Mother, may I take three giant steps?


Mom and Dad get married, 1942

I lost my mother 13 years ago. We weren’t particularly close (long story) but I loved her and I now appreciate everything she endured and achieved, including having come of age during the Great Depression. Her family was well to do until the crash of 1929. Then her father died.

Mom and her four siblings had no choice but to go to work. Gone were my mother’s dreams of attending McGill (she had won a scholarship). Instead she enrolled in a quickie secretarial course (graduated top of her class) so she could take any office jobs that could be had.

She married my dad during World War II. Soon my twin sisters were born and a couple of years later, the family packed up and relocated to Windsor from Montreal. The move occurred within weeks of her own mother’s death.

How incredibly difficult that must have been for her. I can’t even begin to imagine what it must have been like to travel all that way by car on rudimentary highways, with two restless little girls in the back seat while grieving for your mother.

And then to arrive in Windsor just after war’s end – a far cry from the exciting cosmopolitan city of Montreal.

I’m not sure if they knew anyone here (hopefully they had a few contacts) but no matter what, it must have been excruciatingly difficult and sad for my mother to adjust and somehow cope with the stress of moving so far, the loss of her mother, while looking after a home and two toddlers, without a support system.

Mom and Dad with the twins Barbara and Carolyn and newborn Howard in a Windsor park on the Detroit River around 1948.

Some of this family history was unknown to me until recently. We are planning a mini-reunion of the six kids and their families and significant others this summer, and everyone has been posting long forgotten photos of mom and dad, aunts, uncles, grandparents and the six of us throughout our youth.

The photos have jump started my older siblings memories and slowly, over the months, snippets of our family’s history have been added underneath the black and white photos. Reading these comments has not only given me a fresh sense of where I’ve come from but a greater appreciation of my mother.

One of my favorite games when I was little was “Mother, May I.” I’m not sure if kids play this game today. I don’t remember seeing my own kids play it, which is unfortunate as it was fun. For those unfamiliar with the game, this is how it’s played:

One person is “Mom” and stands facing away from a line of kids. She then chooses a child (at random, or in order), and orders the others to take a certain number of steps. These follow a pattern, such as, “Brian, you may take x number of giant/regular/baby steps forward/backward.”

The child responds with “Mother may I?” Mom then states, “Yes” or “No”, depending on her whim, and the child complies. If the child forgets to ask “Mother may I?” he/she goes back to the starting line. First one to touch Mother wins.

A variation is when each child takes turns asking, “Mother may I take x number of steps?” The child who was mother replied yes or no. In addition to baby, regular, and giant steps, there were even ballet steps which were like fake ballet turns. (My source for this info here.)

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day. I will celebrate my mother. I will recognize that her great strength courses through my veins and helps me take giant steps to advocate for not only what I believe in, but to cope with the ups and downs of raising my own family.

Thanks Mom! I love you.

post script: After reading this story, my sister Brenda sent me the following comment:

“Shortly after this photo was taken, Baby Howard caught a cold from the twins and spent three weeks in hospital. It was touch and go for a while. Mum dutifully sent breast milk for him delivered by Dad.”

Another significant piece of family history that I wasn’t aware of and yet more proof that Mom was an amazing person. (Dad was pretty amazing too.) So glad that Howard pulled through.

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About Elaine Weeks

How history was taught in my day: memorize lots of boring dates and facts, watch corny old black & white history films. There was one bright spot, however. Grade 9 history at Walkerville Collegiate with Miss Falls (Georgina) when she taught a section on local history and took us on a field trip to explore some of Windsor's built heritage. Due to a peculiar series of events, celebrating local history became part of my business. My company, (partner is Chris Edwards,) Walkerville Publishing Inc., launched "The Walkerville Times" in 1999, which in due course became "The Times Magazine". Our goal was to make history real. I am a writer, editor, blogger, photographer, mother, wife, sister, activist, traveller, gardener, knitter, masters track & field competitor (when I have time), glass is nearly full person.
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6 Responses to Mother, may I take three giant steps?

  1. DeeDee says:

    Hi Elaine:
    I was cleaning out my e-mail file and wondered why I had saved this. Then I read it. It’s really wonderful. Life sure wasn’t easy for your mom, or most women, in the 40s and 50s. So much responsibility. So few choices. It’s good to go back and read about everyday life of a typical woman of your mom’s time. Some survived. Some didn’t.
    Keep up the good work … writing and reporting on the lives of women.

    • selainew says:

      Thanks Dee Dee! Thank goodness we have come so far, although there are times when I feel like some of us have forgotten what women in the last century fought so hard for: the vote, the right to be called a “person” not an object or someone’s property, equal pay for equal work, freedom of choice, etc.

  2. Howard weeks says:

    Hey selainew. How can you say you and mom were not particularly close when you write a story like that. Nicely done, and I’m glad I pulled through too.

  3. Ginny says:

    I knew your mother ( through my parents) and always saw her as elegantly dressed and the life of the party. She was always very kind to me.

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