NEWS

Notes from a proud, unapologetic Momma's boy

05/10/2015 06:45 EDT | Updated 05/10/2016 05:59 EDT
Those who know me well already know this about me. But for those of you who don't, let me make it clear. I am a proud, unapologetic Momma's boy.

This is for all the momma's boys out there. You know who you are. 

Now, if this column was a movie, this is where the voice track would switch from one language to another. For my mother is not a mom. She's my mum.

Judith was born in Yorkshire, England, just a few years before the Second World War, in the small village of Naburn, a few miles south of the historic city of York. 

She was the only child of a single mother. My grandmother Kathleen worked on the line at the Rowntree's chocolate factory in York. For many of those years she rode her bicycle to work, a 12-mile round trip in all the miserable weather Yorkshire can throw at you.

Granny never had much, but everything she had, she gave to Judith. That included her sense of humour and her sense of family.   

While this was a single-parent family, the household included my great-grandmother and my mother's two aunts, Nora and Eileen. It was a house full of women. And as mum tells it, there was some friction but there was also lots of laughter. It was generally a happy place to grow up.

The brash lad from the neighbouring village

My mother was smart; she ended up qualifying as a teacher. Somewhere in her teens, she met a brash, ambitious lad from a neighbouring village. This was Ian, the local vicar's son.

Ian was a bit wild. He drove too fast, he was loud, he was untidy but from day one, he adored my mother.

Mum said he always made her laugh, which probably saved his bacon dozens of times over the next 50-odd years.

Their marriage has been an adventure. It took them first to Kenya, where Dad worked on the railways and my mother taught school. My first memories are brightly lit. Sunny afternoons at the beach or swimming pool, always with my mother.

My sister and I still laugh about sports days at our school, where mum was the games teacher. We'd always manage to finish last or next to last in the egg-and-spoon or three-legged races, bringing shame down on my mother.

Dad's always been a go-getter. My early memory is of a larger than life figure, somewhat intimidating. Neither he nor my mum had much growing up. So Dad took his role as primary breadwinner very seriously.

He worked very hard and occasionally he played hard. Even he will agree that he had more time for his kids as he mellowed and we got older. 

The glue that held us together

My mother was the perfect complement to dad. The glue that held our family together. And as we got older we realized how quickly she could bring my dad to heel!

To me, she was the smartest of all mothers, the most beautiful of all mothers, and the  funniest of all mothers. My image from those days is Mum on the beach, cigarette in hand, tanned and squinting at the camera with a big smile on her face.

An old girlfriend once told me she looked like Lauren Bacall. You'll get no argument from me.

Our family's journey eventually took us to Canada. But there was a year in between that will tell you all you need to know about Mum.

We left Africa. Dad headed to Canada looking for work. Mum, my sister and I moved in with my grandmother in England. We were enrolled in the village school.

I did not fit in. The nine-year-old me was a bit of a geek. Thick glasses, funny accent. I was a bully's dream come true, served up on a platter. Once the pack of village kids figured out my weaknesses, I was toast.

I was miserable and so was my mother. There must have been many things that caused her worry: her kids, money, my dad's job prospects.

Always finding a reason to laugh

Mum made ends meet teaching at a rough inner-city school in York. Most days after school, I would walk down the lane and meet her as she drove into the village.

On those bleak afternoons, it often felt like she was my only friend. On the weekends, we'd put on our rubber boots and walk through the farmers fields and chat. No matter how miserable we were, we could always find something to laugh about.

Mum would tell the tale, drawing from her vast repertoire of songs, funny accents and tales of village life. Her sense of humour got me through a bad year. My mother became my confidant. She still is.

At some point midway through that year, my dad came back. He was down on his luck. Job prospects weren't panning out. This is where family lore gets murky. When we get together and the wine flows, there are several versions of the story. In one version, Dad got a bit of a verbal kick in the arse from Mum.

In the less colourful version, he was gently persuaded to go back across the Atlantic and try a bit harder.

He did and soon he found a job. In a few months, we were on our way to Canada.

Dad use his voice, Mum used her eyes

We emigrated, and then the teen years arrived. There were clashes with both my parents. Dad was the strict disciplinarian, but my mother's ways were far more effective … and somehow more frightening. Her sharp wit and her intimate knowledge of what made me tick could sort me out in no time.

Even a good reaming out from Dad couldn't compete with the possibility of disappointing mum. There was also "the look." It could peel paint.

My mother never knew her father. She once told me that this was the key — the reason why she worked so hard at her own marriage. My Dad and my siblings have been the great beneficiary of that.

Now that our family is scattered across Ontario, Quebec and Newfoundland, it's rare that everyone is in the same place at the same time. When the stars align and we do all get together, my brother and I vie for the title of biggest comedian. Who can get my mum laughing first?

The payoff is my mother's dirty cackle. It is one of my greatest joys to make her laugh. If she laughs so hard that she "wets her knickers," then you have hit the jackpot.

Mum now has seven grandchildren — six granddaughters and a grandson. They are lucky kids. They have the smartest, most beautiful and funniest grandmother in the world.

Love you, Mum.

And thanks for everything.

MORE:cbcNews