As we get older, we tend to notice our parents in ourselves. It could be an expression that slips out, a deep moral view on something, or my favourite — a terrible dad joke.
So in light of Mother’s Day, I thought I’d take this opportunity to write a little bit about my moms. Just thinking about the chain of incredible women in my family who have lived, given birth, and taught life lessons to be passed down again and again gives me chills. Beyoncé found a way to show us what this looks like with her latest audio/visual masterpiece, Lemonade. If you STILL haven’t seen it, here’s a clip:
“Grandmother, the alchemist, you spun gold out of this hard life, conjured beauty from the things left behind. Found healing where it did not live. Discovered the antidote in your own kit. Broke the curse with your own two hands. You passed these instructions down to your daughter who then passed it down to her daughter.”
Beyoncé might be onto something here. I’ve been thinking about and feeling a lot of karmic energy lately, the idea that the universe creates patterns and pulls, and they can be passed down through the generations. Things like personality traits, talents, habits, and emotional tendencies can be “genetic.” Before your eyes roll completely back into your head, just give this a chance.
Neither of my grandmothers had it easy. On my mom’s side, my grandmother’s given name was Lenna Yvonne McNamee, but everyone called her Rene. She grew up on a farm in rural Jamaica (yes, I’m white and I’m half Jamaican). She had 6 siblings, one who had physical disabilities and one who tragically died in early childhood. Her father died when she was only 17 and so her mother was widowed and homeless at 50. At age 21 she got pregnant but it was hushed up to protect the reputations of her and her family and with very little support, she had to give the baby up for adoption (shoutout to my half-auntie Ingrid). But something good was coming her way. My crusader of a grandfather came into the picture, big-dreamer city boy Victor Levy from Kingston, and brought her to Canada to live happily ever after. My memories of her are filled with love, comfort and nurturing. She was the type of person that would be there for you in a pinch, never leaving my side if I was sick. She’d do anything for her family, but not enough for herself. She was a big-time worrier, and I didn’t understand it back then why we weren’t allowed to go to the park without my grandpa. But I get it now, Grammie. You loved us in infinite amounts.
On my father’s side, my grandmother was Donna Marion Louise Skuce. Born and raised with 2 siblings in the black fly-infested bushes of northern Ontario, she was an incredibly resilient woman. Her father (my great-grandfather) was one of the first official guides in Algonquin Park, Canada’s oldest provincial park. There’s even a lake named after him. But despite her ability to paddle canoes, drive tractors, and drink beer, she was stunningly beautiful. She left the bush to become an x-ray technician, where she met my grandfather who was a charming x-ray tech instructor from England. So what happened? Small-town girl meets handsome man with accent, they get hitched, pop out a couple of kids (what’s, up Daddio) and travel the world. Which sounds like an amazing life — except that throughout all this she battled abuse, alcoholism, and an unfaithful marriage. She eventually broke free and came back to Canada, got re-married, and lived a satisfactory life. She wasn’t an affectionate person, but she showed her love in all the ways she could. I believe she struggled with a lot of guilt. Guilt for not being a better parent, guilt after her daughter tragically died of breast cancer at age 49 (rest in peace, Aunt Cindy), maybe even some self-guilt for not making better choices and having a happier life. And eventually all the guilt, alcohol and cigarettes caught up with her, and she died of lung disease just 3 days shy of Mother’s Day, 2 years ago.
My own mother’s life on paper might seem boring in comparison, that perhaps this bad karmic energy didn’t reach her. But it sure reached her sisters and their daughters, and it sure trickled down to me. I had a dream once that I was dying in a car fire. I didn’t wake up because I wasn’t afraid or in any pain, I felt strong and supported by both my grandmothers, one on each side, pulling me out of the wreckage. Now I’m no Bible thumper, but I’d say they were angels. And I do feel their presence every now and then in my life, usually when I could really use some strength or guidance.
If the universe blesses me with a situation where I can conceive and raise strong and beautiful women into this world, I hope that maybe I will have suffered through the last of this karmic curse. I hope they will be born with clean slates and oodles of love and support around them to create new, positive patterns.
Happy Mother’s Day, moms. I love you and I can feel your love so much, whether you’re physically here or not.