A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.


Autumnus & The Little Red Shoes
Tuesday, November 04, 2008

While watching the US elections on CNN tonight I told Rosemary, "I have to write and post today's blog! What am I going to do?"

Looking up at the mantle in our TV room (formerly the smoking room) I spotted the picture of Hilary that I took in Vancouver a year after we arrived in 1975. It was fall of 1976 and we had gone to the UBC campus not far from Nitobe Garden. After many years of having lived in Mexico (a rainy season and a dry season) I was not prepared, nor have I ever gotten used to the surprise and beauty of four distinct seasons. Since that 1976, every fall in Vancouver has been a fall to savour and enjoy.

This year in particular when I made a call to the Cooks a few days ago, Barbara said, "Isn't this particular autumn glorious? All the right things that could occur to make leaves get more colour have happened." Barbara was nicely recovering from a broken jaw (quite a problem if you are over 80) and her lovely New Zealand accent was back exactly as I remembered.

And Monday night when Hilary sat at our table and said, "I am going to be 38 in December," I could not believe that so many years had passed. It seemed that it was not too long ago that I posed her with her little red shoes and she volunteered to cross her legs so cutely.

My mother often told me that I would never understand the love of a mother for her son because I would never be a mother. She repeated this so often that I began to feel like I would never achieve a completion of who I was because a segment, called maternal love, would always be empty. She explained that a mother's love was automatic and it did not depend on a mother particularly liking her son. As a matter of fact I was 21 when she confessed to me that she had always loved me as her son but had felt no particular fondness for me. "I did not like you. You were not the kind of son a mother would like." My shock at listening to this was tempered when she added, "But you have somehow changed and I can assert that I now like you."

With my mother gone I cannot contribute to our conversation. She had a daughter, my sister, that was born dead so she never had any idea what it was to have a daughter. I have two daughters. But she did have a little glimpse when she attempted to educate our headstrong daughter Ale when Ale was 4. My mother did live long enough to hold Hilary in her arms. Before she met Ale, my mother had been living in North Carolina. She understood the pleasure of dressing up a little girl. She sent us a little dress for Ale that she had purchased at Marshall Field's. For the two years that she lived with us she dressed up Ale in the morning. My mother and I never shared this enjoyment. Rosemary and I were too busy making ends meet.

Now as I look at that picture of Hilary at UBC in her bed of fall leaves I have a feeling that I would want to share with my departed mother, "Mother you will never understand what it is to be a father and to love a daughter. You will never be a father."


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