My strong-willed mother turns 80 today and as a way to honour her special day, I wrote a tiny, broad memoir as a tribute. Re-reading it, I realized it sounded like a long form, slightly irreverant obituary. So I contemplated not sharing it, wanting to avoid offending anyone, but I still think it's a decent story of a great life thus far (and I know Mom appreciates a well-written obit anyway-haha!) so here it is:
Born March 6, 1941, few who witnessed the tiny jaundiced baby, struggling in the shoebox by the woodstove would have predicted the spitfire she would become. Never one to let her small stature determine her ability, she flourished as a middle child of four under the guidance of her strong and capable mother, Mabel, particularly during the years that her father, David, was at war. It is likely during those years that the seeds of a fierce independence and an unrelenting work ethic took root that formed the foundation of the determination to come in Winnie’s life.
She graduated early, and top of her class, but don’t be fooled into thinking she was a bookish wallflower. On the contrary, her quick wit, easy smile and smooth moves attracted the admiration of a certain tall drink of water from the country. Seen together at Frankie’s Dance Hall, rumours of Fred and Winnie’s dalliance soon proved true with an engagement and beautiful June wedding. (It’s a rare bride who can still wear their wedding dress at their 60th wedding anniversary.)
Winnie never questioned her desired future and happily jumped at motherhood with enthusiasm. Never one to do things half-arsed, she dove in headfirst and had her first four babies within 2 years. Decidedly in the thick of things, she maintained a pace of bread-baking, diaper washing and face wiping to sustain 8 babies in 10 years. One might think that that would be sufficient, but evidently Winnie and Fred disagreed, proving their agelessness with one more baby a meagre 12 years later, just as their first (of 23) grandkids were beginning to arrive.
Maybe it was her strenuous start to the world, but Winnie is ever-reluctant to show a moment of weakness. A volleyball knee injury in the 80s was the target of a mean-spirited ram a decade later, which brought her down, but only temporarily. Another nasty sheep some years later levelled his tender shepherd with a direct smash to the nose. None of this hardened Winnie’s heart to her livestock and she is always at the ready to fend off even the fiercest beast by whatever means necessary, firearms included.
What she lacks in patience, she makes up for with quick judgement and decisiveness and it has served her well. In turn, she serves her community well, playing leadership roles at several levels of the church, at school committees and boards, at the local agricultural fair and within the sheep breeders organizations. Specializing in the role of secretary, any organization is lucky to have her ability to sift through the extraneous (BS), give a well-timed, murmured piece of advice to a chairperson and keep everyone on task.
She honed the skills as the captain of her home ship, delegating tasks with the expectations of a small but mighty army general. With a low tolerance for laziness, unfinished work, deceitfulness and adult men in gym pants, Winnie suffers no fools.
Some of her greatest joys include looking out at rolling pastures with bouncing lambs, lilac bushes bustling with a rainbow of busy birds, reading a good book beside a sweltering stove, being in the middle of a spirited get together of her kids and tightly-knit grandkids and enjoying a glass of sweet, cold wine while winning at a game of cards.
Some of her skills include, but are not limited to puzzling out connections from the obituary section, shooting a deadly and well-aimed stink-eye, listening to multiple conversations at once, turning a meal for two into a meal for 8 in 30 seconds flat, identifying medical ailments of strangers at 50 paces and in her semi-annual swim, floating effortlessly with her feet out of the water and never getting her hair wet.
A woman whose cookbooks have dirty pages on the best recipes, who can quilt a perfectly straight line while discussing the new babies in the community, whose bread and pie crusts are renowned, who is as likely to have tail docking bands in her pockets as pink peppermints and whose squeeze in church can say either “This is lovely” or “You better sit down and be quiet you little bugger” as clearly as words, is as proud of her kids as she is of their partners, but not nearly as proud as she is of her grandkids and great-grands, who all know her as perhaps her favourite title of all, Poohie.