Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there. Yesterday, I went to visit my Grandma and her sister, my Great Aunt Flo, partly for Mother’s Day, and partly because I miss them and haven’t seen them for awhile. We went to Marie Calendar’s, and they had strawberry pie ala’ mode for lunch, and we had a great time.
When we were back at the house visiting, the talk wound around to my mom, which it usually does, and how adventuresome she was. And Grandma asked me how much, if anything, I remembered about the homestead we lived on, outside of Fairbanks, Alaska, in 1970.
I remember the dogs…there was a sled team, which we didn’t use as a sled team, but who we cared for while their owners were away. It was their house, their car, their dogs. They were Samoyeds, and they were a lot of fun and made us feel safe.
I remember that we had electricity, though no running water, and no phone. So mom had to get water from a creek to wash the dishes. In the winter, she used a 30.06 shotgun to blow a hole in the frozen creek. We had a bear in our yard once, and another time a moose and her two calves. Neither is particularly safe, actually, if you’re a young mother out in the wilderness with your two young children, even if you do have a gun.
I told my Grandma about the time that we could have all died, if it hadn’t been for my brother. I thought she had heard this story before. She hadn’t. She kinda freaked out. My mom wrote the story to Maya once, when Maya was 4 or 5, and she posted it on her blog, but she never told my Grandma. I guess she knew it would freak my Grandma out. Don’t worry, Grandma’s OK now.
The story is about how my mom had a bad reaction once to some thyroid medication, and couldn’t get out of bed for several days. Not just didn’t feel like it, but COULDN’T get out of bed. I think she almost died. Because we were out on the homestead, and there was no phone to call for help, and it was the dead of winter, in Fairbanks, Alaska. The closest phone was 2 miles away. So there was no going for help. Did I mention that there was no forced air, that the only heat we had was a coal burning stove in the kitchen? That my 6 year old brother had to keep that coal burning stove going for several days until the medication worked its way through my mother’s system, and she could get out of bed and get in the car and to a doctor? Yeah. He says all he remembers is going back and forth across the threshold to the house with the bucket, with the little coal that a 6 year old can reasonably carry in it, and keep a fire going. I can’t imagine letting a 6 year old tend a fire by himself, can you? Let alone the worry and the cold and the responsibility he must have felt. But if your choice is that or freeze to death, yeah, I guess you let him tend the fire. Not that I think she was even conscious enough to know he was doing it. In addition, he kept us fed (us being him and me…I was 4), and kept me clean enough and occupied enough. Freaky, huh? I believe that after that we got rid of the coal burning stove and got a gas stove, which didn’t require so much hands on effort, but which ended up sucking quite often in its own right, and soon after that, we moved into town where there was water and phones and help if you needed it. Good thinking.
I think that experience affected Richard his whole life. In a good way. He knew (and we knew), that no matter what happened, he could take care of us. He also knows that sometimes, life is dangerous, and you have to step up and take care of those you love. Pretty amazing lesson to learn at 6.
So, Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there, even those of us who aren’t quite as adventurous as my mom was when she was 28, living in the wild with her two young children. I miss her every day.