadn't learned yet to be gracious and grateful. Instead I know that I was often defensive and stubborn.
Mostly though, the moments we shared together were precious and happy, with simple pleasures of going for walks and coffee at Mr. Donut, whenever Peter would allow us. He was a highly strung baby who let us know in no uncertain terms when it was time to leave.
The weeks sped by all too fast and soon it was time for Mum to leave again. I cannot begin to imagine how hard that was for her; but she was so brave and taught me to be, too. We determined from the very start, never to say, "Goodbye," just, "Until we meet again."
It seemed ungrateful to give in to sadness when we had such treasured memories to cherish. So another tradition began: that of smiling bravely at the airport. I'm afraid though, that once I had watched the last glimpse of her dear form vanish from view, swallowed up into the depths of airport security, as soon as I turned to leave, my face would crumple into the "ugly cry," though I never cried out loud. Part of my sadness was knowing that she was going back to an unhappy life at home.
Paul was always exceedingly sensitive to how I felt, and still is when it is time for me to leave Mum at the end of any visit. I've always been so grateful for his tenderness in that regard and grateful for a Mum who is so lovable and dear.
Another tradition that started during that visit, was the leaving behind of a little note, to be found upon return from the airport. Here is some of what Mum wrote in that note:
My dear Belinda, Paul and my little darling!
I thought I'll write a few lines, before I'm off again, because the post takes such a long time to come through from England and I know how you love the postman to bring something.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for the lovely time I've had with you three. I've decided not to worry about anything like I will have promised when I leave. Belinda, I've seen for myself how well you look after each other. If I have been a bit anxious about you or Peter, forgive me, it's just that I love you so very much and that makes me go that way. I know what you think already, because you understand and say, "There's nothing to forgive." I've looked forward to every day and enjoyed them all. And of course, not to forget the nights with Peter. It was worth it, every single minute. Thinking back over the weeks, I keep on saying what a lovely pair you are to let me share Peter so completely and you Paul, to really share our Belinda. I mean that. Lots of men don't react or understand this. And I really think a terrible lot of that. You mean a terrible lot to me because I know how much Belinda loves you, and you make her happy. That's all a mother can wish for...
Darlings I will close here and I write my next letter as soon as I get home. Please take care of each other. Give Peter a kiss from his Omie every day. May the Lord bless you all always and don't forget I love you all very, very much!
With all my love you three, Your Mum/Omie xxxxx
Next week: The Move