Friday, March 04, 2011


My Mother in Law, Mim's childhood home and summer home
Spencer's Island, NS

To get on a different writing track, I've decided to post stories for the month of March of people or a composite of humans I've had the opportunity to spend time with.  The collection will unfold as their "faces" and stories rise up from my memory bank.  So, I don't know who you'll meet....... because I don't know yet whom I will revisit yet!  I'm excited to try to share snippets of when our lives crossed...... 


Her voice had dry gravel in it to go along with her dusty sense of humour -- remnants of sucking back more than her quota of unfiltered Buckinghams.  "Just like Gswoski," she'd announce proudly.  Then she'd laugh.  A hearty cackle cough as she lit up another to compliment her fourth cup of coffee.  Strong Joe.  No fancy pants frothy drinks for her!  Oh no!
Mim loved her extra scoop percolated Maxwell House, straight up.  She liked her conversations that way too.... especially early morning ones while resparking the embers in the old woodstove.  For the rest of the day, she hid her feelings under a bulky sweater while diverting the talk with sarcasm and bravado.  But in the morning, with a hot cup of coffee close by and a Buckingham lingering between her fingers, she spoke the truth. To me. 

It was when we connected "in the real."  It was when she was the most comfortable in her own skin...... those early September mornings when the haze had lifted, allowing for the sharp blue to envelope the skies and offering slipper wearing crispness in the air.  After a long summer of beachcombing, head clearing, raspberry picking, lobster feasting,  jelly producing, and blueberry pie making, mystery reading, crosswording, flower arranging and just plain putting at a pace completely different than the daily strife of a politician's wife, Mim's whole demeanor was revived.  

Our conversations ran the gamut, but her favourite topics revolved around politics and the news. She was a brilliant woman and maddening too!  So well read.  So bloody opinionated.  Sharp witted.  So much so, that you had to be on your own game to confidently create a rebuttal.  Nothing frustrated her more than having to spend time with someone who spewed out opinions but could never intelligently support them because they were "too God damned lazy" to read the paper. Patience wasn't her strength.  Maybe that's why we got along most of the time.  Like our shared sense of humour, we had that in common. 

Salt air. Tidal breezes.  Being at home.  "At home" didn't represent life in Ontario even though she had lived there for her entire adulthood.  No, home meant being surrounded by the secure familiarity of the place where she grew up. Spencer's Island.  Feeding the fire, listening to the CBC, putting on another pot of coffee, and sitting down to tackle the weekly New York Times crossword, as the smoke drifted off her freshly lit cigarette nesting in the ashtray. 

Mim?  Are you at home now? I believe you are. 


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I suspect the character was larger than your writing suggests. Given that it's only 4 paragraphs, the repetitive nature regarding coffee, cigarettes and general putting could use way more omph ala examples.
The picture needs to be finished.
The ending seems to be something designed simply to end the exercise.

awareness said...

Anon 1.... thanks.

Anon 2.... It was a piece I wrote as a stand alone last autumn. It was my intention to create a snapshot. The activities I chose to include represent her attempt to "deflate and relax" from the stresses beyond her front yard.
"At home" is a reference to heaven where I hope she has found inner peace.
No worries about writing more on this individual. I have been busy writing most of it by hand.

Anonymous said...

I disagree with Anon 2, I think it stands alone very well. You paint a warm, affectionate, endearing picture of someone who was obviously a wonderful woman. You intended to create a snapshot and you did.

I particularly like the image of the gravel in the voice mirroring the dusty sense of humour as well as the almost idyllic scenes you paint of the rapberry picking etc.

I will look forward to reading more of your vignettes. You write this kind of thing so well.

And the photo of Mim's house - how gorgeous. Looks like an amazing place!

Jase said...

Dana, I did not get down to Spencers Island during my visit home.My dad, his one brothor and nine sisters were raised around that area and have many, many wonderful stories to share.

I could not disagree more with Anon #2 - The picture you have painted is so vividly clear. I'm looking forward to hearing more "people stories"

Never forget how AWESOME, you are

Jason xoxoox

awareness said...

Thanks Selma. She was a complicated woman. My feelings about her are just as complicated. For many years I had been very angry about the choices she made and how it negatively impacted others lives so deeply including my own. This snapshot piece was generated during a weekend retreat on writing and prayer which I attended late October. It was there I realized two things....... that to process grief, especially when you're trying to grieve someone you had such intense feelings about is a much longer process.... at the retreat I realized I hadn't finished grieving Mim. I was still all fired up about her. Then, I realized that in order to forgive my ex-husband, I have to let go and forgive him Mom and the rest of his family for the role they played in the life of my marriage as well as my immediate family. Once I recognized that.... and it was truly profound, I felt a letting go of the bitterness I felt towards her in particular. I felt like I had made a huge step towards my independence and eventual acceptance of the demise of my marriage.
It was right in the middle of a field! I was standing out in the middle of a field surrounded by a labyrinth marked out for us to walk......... it was a sunny but biting cold fall day and the lighting was just exactly the lighting that Mim used to remark about in September when we'd be in the old house waiting for the CBC radio program to start. It was an epiphany kind of moment.
I felt the bitterness slide off me. I stood there for a while, then rushed off to the writing room and dashed off this piece and another one on grief.
It felt good to be able to write this with a warm sense of faith and a newfound softness in my heart for this larger than life woman.


awareness said...

Jason.... I have a feeling you'll get there this summer sometime and you will love it. The place is a very special one for many who have roots there.... and the beach truly holds sand and stones from eternity. The feelings I glean from that beach and that view is uncomparable to anywhere else I have been. It is a heart touching setting.

I'm glad you enjoyed the piece. I'm comfortable with all sorts of feedback and was very comfortable posting this piece. I had shared it with quite a few people (including her son) verbally over the past couple of months. Not only was the feedback encouraging, it seemed to drum up their own memories of Mim and the house in the Spencer's Island....

On a limb with Claudia said...

I love this! :) Thanks for taking the time to share Mim with us.

Brother David said...

Great to read, particularly as I am just getting back into writing the book. Been away so long I felt I was neglecting the character.

Anonymous said...

You nailed it kid! It brought tears to me eyes. I felt like I was sitting in the kitchen, coughing one up and swapping smokes. Thanks for the memories!

awareness said...

Thanks Nancy! I'm so glad you had a chance to read it. Your feedback means so much. It felt right when the words came tumbling out of the images I had in my head. Perhaps I should attempt to write a piece about all the old Grand Dames of SI eh?

awareness said...

Claudia... Glad you enjoyed it. There are many characters in my life, and many of them lived or spend time in the same little village area in the summer. Lots of good stories from that place too.

David... I'm thrilled to hear you're back on with your book. You inspire me. Keep in touch ok?