Thursday, March 19, 2009


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."


Patsy said...

Jo....... this is so beautiful, on so many levels. It leaves me slightly hollow but at the same time inspired.


Patsy said...

Jo, is that the her painting? If not, could you send a picture of her painting? I would love to see it. Thanks.


Jo said...

Lorna, thank you. My Mom was a really, really (!!!) interesting person. No, this is a photo of Salisbury. I will scan her painting in and show it to you.

scarlethue said...

Beautiful tribute, Jo. She sounds like she was an amazing woman, and whether you believe it or not, it seems to me she raised a pretty amazing daughter. :)

Today is my grandmother's 82nd birthday, and she's a wonderful woman herself, though in different ways. My favorite recent anecdote from her was from Christmas-- she very charitable, and she sent her friends donation cards that said "Chickens have been given to a needy family overseas in your name" or something like that. Hearing her tell the story of her confused and bewildered friends will always stay with me.

scarlethue said...

Beautiful tribute, Jo. She sounds like she was an amazing woman, and whether you believe it or not, it seems to me she raised a pretty amazing daughter. :)

Today is my grandmother's 82nd birthday, and she's a wonderful woman herself, though in different ways. My favorite recent anecdote from her was from Christmas-- she very charitable, and she sent her friends donation cards that said "Chickens have been given to a needy family overseas in your name" or something like that. Hearing her tell the story of her confused and bewildered friends will always stay with me.

scarlethue said...

oops! I pressed the button twice! sorry.

Deb said...

what a nice tribute to your Mom, showing warts and all so to speak, today is my birthday too, I feel privleged to share it with your Mom.

Linda S. Socha said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Linda S. Socha said...


This is such a wonderful post. Youe mom is so elegant yet seems very real at the same time. I expect you are a bit alike...particularly in your love of the arts?
Love/family/memory. Such a lovely poignant mixture./ Beautiful tribute

Hilary said...

Very lovely tribute to your mother, Jo. It seems that in many ways, the apple did not fall far from the tree. Happy Birthday to your late mother, to Scarlethue's grandmother and to Deb. I'm looking forward to seeing that painting.

Kathy's Klothesline said...

I am a little jealous.... I wish I had had that kind of relationship with my mom. She is gone, so there will never be a chance for that. At least while she was alive I could hope. Instead I try to foster good relationships with my children. I don't want them to have regrets when I am gone. Sadly, it does take two to have a relationship and two of my children are estranged from me.

introspection said...

This is such a lovely, lovely post; specially to a person like me - a bundle of emotions. (I only think from my heart) This is such an overwhelming read that I had tears rolling down from my eyes as I read it all the way and then from comment to comment.
Jo, you are a superb daughter, much like your mom - a painter, an immensely interesting person, warm & kind hearted and spirited. (Perhaps the lineage had a break here, but I hope your grandchildren inherit your (and your mom's) qualities in abundance.
As Hilary said 'apple cannot fall too far from the tree...'
Your tribute brought on my own mom's memories flooding back to me. Herself an elegant, tall and beautiful lady, she was a poetess without knowing it herself. I lost her many years back, but she lives with me in so many ways. I have many letters (and some of her yearly diaries - she always wrote her diary)with me. Whenever I have read from her diary or her letters I am convinced she would have been a poetess/writer. Her prose (diary/letters) itself is lyrical. Just like you Jo, I think of her whenever I feel lonely and low, and often have dreams of my mom looking worried for me.
Happy Birthday to your late mom, Scarlethue's grandmother and Deb. Deb, have a wonderful day...!!
Would love to see the painting that adorns your bedroom wall Jo.

TheChicGeek said...

That was beautiful, Jo. Your mom was so beautiful when she was young and it seems as though that was not just skin deep. How lucky you were to have her. I bet she was smiling in heaven to see you enter the cathedral and think of her :)

Sampoorna said...

Hi Jo,
I just stumbled upon your blog today and I read the post on your mom and just loved it. My mother is the same as your's except that my mom's anger is hardly seen. She's a 58 year old woman and I just adore her and can't imagine my life without her. I share the same feelings for my mom as you do for yours.
That was a wonderful post.

Sampoorna ( )

lovelyprism said...

That was a lovely description, she sounds like royalty! You know Jo, I don't think you give yourself enough credit. If I ever get up to Canada, you're the person I'd most like to meet. I think you're beautiful and talented and funny. I'd like to see that painting too... cuz I'm nosy that way.

Firefly the Travel Guy said...

If only more people could write such an nice rememberance of their parents on such an occation, the world would be an happier place. It is great for you to have so much information and memories of your mother. Do you know where she was born in South Africa?

How can you say you are an uninspired plain-Jane? You are one of the most informed and talented people I know. You writings cover everything there is to cover and your inspirations are wide and varied. You are no uninspired plain-Jain, that is for sure.

DUTA said...

Your Mom does look Royalty in the picture.
Your text is moving and no words could compete with your own words that depict your mother.

Bagman and Butler said...

Wonderful tribute. You make me wish I had known her. And her quote about "If they see anything they haven't seen before..." will now continue on being spread by me...Do you have any photos of her paintings?

Revital said...

Well, I had my birthday yesteday... always nice to hear of people who were born the same date as oneself. She sounds like quite a character. You write so beautifully, I would like to read a book by you one day. You're so perceptive and fine-tuned into people's hidden agendas and motives. You portray people lovingly, even when it comes to their shortcomings.

Anonymous said...

I live in Switzerland just down the road from Avenche. Avenche was the old Aventicum, the Roman Capital of Hevetia. We are very proud to have, in our Avenchois museum, a golden bust of Aurelius discovered at the Roman site in this town.

I was born in Canada and went to Law School in Toronto. I must say that I do not miss the place very much but I have personal reasons for this. It is a beautiful place nonetheless but some barriers are insurmountable.

I suppose I should be more of a stoic. Like Aurelius, and realize that the coin has two sides that sometimes come up heads and sometimes not. Our fate is as relative. I am thinking here of your mother's advice and also that dreadful accident that you commented on where Ms. Richardson died.

Stephen Leach said...

This is lovely. Without a doubt, Jo, you bring a smile to my face every day with another beautiful post. You are an amazing person yourself, you must have had some of it passed down to you by your mother. Thank you for enriching all our lives with your profound and wondrous thoughts.

Russell said...

You are very much like your mother. You are multi talented person who learns easily.

Your mother would be (and is) extremely proud of you. You are a beautiful reflection of a beautiful person.

Anonymous said...

Ditto what Russell said! This is a beautiful tribute to your Mother. And I loved learning more about your Mom and you.

A.M. said...

As I new mom I can tell you that you must of been the biggest joy and blessing to your mother. I’m in tears...the love that you shared about your mother is inspiring and beautiful. Your mom, without a doubt, would be proud of you today. Absolutely Lovely.


budh.aaah said...

Happy Birthday Jo's mom. God bless you. may you be happy wherever you are..
That was touching Jo..

I want to borrow this space to wish a very happy Birthday to Deb too

Anonymous said...

Jo... this is lovely!! Its an amazing tribute to your mom!! The post leaves me a bit speachless... hence have nothing more to say...

Nancy said...

I lost my Mom when I was six and she has always been an enigma to me. I think you were lucky to have known all the quirky sides to your mother, and to have known her love. I have no doubt she loved you and was very proud of how you turned out. You can tell from your writing and art that you are also very accomplished.

ivan said...

Very strange.
Your beautiful and talented mother.

Your mother's picture was a spit image of my own mother.
She too, was talented and artistic,
but had to marry a practical man to live in the nightmare of Ukraine. This was not a good place to live in the world-wide depression and the coming war. She didn't get much education, but could write fluently in a two or three
languages.She was sought after by the parish priest to do embroidery for the altar pieces. Her early losss of both parents left her a little mad.
She would recite the most beautiful ancient Slavonic poetry and I wondered where she had gotten it.
By some strage design,was she trying to hammer out an artist every time she took me to the woodshed?

heartinsanfrancisco said...

What a lovely tribute to the wonderful lady who was your mother! She sounds extraordinary in every way, and now I know where you got your artistic talent and other delightful qualities.

Thank you for sharing this. I feel honored to meet her here, and I hope her birthday was lovely for you both.

Paula Slade said...

Thanks Jo for sharing such a beautiful rememberance. What a vibrant and talented lady your mother was. Her grace lives on in you.

Mona said...

that was really lovely jo, thank you for sharing your mother (:

jackc50 said...

do you see some of your mom in you? she does sound like she was a wonderful person, lovely too. take good care, jack

Kimberly said...

My mother still roams this world and for that I am so grateful. I can't imagine my life without her in it. There is an email that I have seen a couple times and it passes around from time to time. I can't remember the exact wording of it but it reads something like this --- At 5 years old - my mom knows everything. 16 years old - my doesn't know anything. 25 years old - hmmm, mom seems to know what she is talking about. 35years old - mom knows it all. 60 years old - I wish my mom was still around. Love your mothers!

Jo said...

Scarlethue, what a wonderful story. Your grandmother sounds like a character!

Deb, Happy Birthday to yoooo!!! :-)

Linda, yes, I guess I did inherit some of my mother's similar interests.

Hilary, yes, I will scan the painting in and show it to everyone. It's lovely.

Kathy, yes, for some strange reason I am in a similar situation you are in too. It's too bad, isn't it?

Introspection, oh, gosh, your mother sounds wonderful. I'm glad you have good memories of her. I always feel my Mom's spirit with me. I think you do too.

TheChicGeek, yes, and we went to Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris too and lit a candle for her. It was a very special thing to do.

Sampoorna, gosh, you're very lucky to have a good friendship with your mother. That's wonderful!

LovelyPrism, you must get up to Canada. I think you would love it, especially Vancouver. Yes, I'm going to scan the picture in.

Firefly, thank you! Goodness. :-) My mother was born in the Orange Free State in a town called Senekal, but she lived all her life in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth (where you live!)

DUTA, thank you! My Mom does look like royalty, doesn't she? She had that persona, too.

Butler and Bagman, yes I will scan some of her paintings into the computer. And of course, my Mom would be honored if you carried on her funny saying... :-)

Faithful, omigosh, thank you! I'm not a writer, so I don't have a book. And Happy Birthday...!

Eveningson, you were born in Canada, but you don't care for it here? Gosh! That is too bad. I hope you didn't have bad experiences here. I think Switzerland must be very beautiful, though.

Greenpanda, omigosh! Thank you! I just write my funny little blog every day, and I'm so glad you enjoy it.

Russell, aw, thank you! I guess I do have some elements of my mother in me, hopefully a few of the good ones. :-)

Carla, thank you! My Mom was such a complex person, I could write a whole book about her. Maybe I will one day.

A.M., thank you! You would have liked my Mom. She didn't suffer fools gladly. And we do occasionally run into a few fools, don't we!?

Budh.aaah, yes, I went over to Deb's and sang Happy Birthday to her. *heh*

Patricia, oh, gosh, thanks! My Mom was an extraordinarily interesting person, that's for sure. I really miss her.

LoverOfLife, oh, gosh, I'm so sorry you lost your mom at such an early age. I always dreaded when I would lose my Mom.

Ivan, that must be where you get your creative talent too. Your mother sounded like quite a character. :-)

Hearts, thank you. Oh, gosh, I wish I were even half the person she was. She could do anything.

Paula, thank you, she was really an amazing person, and very unique. I do miss her.

Mona, she would be an interesting person to write about, if I knew how to do it.

Jackc50, I'm actually more like my father, but I suppose I do have one or two traits of my mother's -- the best ones, I hope. *heh*

Kimberly, what good advice. I love that! I think there is a lot of truth to it. I actually feel sorry for people who hate their mothers, and I know a few people like that.

white crow said...

no words, no comments
yo mom is great, so are you. :)

Leilani Tresise said...

Jo the white gloves ur mom has in her hand? PRICELESS!!

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