By Ruth Stahl - May 9, 2001 Posted again on May 9, 2006
Mothers, like great painters, are not fully
appreciated until after they are gone. Not until children become
adults do some begin to understand and appreciate their own
parents. The aging of America, and elsewhere, I guess, is giving
many of us a second chance to honor our mothers, not only on
Mother’s Day (an American holiday), but year-round. Mothers are
living longer and so are their children.
There are degrees in observing Mother’s Day.
Some folks do nothing, some will send a card, and others will add
flowers and maybe an invitation for dinner. And there are those
who are helpful and thoughtful on a regular basis. I like to
think I started out somewhere in the middle on that scale,
progressing to the plus side as I grew older.
It is difficult for me to write about my
mother. She was sweet and thoughtful, hard working, and much
wiser than I gave her credit for when I was young. I think of
her now as almost a saint--she suffered many hardships, a
long illness at the end.
Edith Alice Kettle was born in the beautiful
Cotswold Hills of England, and she was called by her middle name.
She had a twin sister, Hilda, plus twin siblings, Harold and
Mabel. There was brother Billy, too. Her father did well as a carriage
maker, but fell on hard times when the automobile put him out of
business. By degrees, the family emigrated to Toronto, with the
two boys breaking the ice. Billy and Harold found work and sent
money home to buy tickets for Alice and Mabel.
Alice and Mabel were not yet 20 when they
crossed the Atlantic on the Royal Edward, just two weeks after
the sinking of the Titanic. The girls arrived in Montreal,
traveling then by train to Toronto. They found jobs right away,
and each began sending home $10 a month to fund the passage of
the rest of the family. When their parents finally arrived, they
all moved into a little bungalow on Gough Avenue in Toronto. The
three girls found work at the YWCA (the “Y”).
Their lives became so tied up in the ”Y” that I
heard about it for the rest of my life. The “Y” not only
provided jobs, but sometimes, living quarters, and certainly a
social life and a circle of friends. The pay went up to $14 a
month, including room and board. Mother eventually saved up
enough money for a trip back to England, meeting my father on the
ship returning to Canada. The girls at the ”Y” gave her a royal
sendoff for her wedding and her subsequent move to New York
Not much was made of Mother’s Day when I was a
kid, at least not in the commercial sense. My brother and I
presented a bunch of wild flowers and were more conscientious
about doing our chores, especially setting the table and washing
the dishes. At least we didn’t argue so much about whose turn it
was. Mother still did all the cooking; there was never extra
money for dining out.
Forgetting Mother’s Day is hard to do these
days, with all the promotions for cards and clothing, dinners and
doodads, flowers and fudge. Still, commercialism is not all bad
because it gets the offspring thinking, if only for a week or a
day. I think about my mother often, not just on Mother’s Day.
I’m glad her suffering is over, but it would be good to see her
again, just one more time.