Where was my Mother? (Ch. 12)

Where was my Mother while all this was going on?

This wouldn’t be the last time l wondered this reflecting on my childhood.

It came in variations.

Where were the parents?

Why weren’t any parents there?

One of my Mother’s favorite things to do was sit at the kitchen table talking on the phone, which was one of those vertical rectangular wall mounted hard installed rotary dail things, and smoke copious amounts of Cameo Menthol cigarettes, while my brother and I went about our business without her interference.

My Mother's phone

One day we were playing with matches in the front room while my mom was talking on the phone in the kitchen.

We caught the couch on fire.

the couch we caught on fire

I can remember trying desperately to get my Mother’s attention and warn her of the danger. Finally, I was able to attract her away from the phone and she raced to the living room where she knelt down and blew out the threatening flames.

It left a big hole in the couch.

The above is a pic of us on the couch in question just about where the hole was.  I think I look quite innocent in this picture. I’m not sure about my brother. That’s a pretty mischevious grin on his face.

This was about the same time that the Bs moved in next door.

This was before their children were born, as C was born 3 1/2 months after my sister N, who was 6 years younger than me.

D.B. was born 2 years after C.

I remember seeing D.B. (their father) for the first time when…

he painted Hamish, our dog.

D (the father) was painting the fence between our two yards while Hamish, doing his normal border patrol of the yard, met with a suspicious man doing something strange with a brush and a sinister looking white liquid substance against the fence.

Hamish must have recognized D as he was wagging his tail and rubbing his body against the freshly wet pickets.

The obvious resolution, at least in D’s mind, was to brush a few experimental strokes around Hamish’s snout and front flanks causing our hero (Hamish) to recede from the fence.

Problem solved.

D wasn’t without humor.

He didn’t really grow into his name (short for a man’s appendage) until much later, at least not in my mind.

L.B. (D’s much younger wife) became very instrumental in our growing up especially after she had her own children.

She had grown up on a farm in the Fraser Valley as a foster child. I don’t think she was ever properly adopted but she lived in on the one farm for most of her childhood. As far as I know, she never knew her biological parents.

It’s interesting that we never questioned her much about her growing up. I don’t think it was that surprising that she married a man much older than her or that she came to work for social services.

I can remember her providing us with milk and hamburger when we were short on food.

Again I don’t know why this was.

My father had started his business by then and he had rented an office. Perhaps he didn’t have enough clientele to sustain the extra expense. He must’ve just thought that was just the way things were done. It might not have occurred to him to work out of the house until he could afford the extra rent of an office.

I get all confused when talking and thinking about it as I don’t remember it in linear form.

Perhaps I should just list some points as I remember them and they will somehow turn into a story.

D and L moved in next door.

They used to come over for cocktail parties. My Mom didn’t like to drink much but my Dad did.

My Dad became an alcoholic.

My Dad had his own business.

My Mother didn’t want to work as she thought it wasn’t her job to do so.

They didn’t communicate very well.

My Dad said that when Mom wanted to have another child she just did it and she planned her children according to if her friends were having children.

Was this so we would have playmates or because she was in some kind of competition with her friends to bring forth prodigy?

Did my Dad really think he didn’t have anything to do with having us kids?

Did he seriously not know what a condom was or how to use it?

There’s not much point in this line of thinking as it tends to unthink my siblings and myself.

Then, of course, we’re not having this conversation, are we?

I keyed his car with my tricycle!

Looking back on that closet room without a door I needed to stop and take a crying break, but at the time it wasn’t so traumatic.

I just thought it was normal, but I was beginning to realize it wasn’t.

I can remember being so scared in that room, but I didn’t think anything of it.

You don’t when you’re a kid.

It occurs to me that my mother was probably a Wah Wah adult too. I remember a lot of incidents that she had a part in but she didn’t seem completely present.

When I was very young, barely more than a toddler, I was allowed to visit a neighbor who lived a block or so down from us on Lancaster Crescent.

I would toddle off down the block solo. I more remember this as a story that my mom told to me. She would say, “You thought you were so independent visiting on your own, but I always called ahead to let her know you were coming.”

In my mind, this is a combination of just plain negligence AND a sign of a simpler time.

Around the same time (two-three years old) I was involved in an incident with a closer neighbour.
We lived beside a small local firehall. The firemen were very accommodating to us kids and I can remember visiting the firehall and even once in awhile being allowed to ride on the fire truck to the end of the driveway when they brought it out to wash it.

On the other side of the firehall lived an evil troll of a man who didn’t have children and didn’t like dogs…

He particularly didn’t like our dog Hamish who from what I can gather was taken to using his yard for a washroom.

I only really know my own part in this, but I can tell you that Hamish was a very well behaved Border Collie. I have pictures of him with his snout in my baby basinet in protection mode.

He also used to push my brother and I back into our yard if we wandered too far towards the gate.

The herding instinct.

Hamish died when I was 6. He was struck by the fire truck which was on an emergency call. Our other dog Put Put had run out onto the road just as the truck was coming and Hamish ran out and pushed Put Put out of the way and was hit.

Hamish died saving Put Put’s life.

I’m trying to give you an idea of what Hamish’s personality was like and how I felt about him as a child.

The aforementioned troll of a neighbor threatened Hamish with his shotgun. ” If that dog comes into my yard again I will pull out my gun and shoot him.” He menaced.

I’m not sure if I heard about this from my mother or if I was actually there when he made this threat, but I knew I had to do something.

I should mention how frightened I was of this evil man and his shotgun and his threats against my dog.

Why should a 3-year-old kid know about these things?

I knew what I had to do.

I screwed up my courage and…

I took my tricycle which had the safety grips conveniently removed from the handle bars and I rode slowly along the side of his car that was conveniently parked on the street.

I keyed his car with my tricycle!

Mission accomplished.

Not soon after he was at our house confronting my mother, who with him right there, asked me about it, “Did you do it?”
“No mommy” I replied with my prettiest little innocent girl face.
“She didn’t do it.” my mom told the troll and as far as I know that was the end of it.

Are you wondering where my mom was during all of these goings-on?

Why she wasn’t watching her 3-year-old daughter and why she didn’t keep Hamish in our yard and clean up his poop by herself?

I feel the need to defend her here. To say that she had my brother, who was 18 months younger than me to look after too. I want to say that things were different back then and to a certain degree they were.

But the question is still in my mind.

Where was my mother while all this was going on?

Bigotry or Mental Illness? You Decide!

I know there was a lot of division and bigotry in people’s attitudes when I was growing up, but it didn’t seem to translate down to the neighborhood level. At least not in Burkville. At least not that I was aware of.

I experienced a lot of acceptance of people’s differences in my childhood, maybe out of necessity more than anything, as people were likely to depend on each other for various things, including watching out for all the kids in the neighborhood.

I know my parents, particularly my mother grew up with and retained a lot of bigotry in her later years.

My grandparents were always mentioning the Italians that lived next door to them (very large capital I or even a bunch put together IIIItalians ….EYEtalians?).

Later my mother never failed to mention that my cousin was gay every chance she got. “He’s GAY, you know.”  She would say.

Being able to point at another’s supposed weaknesses or failings never failed to give my mother comfort. I think this was because she wasn’t happy with herself. Of course, I can’t see how anyone could be, living her life, but it didn’t seem to deter her. She was comfortable the way she was. I guess she was comfortable with her own unhappiness. She just couldn’t stomach anyone else’s happiness. That was unfathomable and if they were even a small amount of successful, that was threatening to her.

Looking back, it doesn’t bother me, but it did as a child and as a young woman I wanted her approval and support, but of course, it wasn’t forthcoming. It probably wasn’t logical for me to expect, but on an emotional level, I did.

What I got from her was resentment and jealousy.

I see now that it was a function of her disappointment in herself, but at the time I thought it was a reflection of me and I internalized it.

I still don’t know if this was mental illness or a personality conflict (as I quite often thought as an adult) or just a control impulse thing.

I get that mentally ill people DO have impulse control issues, but don’t we all?

Could it be a matter of expectations?

My mother wasn’t expected to control her behavior, so she didn’t. In fact, she felt quite entitled to her opinions and didn’t think too much about what others might think or feel when she expressed them. Even when directed at her children.

Well, I’ll tell you, I thought this made her an uncaring bitch.

So perhaps you could say there was a personality conflict between us. I didn’t think that had much to do with ‘mental illness’. I thought it had to do with my mother’s choices, thoughts, and actions. She didn’t choose to control them and it wasn’t expected of her. This was an easy way out, the way I see it. A path she chose. I think we can learn something from it. I think I have.

Kurt Vonnegut would say we all have ‘bad chemicals’ in our brains. It’s a matter of how we act that is the important thing. We can all make a choice on whether we want to be mentally ill every day or whether we can focus on our mental wellness.

Look, I get that there are people that are outside of this spectrum and there are also emergency situations that can occur. But I’m just saying that having grown up with my mother’s mental illness, I am aware that there is a choice for a lot a people to be well, to be proactive about their health, but they choose illness for whatever reason.

This was my opinion of my mother.

So… she wasn’t happy with herself, right? So.. she didn’t want others to be happy or successful as it was threatening to her, and even though my aunt and uncle were very kind to my mother and they were very good friends growing up, my mother was resentful of their successes and happiness. Therefore she had to mention that my cousin was gay every time his name came up because in her mind this meant that my aunt and uncle weren’t all as happy and successful as we had all supposed.

Otherwise, they wouldn’t have produced a gay child, right?

This was my mother’s bigotry. A product of her childhood, no doubt. But she didn’t fight very hard against it because that would require work, right?


As a child, however, I was allowed to play with whoever wanted to play with me and I was grateful for that, even though looking back on it, I’m aware this was also a form of surrogate babysitting.

This was how it was in our neighborhood.

N.K. and I became great friends for a while. Her family was Indian Canadian. Her mother made the most amazing chicken curry with homemade chapatis and she taught N and me how to make them.

This was before this kind of food was generally available as take out.

At least I wasn’t aware of it.

N knew how to make Indian chai and she taught me how, though I also remember drinking copious amounts of Hawaiian Punch at her house with our curry and chapatis.

We loved hanging out in the park across Airport Road.

One summer we set up an impromptu swap meet on the side of the road and sold old books and toys to the passing construction workers to earn extra candy money.

I also remember playing at M.J.’s house (another bestie).

M. had the most amazing and coveted Barbie Dream House. This was a bit surprising as M. and her brother B. were anything but spoiled.

Their parents were divorced but seemed incredibly functional to me. B. lived full-time with his dad and M. with her mom though I remember a lot of visiting back and forth.

Very European (I believe they were Dutch) and sophisticated and functional for all involved.

Every Saturday was chore day at M’s house and I was made to do them along with M if I happened to be hanging around which was fairly often as I recall.

M went on to become a competitive gymnast. She definitely had the petite build for it.

We took some gymnastics together for awhile until I went through a chunky phase and was forced to switch to rhythmics which I loved as well.

One afternoon M’s mom noticed me looking at her copy of The Book of Sex and showed it to me, explaining and answering any questions and was generally very relaxed and open about the subject, much to M’s chagrin.

” Oh, Mom. Come on. Not again!” M said.

Of course, nothing like any kind of regular chores ever went on at our house.

By this time I was relegated to the back office/closet for my bedroom.

This was a room without a door that stood directly across from our back door to the outside. I can remember being terrified that anyone just might be able to come right in in the night and grab me.

Half of this room was taken up by these big cubby type shelves which were to act ostensibly as my closet.

The other half of the room being taken up by a bunk bed that the top level was eventually taken off and turned into a regular bed as I kept falling out of the top level.

Like I said this was essentially a storage room without a door.

So I was supposed to fold my clothes neatly and put them on these cubbies, but what really happened was they were just thrown on the ground and when I needed something I would just root around for it.

All of my friends were very jealous of this as they were made to clean up their rooms, picking up and putting away their clothes and toys etcetera.

I remember M and her mother either picking me up or dropping me off for some function and they visited my room.

M exclaimed, “She’s allowed to just keep it like this!”

I don’t think M’s mom thought that was such a privilege.

Childhood Games, Nostalgic Candy & Banana Seat Bikes

A  lot of the things we did and didn’t do when we were kids would be considered negligent by today’s standards, but they gave us a freedom that children just don’t experience nowadays.

First of all, I have to say that my mother really had no idea where we were for a better portion of the day once we were school age.

She had a large bell that she would ring to call us home for dinner. This, of course, was incredibly embarrassing and we were teased mercilessly.

One of the highlights of the day was riding our bikes to the corner store for candy with money we had earned from collecting pop bottles.

It was common to be required to buy your parents cigarettes as well, and then you were given a note saying that the kids presented to the shop owners and you were then allowed to purchase cigarettes ostensibly for your parents.

Oftentimes we were allowed to keep the change (this was our delivery fee) and therefore it added to our candy budget.

Before we spoke about candy bars and lick m aid but I would like to add to the list.

Mojo’s, Pop Rocks, Jawbreakers and Grab Bags

You might remember Pop Rocks which had some secret ingredient (citric acid?) that made them pop and fizz in our mouths.

And the penny candy Mojos. As some might remember they were a chewy fruit (not all that soft) flavoured confectionery that would make parents today have a heart attack if their kids were eating them.

We can’t forget jaw breakers. I know these had been around a long time before I was a child, but what is the point of them? Is it a conspiracy to drum up business for big dental?

Honorable mention should go to grab bags.

I used to get quite excited about them. I think even back then logically we knew it was the left over candy that nobody wanted, but somehow there was a great anticipation in not knowing what was in there.

This led to much disappointment and feverish trading between us all jockeying for the more coveted candy.

Dental hygiene wasn’t of paramount importance to my parents…

(probably due to lack of funds – when are we going to make this part of national medical?) and by the time I went to the dentist the first time when I was 10 I had at least 6 cavities.

One day when I was riding my bike on Lancaster Crescent down by the tennis courts and I spotted a $2 bill on the ground. Rather than pick it up I rode the 2 blocks back to our house and told my mom.

“Well go back and get it! Hopefully, it’s still there…”

I did and it was and for some reason, this sticks in my head.

I must have been riding my banana seat bike as this is the first one I remember having.

I vaguely remember my father teaching me to ride, running down the road. Though that could’ve been my brother as he was close to the same age as was probably taught to ride about the same time.

A clearer incident involved my first solo ride.

We were in the park across Airport Road near to my best friend at the time,V H’s house.

I must’ve gone a whole 20 feet before I tipped over sideways and somehow managed to knock a big healing scab off my knee with the handle bar which was missing its original grip.

Miraculously the raw handle bar connected with the scab on my knee and gush, out came the blood!

V carefully escorted me to her house, both of screaming our heads off and her mother rinsed my knee in the bathtub and gave me a bandaid. I was none worse for wear.

Successful maiden solo mission complete!

I later wrote a song about this and it was in my second album ‘Unlimited Growth’.

If you’re curious, you can check that out here. Scroll down to ‘Andy’s Song’.

V’s mom was one of the Peanuts adults. You know ‘wah wah wah.’ I’m not sure why I remember some parents more than others. It might be a good thing.

If you think about it, this might just mean that V’s mom was a competent adult and so therefore doesn’t stand out much in my mind as there were way more crazy ones around to compare her too.

Next door to V lived a single Spanish man who gave me my first nickname.

At the time, I was called by my first name Lori or Lori-ann and he used to call me Laura Secord, which the neighborhood kids shortened to Secord and then to Cee.

That stuck for quite a while, at least all the way through elementary school at least until Sea Island Elementary was closed and we had to bus to Brighouse Elementary on Azure Lane off Gilbert Rd. in Richmond proper.

Single men living alone who talked to children were not automatically considered suspect back then.

It was free reign for us kids as we ran from yard to yard. We owned that block.

Traveling to Nelson, BC

On the way to Nelson, we stopped to camp overnight somewhere near Kelowna.

This was at an off-road location and I remember a really cool swimming hole. There was inlet in the river and someone had dug it out more in order to make it more swimmable.

Many years later when camping with my son we tried to find this place again and weren’t able to, though we did find a great spot on a river where I thought the spot should be that had a lot of great mud for sliding around on.

I might’ve mentioned this before, but ostensibly this trip was a babysitting gig and I tried to my best with the three young ones asking what needed doing and generally making sure they didn’t die.

I remember that Raquel’s mom had a wonderful big garden which we ate vegetables from. We shelled peas and grandma made her own fruit punch from strawberries, I think it was, and that was very yummy.

That summer I had had my first period and my mother was quite excited by it.

She had me read Judy Blume’s ‘Are You There God It’s Me Margaret’ and handed me some strange lithographed notebook that was called something like ‘What Every Girl Should Know’ and figured her job was done.

She did not as far as I know show me how put on a sanitary napkin or provide one. I was required to use rolled or wadded up toilet paper and this might explain a lot of plumbing issues they had and I also didn’t realize that tampons weren’t flushable until I was in my early 30s.

I was also felt strangely betrayed when my mom ran out to meet my dad as soon he arrived home to inform him of my fledgling womanhood.

Maybe it wasn’t so strange to feel betrayed by my mother after all. Maybe that is getting to the crux of the matter. Hadn’t I, after all, had a lot more expectations of my mother than she was able to deliver on? Wasn’t this the whole root of the matter, my expectations? Were they reasonable or should I just have had a tougher skin?

‘She would do that’. I told myself.

My mother also didn’t notice that I required a bra.

It’s, of course, possible that this was just another thing to do with my burgeoning adolescence that was too much for her to handle. It also occurs to me that it’s possible that she was somehow threatened by my maturity.

That certainly was the case later on. She seemed to be jealous of any accomplishment I had as I got older. I now know that this is because she felt she wasn’t doing what she should with her own life.

I now know that that’s what happens with people. They are not generally mad or upset at the person that their anger or hurt is directed at. They are generally angry and upset at themselves and their own inability to do anything about it. This was definitely the case with my mother, I can almost feel sorry for her when I realize that she must’ve spent most of her adult life with these feelings.

The question here is: Is this mental illness or is it a personality thing?

My lack of a bra for my thirteen-year-old burgeoning breasts was remedied by Raquel that summer in Nelson.

Bless that woman. She was as sensitive and generous about the subject as any young girl could hope.

On the way back to Vancouver we stopped in Cranbrook to visit friends who had a daughter who was a couple years older than me and full-fledged teenager and therefore uber-cool. She was very kind to me and shared with me her brand spanking new possession the LP ‘Don’t Look Back’ by Boston.

I was ready to be strapped into the back of the truck and we had a few minutes to kill.

“Look. Now it’s a spaceship” flipping the album, “Now it’s a guitar! You know what this is?

This is DECENT.”

Never was a truer word spoken by a cooler person and I knew it was gospel.

Is ADHD caused by Facebook?

Does Facebook cause ADHD?

I was listening to the Irrelevant Show on CBC on my way to the gym yesterday. I heard a song about a couple trying to leave the house and being distracted by Facebook.

‘Hon’, he says ‘Are you ready to go? ‘ ‘I just have to send this message.’she replies and launches into a song about all the many distracting, interesting things to see on Facebook.
The song is three verses long. At the beginning of the verse, she attempts to send her message only to be distracted by various postings and somehow ending each verse watching cat videos.

This made me wonder.

Is social media and the interwebs making us into a big distracted mess because of all the overwhelming information coming at us 24/7 is too much for our brains to process?

Are we developing ADHD like tendencies just in order to function in today’s society?

I think society is changing because of the technology available that we use in our everyday lives on every level. The way we approach education, health, family, work, parenting and every aspect of life is affected by our technology. A lot has been written about this, but I still think it’s worth mentioning again.

What I’m saying is all of our fundamental communications are affected by our technological world and this affects our mental health. The technology is only accelerating, too.

Are our natural responses making us look like we have ADHD?

Naturally, this discussion continued at the shop and Devon (our manager) chimed in with ‘ I don’t necessarily think that Facebook is causing ADHD but there is a lot of discussion on social media about different diagnosis and what medication people are taking. It’s like they belong to a secret club.’

Mental health is a secret club on Facebook? This is a thing?

I had thought about this before. Do people seriously need a mental health designation in order to feel like they’re special enough? What a wasted amount of energy. You could put your power to good, people! And what in our society is causing this? Are we so accepting of mental illness that now people are creating them in order to have a place in society?

Is mental illness a modern day hobby?

Husband and I discuss this kind of thing all the time and yesterday he reminded me of some incidents that had happened when David  (our son) was younger.

When my son was in 5th grade his teacher asked to have him tested for ADHD and we refused.

This got us talking to other parents about it. Apparently, all the boys in his class were asked to be tested and there were several diagnosed in his class. Those that refused to be tested were not considered ADHD.

The girls were not asked to be tested.

If a teacher has a bunch of special needs kids in her class she can get extra teaching assistants and other help, making her job easier.


David asked to be transferred from her classroom and though this was not an easy task, we got it done.

Later that year she was fired.

They seemed to be a trend towards a lot of diagnoses of ADD and ADHD when our son was asked to be tested in grade five.

This was only for boys. The girls seemed to be fine. Oh and I should mention the symptoms most of the boys exhibited that the teacher based her suspicious on were that boys tended to naturally be quite rambunctious.

They process information better if they are free to move around. This might look like misbehavior to some, but it’s really just how young boys operate. Just because they don’t sit nicely at their desks quietly doing their work and quietly entertaining themselves when it’s completed does NOT mean they have ADHD as convenient as that may be for a teacher.

Conversely, girls tend to go largely undiagnosed as they ARE apt to sit nicely in a classroom at their desks doing their work and being generally responsive to their teachers whether they’re depressed or not.

I mention depression because I’ve been told that it’s one of the signs of ADHD in girls if you believe such things.

One of the boys in David’s class was prescribed Ritalin (at 9 years old).

This upset several of us parents and naturally led to discussions. I should mention that David went to a very small Montessori elementary school. Though publically funded, getting into the school required a waiting list and the commitment of traveling across town if you didn’t happen to live in the neighborhood, which thankfully we did.

Put it this way, the parents there were like-minded.

The classic take away from all the discussion over Ritilan was put best by David’s best friend’s mom and family friend Nadene, a self-made, successful business owner who said, ‘ Give me several lines of good cocaine and I can work all night too’. Well put!

In Husband’s family, there are several diagnoses of mental illness.

My brother-in-law had a lot of trouble growing up and was eventually diagnosed with ADHD and given medication which has helped him a lot.

He is one of the highest functioning people I know and I think incredibly clear thinking and not to mention very organized and good at organizing other people.

This was recently put to test as he was helping to get the family house ready to put on the market.

Brother-In-Law found himself in the situation of dealing with almost 50 years worth of what I call functional hoarding, making numerous trips to the dump all while dealing with his sister who is still living in the house and insisting that each little scrap of paper was either a precious family heirloom or the key to untold riches.

Brother-In-Law challenges my view of the mental health industry. There is no doubt in my mind that he has been helped by chemical intervention.


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