May 10, 2013

A Canuck in Kantuck: My mom, my only

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — Though my mom is the woman I talk to most in my life, she’s probably one of the people I talk about least in my column. She likely prefers it that way, since she hung a quote from Philip Roth in my room a few years ago that reads: “When a writer is born into a family that family is finished.”

But Sunday is Mother’s Day so I thought it might be nice to introduce her a little bit more to you. Because it just so happens I am the offspring of a pretty fascinating lady.

Some of you may know her from when she came down to ride the Tour de London several years ago. For those who don’t remember the Tour de London, suffice it to say it was 42 miles of Hard. But my mom hauled down her heavy hybrid bike from Winnipeg and was bound and determined to get through the ride — despite having never ridden on hills, despite having only rarely experienced 95-degree heat. Except for the last two miles, at age 60, she made it through, arriving with her plaid baseball cap slightly askew.

“Plucky” would be one word to describe my mom.

And while she was on that ride, she met about a dozen people. While I plugged along, a lone rider in a sea of cornfields, my mom made friends — whether that meant people on the side of the road watching the race or other people on the ride. That night, after we went out for a celebratory dinner, she ran into one of her new friends, who was likewise celebrating, and had a cheerful chat with her.

“Americans are so friendly,” she said upon her return, exhaling happily. “I just love Kentucky.”

My mom grew up in a little French-Canadian town right outside of Winnipeg called St. Norbert. She is the youngest of five siblings who have a penchant for laughing when things are good and throwing axes at each other when things are not. She went to a Catholic school where she hated all the nuns. She wore her hair short and her mini skirts even shorter. She bought a convertible Fiat and sometimes wore a wig. She went to Europe by herself.

In her early 20s, she went to Montreal, where most of her family had moved, but came back to Winnipeg to be with my dad. Together, they managed to find the cool areas in a city not necessarily known for its cool factor. They lived in an apartment on Dorchester Avenue, a street that, interestingly, she lives on again. She had a dog named Alex.

When she had children, I know things changed for my mom. But she was able to navigate and keep her identity. Though she found herself deep in a suburb so suburban it wasn’t even part of the city and in a marriage that, mostly, wasn’t a very good one, she got through by making friends and getting together with them for coffee, wine and, probably, a few cigarettes.

My mom has always had a killer body and I remember long afternoons swimming in my best friend Kristin’s kidney-shaped pool while my mom and Kristin’s mom Jocelyn lounged in their bathing suits. My mom’s was always shiny, usually a one piece, but she could get away with a bikini if she wanted to. What she and Jocelyn would have done if Kristin or I ever started drowning in the pool is anyone’s guess, since they are both deathly afraid of water, but she was always there watching.

When I was 7, she went back to work full-time as a social worker — in part so our family would have extra money to travel, which she has always deeply valued — and quickly earned a reputation for being a pretty dresser. I remember one coat in particular: a snow white lamb’s wool jacket whose shaggy coat sprung out in crimped curly-cues. Even in the ‘80s, you had to have attitude to pull off that jacket and my mom, she really did. I always liked to put it on, the inner silk lining so soft and the neckline always smelling of her Clinique perfume.

I wouldn’t say my mom was a laid-back mom — “Don’t be lippy with me,” “Don’t grow up too fast,” and “Did you mean to say can I have more some milk, please?” were some of the mantras of my childhood. But I knew I could always tell her anything and get some good, solid advice in return.

In fact, giving advice is probably one of my mom’s best attributes and that’s partly why she has so many friends. She listens loyally and then helps break things down so that whatever seems huge and overwhelming at first, gets smaller and more manageable. Especially over this hard winter, I’ve leaned on that. My mom has never faltered in staying positive and, even when things got so bad with William’s illness she just had nothing left to say, she just stood there — because of course she flew down to be with us — and rubbed my hair.

So for this Mother’s Day, here’s to you, Mom. You’re an incredible woman, and I learn lessons from you every day. I love you to bits.


Text Only
  • mitch.jpg On The Rebound: All Star Game less important than Wiffle Ball

    July 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • denis.jpg Direct Kick: A very eventful week in sports

    July 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • The shining kingdom

    The drop in gas prices locally is a welcome sight for most residents in the area with gas falling under $3.60 per gallon.

    July 16, 2014

  • Letter to the editor: Thanks, Sentinel-Echo

    In the July 4 edition of the Sentinel-Echo, (last page, section 1), the entire page was given to quotes of references to God, the Declaration of Independence, and our constitution by our founding fathers, former presidents, Supreme Court judges, etc. 

    July 14, 2014

  • Zamperini's story was inspiring

    I had never heard the names of Louis Zamperini and Russel Allen Phillips until my pastor gave me a book, “Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption,” by author Laura Hillenbrand, who wrote, “Seabiscuit: An American Legend” a few years ago.

    July 11, 2014

  • The tales of Dr. Robert E. Pennington

    When Dr. H. V. Pennington began to practice medicine in Laurel County times were hard and medical methods were primitive, compared to today. 

    July 11, 2014

  • Where did that red truck go?

     We were sitting out on the front porch last Saturday afternoon when a  big, red, late- model pick up whizzed by on Charlie Brown.  It looked like there was a man driving and a woman riding shotgun  

    July 7, 2014

  • A change for Pace

    Let me tell you a little about my friend Candice Pace. We were sitting in the fountain square the other day and she was telling me about how she had driven to Pikeville, where she’s from, to visit with her mom. Along the way, deep in McCreary County, she passed three turtles that were crossing the road.Let me tell you a little about my friend Candice Pace. We were sitting in the fountain square the other day and she was telling me about how she had driven to Pikeville, where she’s from, to visit with her mom. Along the way, deep in McCreary County, she passed three turtles that were crossing the road.

    July 7, 2014

  • mitch.jpg On The Rebound: A little effort can make a big difference

    July 5, 2014 1 Photo

  • Gordon Wayne Weston

    Gordon Wayne Weston, 61, of London, Ky., passed away Friday, June 27, 2014, at his home surrounded by his loving family. 


    July 3, 2014

AP Video
Judge Ponders Overturning Colo. Gay Marriage Ban Airlines Halt Travel to Israel Amid Violence NYPD Chief Calls for 'use of Force' Retraining VA Nominee McDonald Goes Before Congress Bush: Don't Worry, Sugarland Isn't Breaking Up US Official: Most Migrant Children to Be Removed Police Probing Brooklyn Bridge Flag Switch CDC Head Concerned About a Post-antibiotic Era Raw: First Lady Says `Drink Up' More Water Courts Conflicted Over Healthcare Law Holder Urges Bipartisanship on Immigration Raw: Truck, Train Crash Leads to Fireball US Airlines Cancel Israel Flights Obama Signs Workforce Training Law Crash Victims' Remains Reach Ukraine-held City Diplomatic Push Intensifies to End War in Gaza Cat Fans Lap Up Feline Film Festival Michigan Plant's Goal: Flower and Die Veteran Creates Job During High Unemployment
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide

Now that school is out, what are your family’s summer vacation plans?

A. No major plans. We will probably hang out around Laurel County.
B. Going to the beach!
C. Kentucky has a lot of wonderful state parks, and we plan to visit a few and enjoy quality family time.
     View Results