A story of the rhinestone hat. Mom wore many hats to manage her household. She had this quirky sense of fashion, and often wore the funniest and funkiest hats, colors didn’t matter or whether they were men’s caps or even kids’ hats. She loved hats, not the fancy ones, mostly plain caps. One particular white hat had colorful rhinestones along the edges that sparkled in the light. Everyone seems to remember that special one!
Women of those days carried both the man’s and woman’s roles when the husband worked out of town. This was the case in our family. Mom did the heavy lifting such as digging gardens or ditches. Disciplining us rowdy kids was not her strong suit, but as a mother she did her best, often allowing us kids too much freedom. In addition, adopting a new country with a new language could not have been easy. Her compassionate spirit worked well for her as she made friends that helped her in many ways.
Wisdom of mom…how she shared it. One day, my husband and I faced an important decision that would have devastating consequences for our future. Mom intervened so indiscriminately. We had talked with her a few days about our situation when she finally, in her loving way, gave us advice that spared us from a lot of heartache. Mom had a way of telling you what to do, but you didn’t mind because it wasn’t a command but an encouragement.
When we cleaned out Mom’s house after her funeral, I found a treasure, Mom’s report card, maybe not a treasure but to me it’s a keepsake. I wish I had inherited her singing voice, evidenced by the top mark on the report. She often sang to herself and spoke to us children in riddles and rhymes that stumped our minds. With a grade 5 education that was cut short because of the war and needs at the family farm, her quest for knowledge was clear in the way she inquired about the world around her. During her visits to her birth country, she compared life in Finland and Canada, and accepted her adopted homeland with joy. Like many immigrant women, she worked as a homemaker, and cleaned tables in restaurants for a few years.
Mom lived her best, even under poverty and personal suffering and devastation. And even death didn’t stop our Mom from loving her husband and family, and trusting in God. Through the tragic death of her 5-year-old daughter, killed in a car accident, she worked through the grief in her own way. Then Mom held her newborn twin baby boy in her arms when his life was snuffed a few hours later. More grief. I can’t imagine the pain she must have experienced. We all suffered along with Mom, yet divided in our own sadness. If Mom hadn’t pursued her faith in these tragedies what would have happened? But the enemy wasn’t finished. No one gets used to tragedy. It’s excruciating every time. A phone call from far away brought devastating news. A daughter had committed the unthinkable. Suicide at 34 wasn’t supposed to happen to a successful nurse! Here’s my own regrets that caught me off guard.I don’t know how Mom healed except her faith kept her alive, but persevered and refused to become bitter, although sadness had visited time and time again. Three years later, her husband’s sudden death shocked her to the core. No warning.
Mom, a resilient woman, with strong faith in her Savior, still trusted God would take care of her. However, I know Mom would have benefited from trauma counselling, but her faith pulled her through intact spiritually, and even emotionally until the angels called her home at the age of 86. Over the years friends and family have witnessed her continuous joy-filled life. How is that possible? With God all things are possible.
Determined to get her way
Mom’s determination for ensuring her children had the best chance for education made her a role model in my life. When our family lived in Nakina, a small northern town with no high school, Mom urged my dad that the family needed to move back to Thunder Bay, where I could attend high school from home. Dad had no choice but to agree, or she would take all us kids and move without him! Although she could not attend my graduations, she attended most of my siblings’ events and some of her grandchildren’s graduations.
The possibility of a major life change intrigued Mom when our father talked about moving to Canada. Apparently Canada was the land flowing with milk and honey, according to a friend who came back after a brief stay. Jobs were available in abundance, and many Finnish immigrants had found a new life. In those days, many husbands travelled ahead of the family to get ready for the wife and kids to arrive later, but many of them never returned. Mom would not hear of it.
“If you go, we will all go with you, or no one!” She declared to Dad that if they were going to move, he would not go alone, the family of 8 would move together. Dad complied, and Mom and Dad with 6 kids, all under 9, immigrated to Canada. Her quiet confidence and determination served her well in the unfamiliar country, even though she never quite grasped the English language.
The missing rhinestone
I inquired about the rhinestone-beaded hat. Though no one owns it nor photographs, I’m reminded of the sparkling rhinestone hat of rainbow colors and the promises of God satisfied. Yet I often thought what would history have been if Mom had created stories. They would have made a diversity of a wife and mother likely to flourish in the creative world had they had given her a chance. A simple, hearty woman with funky hats captures my heart as I consider the adventures that could have been. Written.