Saturday, April 17, 2010

Mother's Day in Steveston

Mother's Day is coming and businesses are ramping up for the great annual spendathon.

Of course, the best Mother’s Day presents tend to be light on the wallet but heavy in the effort department.

A brooch my daughter fashioned for me in elementary school

A mini plaque my son drew and coloured that still hangs on my kitchen wall

When my children were in elementary school, I used to receive a rather elaborate invitation in early May. The school scheduled the Mother’s Day tea in shifts to accommodate the number of attendees. As soon as one group of cars drove off the school parking lot, a new one would roar in to take their spots. The guests of honour would assemble in the library, six per table, and take in a few hours of delightful entertainment.

The main attraction was, of course, a table laden with an array of homemade cookies, plastic utensils, paper plates and cups, and huge steaming pots.

Under the watchful eye of presiding teachers, students would place dainties on a plate and pour tea into matching cups and - ever so gingerly - carry both to where their mothers were seated.

I remember one particularly keen little boy who decided that if one teaspoon of sugar was good, then three heapingfuls would be phenomenal. There was a collective gasp as mothers exchanged looks. The tittering quickly dissipated, however, when the boy's mother lifted the cup to her lips, drank the brew, and pronounced it the best tea she had ever tasted. The child beamed with pleasure. He offered to get mom another cup. A look of alarm crossed mother’s face and she quickly suggested that they let other students have a turn first.

That’s a mother for you - unruffled in the face of unbelievable pressure with an almost superhuman ability to sail through socially awkward moments with great aplomb.

On another occasion, a little girl waited anxiously for her mother’s arrival before the start of the tea ceremony. She kept dashing to the window, every fibre of her tiny being straining to spot that one special car. She was finally ordered to take her place among her classmates and wait her turn. Although her face remained unmarred by worry, we all felt the dread that must have swelled inside her as the gap of time narrowed and the possibility of being the only mother-less student grew more real.

As indeed happened.

There was a palpable “what now” stirring of apprehension in the air.

One teacher suggested in barely a whisper that perhaps the little girl could serve someone else’s mother. A nod later, and with utmost poise, this little girl set down tea and cookies in front of a total stranger.

It wasn’t until the ceremony was drawing to a close that the object of her yearning finally made her appearance. You could almost feel the collective sense of outrage being leveled at this woman for such an unspeakable miscarriage of maternal duty.

Each year, the carefully orchestrated Mother’s Day tea would end with gifts and songs dedicated to mothers everywhere. As the girls poured their hearts into every syllable, the boys smirked and fidgeted, and all the mothers in the room - including Mrs. Tardy - replayed their individual birthing scenes – après all the pain of course – and feeling completely validated by the sweet angelic voices and the wispy beribboned plants at their elbows.

Once, a mother was so moved that she literally lost it! At first, she tried to preserve some sense of decorum by dabbing at the corner of her eyes, but this soon gave way to a muffled sob, heaving shoulders, and free flowing tears.

I was shocked. Horrified, in fact. Is this normal? I wondered. May be it’s just me though, I reasoned. After all, I didn’t cry when I watched Jennifer die on her hospital bed in Arthur Hiller's Love Story

or when I followed Rose's ascent to the top of the grand staircase for a reunion with her beloved Jack in James Cameron's Titanic.

But it's time to leave memories of Mother’s Day past behind and look forward to the one looming ahead.

Let me use this opportunity to wish all Steveston mothers the best in flowers, chocolates, dinners, hugs, kisses, and – best of all – the annual Mother’s Day tea.

Enjoy it and, whatever you do, don’t be late! And if, unlike me, you are the overly-emotional type, tuck a box of tissues under your arm and sit way in the back of the room. Please...

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