Looking back, I can truly say my siblings and I were influenced at an early age by our parents and home life. Because Dad worked hard all day, it was Mom, who taught by example; who made sure we would become “good people.” It is this core that helped form us; school and our careers would hone our characters, but we were already the person we would become.
Mom taught her children valuable lessons about life through her day-to-day examples. We were taught to be honest and to respect our elders, family and friends. No one was “better” than another because of race, money or jobs. An Aboriginal window-washer or an African-American garbage collector were human beings doing honest work. Racial discrimination was present in my home-town as this was the end of WW2 and in the early 50s, fair wages were unheard of, especially for people from different cultures and/or skin colour..
Dad worked hard to keep a roof over our heads, clothes on our backs and food on the table. We kids all needed school supplies, dental care and occasional visits to the family doctor when needed. Times were tough and money was tight, but with Mom managing the household with three energetic youngsters, life ran fairly smoothly due to her good management and exceptional book-keeping.
My parents were unofficial translators for many of the Chinese men who needed help in dealing with the immigration paperwork involved in bringing their wives and families to Canada. Dad helped to fill out numerous forms supported by numerous official documents. When the wives were successfully united with their husbands, Mom took them in hand and helped them settle. Payment was a steady supply of fresh fruits and vegetables from their working farms and on special occasions, generous platters of freshly prepared dim-sum dumplings and Chinese pastries.
Through all of this, we kids observed and learned to be compassionate and caring, by watching our parents helping others.
Our formal schooling was at an elementary school that was like a mini-United Nations. Kids from different cultures and races were all taught at this one school, from Kindergarten to Grade 6. We learned diplomacy and acceptance. This cemented what Mom had taught us at home–people were the same all over; kids were the same too.
I like to think all Moms were like mine. Moms who care about their families, unabashedly love them and show by their day-to-day behaviour, how to treat others such as coffee baristas, grocery clerks, servers, bus drivers who cross our paths daily.
Mom was in her 80s and still very much a “people-person”, when she moved into her apartment in a seniors’ complex. She made friends of both Staff and Residents. She remembered everyone’s name. Her cheerful greetings and genuine words of “How are you today?” would elicit an honest answer and a sincere smile in return. She remembered their aches and pain or whatever was troubling them. Mom always left them with a smile on their faces. No one stayed grumpy for long in Mom’s presence.
Today is Mother’s Day in Canada, the United States and anywhere else that salutes the hardest working, unpaid career of being a Mom. This will be my first “Mother’s Day” without my Mom. I know she was proud of all her children and their accomplishments, but most of all, she saw us as “good people” who are passing along the lessons we learned at home to our children and grandchildren. We miss you Mom. Thank you for everything.