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PAM FRAMPTON: Inside memory, we are together

My mom, Vera Frampton, and me. — Detail from a Rhonda Hayward photo
My mom, Vera Frampton, and me. — Detail from a Rhonda Hayward photo

“Memory is making peace with time.” — Timothy Findley, “Inside Memory”

Dear Mom,

Happy Mother’s Day on Sunday! You can be sure your children will be thinking of you.

This is only the fourth Mother’s Day in more than 50 years when I won’t get to see you. The other three were when I was living in Ontario.

It’s been more than a month now since they stopped allowing visitors to your long-term care home, courtesy of COVID-19.

I’ve spent a lot of time these past weeks thinking about how you might be feeling. I am hoping that one pleasant day just blends into the next, and that there are enough smiling faces around you that you don’t notice that the faces of your children aren’t among them.

Perhaps you are thinking that you are back among your big childhood family — your eight brothers and sisters, loving parents, and your grandfather. Maybe the people you share the home with are at once familiar and yet not. I hope that doesn’t confuse you.

I hope you are happy.

It gives me some semblance of comfort to imagine that you might be spending more time strolling through the familiar mists of the past right now rather than fretting about our absence, and this strange, bizarre world we find ourselves in.

In his wonderful memoir “Inside Memory,” Canadian literary luminary Timothy Findley posited that we are what we remember. That we are not the sum of trivial parts but a greater whole composed of all that we have experienced and committed to memory.

He says he wouldn’t care if one day he forgot how old he was or the colour of his eyes, “But it would worry the hell out of me if I couldn’t remember the smell of the house where I grew up…”

You may be having trouble with your memory, Mother dear, but you have not forgotten who you are.

And I know who that is because you’ve told me many times.

You are the girl — one of three daughters and six sons — who grew up in Stone’s Cove, Fortune Bay, a community now long resettled.

You may be having trouble with your memory, Mother dear, but you have not forgotten who you are.

You’re the girl who trod the well-worn footpaths with your best friend and cousin, Joyce. She lives in Halifax now, but I suspect she’s with you often, still, in your mind’s eye.

You’re the little girl who loved her mother’s special cake with wild blackberries on top and a custard filling.

You’re the shy teenager who worked in the store in Anderson’s Cove and blushed at transactions that included purchases of products you would never have discussed in company — mixed or otherwise.

You’re the person who, as the oldest, mothered many of your siblings, particularly when your mother was confined by pregnancy or childbirth.

You are the strong and loving woman who baptized a child who died in his mother’s arms shortly after being born, just because you happened to be in the cottage hospital bed next to that child’s mother on that sad day.

You’re the girl who caught the eye — and heart and soul — of a certain high school teacher, who would make special trips by boat to visit you, even after he had moved on to teach in another community.

You are the bride who walked the path ahead of him in single file on your wedding day and who later posed — demurely dressed in white, together with him, arms clasped — in front of a picket fence.

You are the young woman who suffered great tragedy and hardship — the splintering of your family — after your mother died of cancer just a few months after your father and all hands aboard the schooner he sailed on were lost at sea, never to be found.

You are the person who kept her family together, raising one of your brothers as your own, and for a time a younger sister.

You are all these things and so much more: gentle, loving, kind.

My wish for you today is that you feel surrounded by all of those you love, both here and gone.

Pam Frampton is The Telegram’s managing editor. Email pamela.frampton@thetelegram.com. Twitter: pam_frampton


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