On the day my beautiful daughter was born, it had been 21 years that I had lived without my mother. My mother died when I was 11 years old. The day she died, was the worst day of my life. There was a time in my life when I honestly never thought I would make it to motherhood. I had a rough childhood, to say the least.
Firstly, you need to know the kind of mother I had, because my life is truly inspired by her. She was a successful, creative woman in the world of advertising during the 80’s. At a time when many of my friend’s Moms were stay-at home, she was hustling. In the evenings, she moonlighted as a director at a funky dinner theatre in downtown Toronto. The stage was her true love. She was an English rose, who could light up any scene. You could often find her at a cute little Parisian restaurant at Yonge & Davisville, serenading the late night dinner crowd by the grand piano. That was my Mum. She was more than special, she was exceptional and unfortunately, she had exceptionally bad taste in men. Introducing my father; successful 80’s Bay street man, turned womanizing, alcoholic, delinquent father. But this is truly a whole other story to be told at another time.
Several weeks after my mother died, I was pulled out of my grade 5 classroom by a social worker from Children’s Services. She drove me to my home to collect my things. Once we arrived at my front door, she handed me a very large black garbage bag and told me that I could only take what fit in the bag. I was in shock. Are you kidding me, I thought?! She wasn’t kidding. I did what I was told and stuffed as much as I could get in the bag. When the car pulled away from my little white house, my heart broke, because I knew that part of my life was over. My family was officially broken, ruined forever and I would never touch or see my mother’s things again.
My Mother’s second cousin and his wife, took me and my sister in. Apparently, my mother had planned all of this before her passing, God bless her, but she had no idea what a disastrous choice that was. What else was she to do? She was 39 years old, with 3 young girls, dying of cancer, with a major loser of a husband. A husband who would be gone until the wee hours of the morning, then to return home and wake up her kids in a drunken rage. She had no choice and as a mother I totally get it. Let’s just say the next 6 years of my life was mental warfare. This lady did not want us in her home and she made that clear from the get go. Among her first comments were, “If it wasn’t for me, you would be shuffled around foster care, probably being sexually abused”… I will save the rest of those memories for my memoir, but I think you get the picture. Although, I have to say they did send me to one of the best private schools in Toronto, where I received a great education and discovered my love of running. Running competitively is what kept me sane those 6 years. I’m very thankful for that.
Well, fast forward another 12 years, (there are some incredible stories in there as well, let me tell you!) after several failed long relationships I was set up on a blind date with my now husband. In my opinion everyone needs some good long dramatically failed relationships before you find the one, or at least I did. I was so over dating when we met that I literally didn’t even kiss the guy for two months, or hold his hand for that matter. We laugh so hard now about how I used to literally open his car door before he even stopped the car and jump out, so he couldn’t kiss me goodnight. Honestly, I think he slightly terrified me, because somewhere inside I knew he was the one. The one man I would truly trust with my life.
Fast forward, another 5 years and our beautiful baby girl was born, Charlotte Faith. Oh my god! That was among the best days of my life. My entire pregnancy was glorious, life just felt perfect. Trust me, my second pregnancy wasn’t so easy, until the birth. So I feel you if you’ve ever had a rough one. That first moment I held my girl was so miraculous and beautiful on a million different levels. If you’re a mom, then you know what I mean. Yes, I was sore as… you know what, but it was blissful. Once the first few hours had passed, we had some of our family and friends come to visit. We were so proud to show off our little girl.
As the day turned into night, the pain of not having my own mother resurfaced like wildfire. There’s something about the nighttime that I think makes us all vulnerable. I felt so incredibly blessed to have my baby girl, yet felt so deeply sad that I didn’t have my own mother to share the incredible momentous joy with. In the first few months of being a mother I had many new emotions surface about being a Motherless mother. Don’t get me wrong, my mother-in-law is so loving and wonderful, but no one can fill the void of your own mother.
I felt resentful that I didn’t have my mother to comfort me when I was exhausted, to call when I wasn’t sure what to do, to just be there for me. Mostly, the pain came from the realization that my beautiful mother, who I was so in-love with and idolized, would never hold my babies, never look into their beautiful eyes and never see them laugh. I felt heartbroken all over again.
I struggled with these feelings for a while and then one day I said, enough. I had seen enough adults with issues in my day put their issues, childhood traumas, relationship failures, abandonment issues, past heartbreak etc. on their children. I would NEVER be that kind of parent. I vowed it. My past, is my past. The loss I experienced is my loss, not my kids. It’s not their burden. I want my kids to grow up lightheartedly, believing in everything, with free spirits and loving, kind hearts. The way my mother would have dreamed for me and my sisters to have grown up. That’s the kind of parent I would be. My past, is my story and my children will have their own pain (which I pray with all my heart, is minimal). They will experience their own joy, from their own life and their own experiences.
Now a mother of three amazing kids! I share all my beautiful memories of my mother with my children. They call her Grandma in heaven and we always honor her memory and the incredible woman she was. There are many times I see my mother in the twinkle of my children’s eyes. It’s a beautiful thing when you can see your passed loved ones in your children’s eye. It’s a true gift.
I know that I’m one of the lucky ones. There were so many times I literally could have ended up on the street, alone and broken. I thank God, I have two of the most amazing sisters. We are thick as thieves and have each other’s backs always. It was us against the world for a long time. As well as having my amazing girlfriends, I’ve had most of my life. And of course my husband, who is my best friend and my babies who literally rule my world.
Life can be so brutal, painful and treacherous at times, but oh so breathtakingly beautiful, peaceful and amazing as well. I guess my point in sharing is, the worst tragedies and pain can be followed by the most incredible gifts, lessons and also the ability to truly appreciate and enjoy life.
Love today, today is the gift. Tomorrow is not a promise.
Photo: Vanessa Rempel’s personal archive