my mother

Too late

I never understood Mother’s Day growing up. I understood Father’s Day even less. Like, why bother? Y’all are my parents every day, so why are we gonna pretend one day is more important than all the others?

I was a brat, can you tell?

I did a half-assed job celebrating Mother’s day, growing up. My mother was always slightly upset by my lack of effort. As I grew older, after I moved out and started appreciating my mother a whole lot more once I realized what a pain adulting could be, I tried to make a bigger effort.

Our last mother’s day. 2012.

2012. Mother’s day. I was swamped with work – putting in regularly 60-65-70 hour weeks, the rest of my life on standstill. Groceries? Don’t know what that is. Laundry? No time, I’ll just keep buying new clothes. I’d cancelled a few of our weekly family dinners, never having time to call and chat, bc I would leave my home at 8am and come back at midnight, 7 days a week. On Mother’s Day weekend, all I had time for was a quick brunch. I felt so guilty, such a shit daughter. My mother’s health was bad – I hated making her come downtown to meet me, instead of me taking the time to go see her.

Look how happy she was to see me – just to spend time with me. My father insisted on taking pictures of us, something he never did because my mother HATED being photographed. But this time, for some reason, she let him. It was a lovely meal – she told me not to feel guilty about my disastrous schedule and poor time management skills: she knew, without a doubt, that I was doing my best, that I loved her, and I would learn eventually to do better. I had enough going on, I should focus on the tasks at hand, instead of taking on unnecessary guilt.

What a mama.

Easter 1988 or 1989. I was almost-4 or almost-5.

I get the importance of Mother’s Day now.


My Ma:

Neighborly love in the suburbs

Yesterday afternoon, after back-to-back meetings, I checked my voicemail; I had a message from a family lawyer, who lives on the same street as my parents, asking me to call her at my earliest convenience.


I attended a French immersion school in a poor immigrant-centric area for my first 4 years of elementary, by the end of which I couldn’t string together a basic French sentence. So, in grade 5, my mom transferred me to the local school a few blocks from my house, in our very francophone suburb of Montreal. Super Québécois – we were only 4 Anglophone kids out of the 50 “graduating” students. I had a lot of catching up to do. It was also a bit of a culture shock, and my first exposure to prejudice: a homogenous population where my maternal tongue made me an outsider.

Because my mama was my mama, she encouraged/volontold me to sign up for a regional public speaking competition in the fall of Grade 5. In French. Why? Because it was important that I develop the self-assurance and confidence to speak my mind eloquently and convincingly, as a woman in a man’s world. Yes, she would talk to me like that at 11 (thirteen-minus-two) years old. I wrote a text called “Oui, c’est beau la vie“. It brought a tear to my mama’s eye – so mature, so wise, her little Bingi was so wonderful. However, her little Bingi had a brutally thick English accent –  the sounds coming out of my mouth didn’t qualify as French words. My mama reached out to a woman living at the end of the street: Mme R, a lawyer specializing in family law, who spoke beautiful French. Mme. R firmly agreed with my mother that the ability to speak my mind persuasively was a critical survival skill-set, and so she agreed to spend 2-4 hours weekly, for two months, giving me free elocution and public speaking lessons.

I quickly grew to love and admire Mme. R. I’d not been exposed to many career women: most of my friends’ moms were either housewives like my mama, or else had simple 9-5 jobs. But Mme. R was the mother of 3 little munchkins and their home radiated comforting love and happiness, just like ours did, except she had a Very Important Job and Didn’t Hide Her Intelligence, my mama said. My embarrassment about my terrible French decreased. I had something to say, and clearly Mme. R thought it was something worth saying and worth listening to (over and over and over…). Her munchkins would sit quietly during my practices and sweetly encouraged their new friend, who was doing something Worthwhile, so their mama told them.

I didn’t rank well at that public speaking contest, despite delivering my best performance. I was the only non-Francophone participating. That was my first time learning that having something worthwhile to say does not mean people will listen.


Mme. R apologized for calling me at work: that was the only contact info she could find via Google. We hadn’t spoken, other than occasionally bumping into each other on the street/grocery store, since I started high school: life happens, that way. She was pleased to see that I’d grown into a belle jeune femme, épanouie et heureuse and hoped that her internet searches were an accurate reflection of my real life.

Her reason for contacting me: she’d noticed that despite last week’s snow storm, my father’s driveway was uncleared, and the flyers were piling up on his front porch. And while she and Mr. R had tried to convince themselves that everything was ok, it had been many days since she’d seen my father around in the neighborhood.

Touched, I explained that my father had left to travel Russia exactly two weeks ago, and obviously had forgotten to consider the weather/mailman in his plans – completely like him. Her relief was profound. She offered to clamber over the snowbank, clear the flyers and reminded me that he could always count on her and Mr. R to perform such neighborly favors. I asked after her family; my mind boggled when she told me the 3 lil’ munchkins were all grown up, and she was now a grandmother! She carefully asked after my mother. 4.5 years doesn’t make the communication of Ma’s death any easier, y’all. Mme. R was dismayed – she’d assumed/hoped that my mother’s absence from the neighborhood was due to her failing health keeping her house-bound.

We didn’t say much else – the memories were too strong.

Our phone call was done in fluent French.


I’d forgotten about that brief period in my life, those hours spent in that safe bubble of comforting love and happiness. I’d forgotten about Mme. R.

I wish I could’ve found the words to thank her. Those French lessons allowed me to be admitted into the prestigious French high school which shaped my personality and taught me the problem-solving skills that make me a good accountant. My ability to speak my mind persuasively & fluently in French has influenced my career: it dictated which Big 4 I was admitted to, the client portfolio I was awarded, the mandates I worked on, the opportunities to travel to France for work, and getting hired here, at my dream job. It is what allows me to pursue my Big Dream to move to Paris within 24 months. Who I am, and what I’ve become, is welded to this language.

Thank you, Mme. R. Thank you for the gift of your time, your language and your love, twenty years ago. And thank you for the gift of your care for my father, now.

Memory box

Growing up, my mother encouraged me to keep a memory box of all cards and letters I received from friends and family, because she told me I would cherish the memories one day. Because she was my Ma, and I took her word as Law, I religiously kept all such items as a child.

I became slacker in adolescence, and to my eternal regret, I stopped when I moved out at 19. There are some cards she gave me in my twenties that I would give anything to find again, but I lost them during all my moves, and my carelessness.

Tuesday, after my bad day, when I was desperately searching for something to comfort and anchor me, I opened up the Memory Box for the first time since she died. I found so many treasures there, including her letter to me, aged thirteen-minus-two and this one:

Jan 19, 1995

Good Morning Miss Bingi,

Shake yourself awake little girl!!!

It’s a new day and how hard you work now will make all the difference in your tests today. Wake me as soon as you need quizzing. Say “Ma, I need you! It’s important, my old mom.”

Yours truly,

Sosipatra Hoggstub

P.S. Nightmares Mimi is having tonight:

  • Oh no! MacDonald’s Mimiburger
  • Oh no! MacDonald’s Mimihotdog
  • What’s next? Mimi Pizza?

(For a full introduction to Mimi, my childhood bestfriend and teddybear, read When you are having a bad day… and Where I rediscover that Mimi is fidèle.)

I have countless such handwritten notes that she’d leave on the kitchen table for me to find when I’d wake up. Some are whimsical (Sosipatra Hoggstub?! Straight outta Harry Potter, before Harry Potter even existed), some are irritated, some are forgiving, all are written with so much love. Due to her terrible health and pain conditions, she often had trouble falling asleep, sometimes only dozing off at 5am, after my father had woken to go to work. Yet, she always wanted me to wake her in case I needed extra help prepping for school.

What a mama.


Today is my father’s 67th birthday. My old man is off gallivanting in Moscow and St-Petersburg with some friends. He is enjoying his retirement, which given how hard he worked his whole life… is a very good thing.

A tribute to my old man

Happy birthday, Pops!

Letter from my Mama – Tuesday August 8, 1995

Good morning, my darling Miss Bingi, Thirteen-minus-two!

Eleven is a fine age to be, I think. Did I ever tell you, my dear little Poozik, how very proud I am of you? Sometimes in the big flood of talk about problems, difficulties, things that need improving, I forget to tell you that you are a beautiful, wonderful, miraculous Choozik. And that everything will work out wonderfully well! Sometimes I lose perspective and forget to have enough trust in God – in life – in me and in you. But I’m learning – and I love you with all my heart – which makes me learn a little faster than I might have.

So my dear delight, let’s take pleasure in each other’s company for soon the summer will be over and it’ll be a busy winter and then, guess what, the year of thirteen-minus-two will be over and the time of twelve will come to you. So let’s make some happy memories of our time together during the summer of eleven.

With all my love always,

Your mama

P.s. I’m ready for a couple of games of “dourak” and gin rummy today.

Fun facts: I broke my legs and began 5 years in and out of hospitals as a cripple in Fall 1995, and my mother got diagnosed with Stage 4 Breast Cancer in Fall 1996.


I had an absolute garbage day today, culminating in me bursting into tears at my desk at 7:30pm, sobbing so hard with mascara tears down my cheeks that the cleaning team respectfully turned off their vacuum cleaners to give me space and silence. I needed comfort bad. This letter is the closest thing I could get to a hug from my mother.

Some days, I miss her awful.

Guess what? Watering pots are still not useful

I bet y’all thought I would rant and rave about Trump. I won’t, for now. There isn’t much to say. There is a lot to read, and I strongly recommend this and this article about macro factors that are changing the Western political landscape.

Nah, if I’ve been mostly silent, it is due to being over-worked, having little time to write about my very limited social life and too stressed to notice details and funny anecdotes. I have had a lot to think over in my personal life, but most of it involves others, and navigating both my feelings and the individuals’ right to privacy is complicated. Great opportunities for growth and development, but useless as far as blog material.

Still. Here is a short rant.

Remember Porcupine? My darling Porcupine, who reminds me of my mother? I’ve worked through my failures as a friend, my own mental health is stronger, so wtv hiccups previously polluted our friendship are now irrelevant.

I’ve often observed, in my own life and in others, that Life forces us through the same lesson over and over again, until we learn it, accept it and change. But with every repeat, the consequences are bigger, the damage to oneself and others is aggravated, there is a cost. Life loves to bring us to our knees and keep us there. At the time it seems senseless. But like a parent trying to discipline a child, for the child grow into the best version of itself, Life too disciplines us if we but are open to the lessons. Except unlike a loving parent, Life is a bitch, with no empathy. The link too between the change that needs to happen and the format of the lesson is often unclear and confusing – bad parenting, right there! Maybe that is why Life lessons hurt so bad, yet are impossible to forget.

Porcupine is now facing the fallout of a hybrid Life lesson & Universe Bolt of Bullshit. Not wee consequences, but big consequences. Electing-Trump-as-President-the-future-has-forever-changed consequences. It breaks my heart. His anger at the universe has disappeared. Now I sense remorse, grief and sorrow. Sorrow for the possible pain that this Life lesson might inflict on his daughter, his baby girl, the light of his life.

I can’t convey or convince you that Porcupine is a good man. One who has done things he regrets, like us all, just trying to stumble through life to the best of his ability. But he is a man that loves deeply and faithfully. Whose intentions are good and kind. His close friends are the sort I’d be proud to introduce to my parents, not because of any accomplishments, but because of their characters and values. I don’t know why the Universe is so intent on him learning this particular Life lesson, but to see him suffer, the kind of suffering that can only be done alone, makes me cry. I spent my whole life watching my mother suffer. She too frequently embodied remorse, grief and sorrow. She too was a flawed individual, yet she was undeniably a good, loving woman, who brought joy to those who knew her.

Apparently the Universe does not deem “bringing joy to others” as enough to exempt my mother and Porcupine from their share (more than their fair share?) of Life lessons and suffering.

Adulting sucks.

I’m still a watering pot.

2 objects 2 owners

Assignment 4: Describe 2 objects: what they are, how you got them, what they mean to you (emotional connection). E.g. “The chair” or “The cup”. Trick is that you truly own one of the two objects. Class will have to guess which of the two.


Just a ring

I never saw my mother wear it, because by the time I was born, her hands were perma-swollen from all the pain medication for her health issues. I glimpsed it once or twice as a child, the rare times she would open her box of treasures, and stare at her collection of jewelry. My mother favored bright colors in life and clothing: this ring was different, a pale blue stone. Icy. Aloof.

By the time I was a young adult, my mother’s coquettish side had resurfaced. The few times she would go out, she’d picked her outfits with care, occasionally even wearing lipstick. She’d ask me to help her with her necklaces and for advice on which earrings to wear. I loved those girly moments with my mother. We’d sit on the bed poring over her jewelry box, she wearing her dainty reading glasses to better see her “shiny things” with. I asked her once about the icy ring – it mesmerized me, with its delicately wrought silver band, and quiet beauty. She curtly explained it was her almost-engagement ring. Her father died from a massive heart attack the night my parents announced their engagement. My grandmother blamed my parents for killing my grandfather. She refused to acknowledge their engagement, and as my father hadn’t thought to buy my mother a ring, nobody believed they were affianced for the first several months following my grandfather’s death. My father eventually scraped some money together and bought this ring, but the damage was done. Their engagement, and this ring, was forever associated with pain and grief. My mother chose a gold wedding band – a new ring for a new chapter.

When she died, I asked my father for her jewelry box. I’ve kept everything intact, including the pair of reading glasses stored in the second drawer from the top, except for the icy blue ring, that I wear as a talisman. This ring was and remains a ring of grief. But it is also a ring of love, the love my parents shared, and the love I’ll always have for my mother.

My first pair of point shoes

Tucked away on the top shelf in my closet next to my childhood teddy-bears is a shoe box. As the years go by, I take it down and open it less frequently, but I know it is there. A reminder of a by-gone dream that still hurts me.

My first pair of pointe shoes. Almost in pristine condition – I only managed to squeeze in a handful of classes before I blew out my knee in a career-ending injury. Despite their minimal usage, there are some faded brown stains inside, the mandatory traces of blood that every ballerina must suffer for her passion. The ribbons are frayed slightly, from all the times I tied these shoes during the years of surgeries, rehabilitation and endless physio. I’d slip on these point shoes hoping they would magically heal my swollen, scared and bruised knee with their magical properties of beauty, art and soul. They didn’t.

I considered throwing them away when I finally got my professional title as an accountant: surely it was time to accept that my identity as an artist and a dancer was over? Surely it was time to be mature and pursue a real career? I’m glad I didn’t. For here I am, a decade later, finally giving voice to my feelings. My form of self-expression is not and never will be those point shoes, but I hope my words and laptop will fill that artistic void. That shoe-box keeps me accountable for following my dreams. 

#writingwayoflife #soulofanartist


So? Which of these 2 objects do I own? Which one is real? Leave your answer in the comments – and let me know what makes you think so! Please – this will help me work on the verissimilitude of my creative writing. Your feedback is appreciated!

When you are having a bad day…

You know the kind of bad day. The kind where the only thing you want to do is hide under the covers of your bed in your pyjamas, close your eyes and hope for it magically to be tomorrow. The kind where you go to the doctor’s for something that has been worrying you and you don’t get the answer of “yup, everything is good, see you never again“. The kind where you have a man cold, except you are woman so you have no choice but to suck it up and take dangerous levels of Tylenol Cold & Sinus. The kind where you are almost paralyzed by the amount of work you have to do. The kind where you just wanna call up your mommy and have her tell you its gonna be ok, except you can’t and it won’t.

So you decide to work from home, so you can at least wear non-matching socks and PJs, and have messy hair. But that isn’t enough to shake the overwhelming desire to cry, and ignore your work commitments. So your teddybears decide to step in and save the day.

Introducing Mimi and his brothers.

Working is a bit easier when I cuddle with Mimi, who has taken it upon himself to boss me around and ensure my productivity for the afternoon. #micromanager

P.S. Mimi wears that black shirt both for modesty purposes, to cover up his traces d’amour, and as mourning for my mother. True story, the day my mother died, after rushing to my parents’ home to be with my father, deal with the cops and the coroner, and advise family and friends of the news, I returned to my place to pack some stuff so that I could stay with my father for the week. Of course I brought Mimi. That was not a time for adulting. But as Mimi looked at me with his sad eyes, his little teddybody all pale and decrepit, it seemed appropriate to modify his appearance to suit the gravity of the situation. I wrapped him up in one of my black shirts. My father cried when he saw me with Mimi. Mimi opted to sleep with my father every night, for the first month following my mother’s death. Who says teddybears aren’t for grownups?