It all comes down to this

 In her last two years, my mother was plagued with increasing poor health and dementia.

Her move from living in her own house to a quasi-nursing home was swift and dramatic. I bundled her home with me on Christmas Day so I could help her get over a flu bug and by New Year’s Eve she was sipping “champagne” at Victoria Place retirement home.

We whittled her many possessions down to what was most precious to her. We filled her one new room with books, photo albums, vases, some paintings, a chair and a large cabinet. I also stashed many of her endless crafting supplies in the nursing home’s rec room, but my mother never touched them again.

Everything else, including her house and car, was given to family members or charity or sold.

A month before my mother died, I had a birthday party for her and invited all her friends. I brought her mother’s vase to the nursing home and filled it with lilacs. My mother could no longer recognize some of the people at the party, but she exclaimed over the vase and was lost in memories of her mother, of lilacs, of birthdays past, of the vase and of bringing it to Canada.

In her last week, my mother was taken by ambulance to the hospital. The only possession she ever expressed any concern for was her false teeth. Where were they? Could she have them in?   

Eventually she slipped into a coma and her teeth were taken out. It was just my mom then – naked under a sheet in a mercilessly sunny hospital room with her family and her dearest friend at her side.  

That’s what your life comes down to. You. Your experiences. And the people you love.Image

My birthday story

Every year on my birthday my mother would announce “I remember the day you were born….” and she would launch into what I came to think of as my birthday story. It was a story just for the two of us to share. She’d recall the weather (it was snowing), having contractions as she served my brother and sister breakfast before sending them to school and telling my father not to dawdle coming home from work because “the baby was coming.” I’d hear how he was indeed late, how she wanted to stop to buy magazines on the way to the hospital but didn’t have time to read them because I was so impatient to be born.

MomandMeOn my last birthday before my mother died, I went to visit her. She was very ill and her mental facilities were spotty. I told her it was my birthday, but she had forgotten. I asked her to tell me my birthday story. Frustrated with her own lack of comprehension she asked me crossly “what are you talking about?” Even when I prompted her, she just shook her head, not recalling what my birthday story was. Returning home, I realized bleakly that I would never hear my birthday story again. A part of me felt diminished.

On my first birthday after my mother’s death, my sister, Carla, who is seven years older than I am, took me out for the day. As we were driving, and completely out of the blue, she said “I remember the day you were born. The weather was just like this….” And then she told me about waiting with our brother and father for the call from the hospital, and how happy she was when she found out mom had had a baby girl.

I listened in stunned, joyous disbelief. My birthday story wasn’t gone! This was my birthday story from another perspective – a version that had never been told before. And with its telling that little part of me that I thought was diminished forever was restored.

Thank you for the birthday story, Carla. Happy birthday to me!

Kitchen witchery and household magic – an audience participation post

KitchenWitchCenturies ago, the term “wise woman” meant a witch. A wise woman knew how to use herbs for healing, could safely forage for food (called wild crafting) and had observed the effects of the seasons and the ways of the world. Today many of us call that savvy woman Mom.

What are your mother’s or your family’s tried-and-true home remedies, recipes and household tips? Every family has them!

Here are a few from mine.

Try the apple cure. Family legend says this treatment cured my father when he had dysentery as a teenager during WWII. Wash and core an apple. Do not peel it. Grate the apple and eat it. This cure will dry up the worst bought of diarrhea. Apples are full of pectin – a fibre that binds. Grating the apple exposes more of its surface and more of its pectin to our digestive tract. As cures go, this one is amazingly effective and very palatable.

Use hot oil for earaches. Heat up some olive or cooking oil to slightly warmer than body temperature (not sizzling hot, please!). Pour ½ teaspoon in the sore ear and stopper the ear with a piece of cotton ball. The oil helps draw out any fluid that is behind the eardrum and causing pain. The warmth of the oil is soothing.

Freeze your fresh spinach and herbs. I store leftover fresh herbs, such as cilantro or parsley, and spinach in plastic bags in the freezer. The greens reduce a bit in volume, but still perform like fresh herbs or fresh spinach for cooking or sauces. Now I always have “fresh” herbs in the house. And because it’s readily on hand in the freezer in any amount I want, I add spinach to everything –soups, spaghetti sauce, risotto, omelettes… you name it. The spinach doesn’t even need chopping; I just grab a handful and crumble it into whatever’s cooking.

Use white vinegar in your laundry. Being the earth mother-loving, frugal type, I try to use green cleaners wherever possible. White vinegar cuts lime, scale and soap film and is antibacterial. I use it for all sorts of household cleaning and recently started using it as my liquid fabric softener (no, my laundry does not smell like a salad). The vinegar eliminates static and cuts any soap residue making for bright, plush fabrics.

What are your household tips, tricks and magic? Please share!