Flowers on Ice

Joanne, Susan’s mother loved to watch the Olympics though she was not athletic herself. She followed it the same way she followed baseball, the Oscars and read People magazines. She didn’t do it so she would have something to talk about around the watercooler at work the next day. She barely even knew the players names. Joanne watched sports because she loved to watch people win. Every time the medal ceremony came on, she’d cry. She loved to see people reach their dreams.

When Susan was 14, she went on a holiday to Vancouver with the women in her family: her mother, sister, aunt(s) and a cousin (or two). One night, they abandoned sightseeing to sit in the hotel room and watch the gold medal matches of the Canadian Men’s and Women’s hockey teams. None of them were “hockey” people. They barely knew what a penalty was but this was a big deal and nobody wanted to miss out on the game(s) of the century.

Both games were nail-biters but the women’s game was particularly tense. Joanne and company cheered when their team got a point and squirmed when the other one did, too. All the women were holding their breath up to the last second. Auntie Barb skipped, hopped and jumped during those last moments. She had to pee so bad but the game was almost over and you can’t just walk away from a game as pivotal as this. Finally, the timer buzzed and the game was over. The Canadian women’s team won gold. They cheered. Up and down, up and down. Arden, Susan’s sister, and their cousin, Amanda, took a breather after such a close game as Auntie Barb ran to the bathroom before the medal ceremony began.

Susan recalls eating a box of chocolates that her mother had given her for Valentine’s Day earlier that week. It was one of those magical boxes of chocolates that never ended. It took Susan forever to work through that box and she savoured each and every morsel. The sweets were given with a little teddy bear holding a heart, a card and some lip balm. Everything a tween-ager could possibly want. Susan peeled back another wrapper as the medal ceremony began. There were flowers on the ice.

“Mom, you’re crying again,” said Susan.

“Shhh,” whispered Joanne, “This is my favourite part.”

***

A couple weeks ago, Susan received a letter from her Aunty Cheryl. It was full of stories of her mom’s school days from people who grew up with her back in Lemberg, Saskatchewan. They told stories of Joanne’s pet peeves, the pranks classmates would pull on her and recalled her hospitality. Months previous to this, Susan’s Aunty Siobhan gave her a letter that Joanne had sent to her mother-in-law. It was written in ’88 when she was on maternity leave with Susan.

Whether she read them at the top of the stairs of her Grandpa’s house in Etobicoke, or on her bed at the hostel, both letters made Susan stop and remember. Something she hadn’t done in a long time.

Susan remembered her mom.