Today would have been my mother's birthday. She was without a doubt the most interesting person I have ever met. Even as a very small child, I recognized that about her, and I was always in awe of her. To me she was kind of like royalty, and I often wondered how she could have given birth to a rather plain-Jane, uninspired child such as I was. In fact, I often thought my mother wondered the same thing. Mom was brilliant, extremely talented, extroverted, charming and very funny. She was always the center of attention wherever she was. She also had the worst temper I have ever known. There was no mistaking when she was angry. And she could also be extremely haughty. She considered herself a "cut above" everyone on the planet, but at the same time she was also very kind and warm-hearted. I remember during the "hippie era" our family was camping on the West Coast of Vancouver Island. A group of hippies had taken up residence on the beach, but the local residents didn't want them there, and refused to allow them to have water. My mother said, "I will not see another human being go without water", and she enlisted all of us to fill as many water jugs as we could and take them to the folks on the beach. My mother shamed the locals, who finally relented, and allowed the hippies to have water.
My mother was born and raised in South Africa, educated in England, and married in Canada. She had three sisters, all of whom were very attractive and extremely competitive with each other. Being with them all together was like being in the center of a whirlwind, and my cousins and I would just look at each other and shake our heads.
My mother was a wonderful artist, and when she was 16 years old, studying art in England, she did a painting of Salisbury Cathedral. When I was a child, the painting hung in my bedroom, and every night I would look at it and imagine myself walking through the great doors and looking up at the stained glass windows. When my mother died, my daughter and I took a trip to England, and we visited Salisbury Cathedral. I walked inside, turned around and looked up at the beautiful stained glass windows and thought, "I have walked into my mother's painting. Wouldn't she get a kick out of that!" I still have the painting in my bedroom, and I still look at it every night.
One of my mother's favorite books -- which I still have -- was "Meditations of Marcus Aurelius Antoninus" and she read from it every night. Often when something was going on in our lives, she would quote from Marcus Aurelius, and I remember one quote in particular that was her favorite.
"Love the art, poor as it may be, which thou hast learned, and be content with it; and pass through the rest of life like one who has entrusted to the gods with his whole soul all that he has, making thyself neither the tyrant nor the slave of any man."
In other words, be content with who you are.
She had another quote -- one of her originals -- that I use quite often too. Once when she was staying with me, she finished having a bath, and on her way to her bedroom she walked past the windows -- nekkid -- while the curtains were still open. I screamed and said, "Mom! The neighbors will see you!" and she laughed and said, "Well, tell them if they see anything they haven't seen before, they can shoot at it."
My Mom and I would go through stages where our relationship could be quite prickly, but it would never last for long, and we were great friends. Whenever I am feeling particularly lonely, the person I miss the most is my Mom. I think she would feel very sad to see the way certain things have turned out in my life. My Mom is one person who kind of liked me -- no matter what. "Happy Birthday, Mom. I sure as heck miss you."