Friday, March 01, 2013

Under the Dumb Plum Tree

Mom's Last Column
by Karen Emilson

I knew her so well.

She would have phoned me like she did every month to test that month's idea out; to see if I liked what she planned to write. Mom had a quirky sense of humour and could be very funny. She'd banter with me for awhile to get the juices flowing, then she'd sit down in front of her word processor.

In January 1993 she wanted to write about the New Year and how she made sure that all her resolutions were things she did anyway so that she'd be able to keep them. In her draft she talks about housecleaning and appliances and how fridges should come with automatic eject buttons. I can see where she was going with it, but the column is nowhere near complete.

I vaguely remember the phone call, how disappointed she sounded to hear that I'd shut down the paper. The former owner of Interlake Publishing (then Manager) Merv Farmer, offered me a job as a reporter so I took it. That is when my writing career really began, but Mom's ended. In the back of the scrapbook that holds all her columns is a draft letter to Canadian Living Magazine, asking if they might be interested in a housewife's column. It was  a letter she didn't have the courage to send.

Twenty years ago.

Two decades have slipped away since then and my life is barely recognizable. A few days ago I popped a home video in the recorder (yes, I still have a VCR) and pushed play. Over the years I have listened as people older than me exclaim how fast time goes, how naive and young they once were. Now that person is me. Watching myself at 28 I am overwhelmed by the twists and turns since then, the joy and disappointment, grief and loss.

As I watched young me look into the camera, old me remembers how it felt to be so filled with impatience and optimism, so exuberant about life—living without fear—expecting the next great thing to happen. Excitement propelled me out of bed in the morning. I made so many mistakes I don't even know what half of them were.

Months after I shut down my paper, my mother-in-law died. It was heartbreaking for us all as she was the life force in the family. So many mothers are. Often not given much credit until they are gone, it's the mother who holds it all together.

I am told that the secret to living a full life is to do so fearlessly.

If I live to the same age as my mother, I will die at 69.

Twenty years from now.

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