Sunday, September 2, 2012

Mom in the Wilderness


 

Up until now, you have not heard much about my mom in this Nova Scotia saga. So it is now time to introduce you to the most amazing woman I know. I mean let’s be real. How many women in this world would agree to venture into the wilderness with five children, a husband and a dog knowing that for seven weeks you would have to feed these hungry beasts without the benefit of electricity, running water,  a nearby grocery store, take-out food or pizza delivery.  There would be no escaping your family to the comfort of your sympathetic girlfriends. There would be no phone to call friends for a sanity check and no opportunity to gripe or celebrate via the daily Facebook post. Oh and you must manage this task on a shoestring budget with no access to extra cash through ATM’s or credit cards. Are you up for the challenge? I wouldn’t be, but I am ever so thankful that my mom was.

My father’s original dream for our Nova Scotia summers was that we would “live off the land”. My mom’s reaction to this was, “Absolutely Not!”  She knew that although my dad was a big dreamer and visionary, he was also a practical reasonable man who loved her. So she immediately set about altering his dream a bit. She agreed to the idea of building the cabin from logs and resources found on the land, but feeding her hungry family mushrooms, fish and bugs was out of the question!
Until recently I never gave much thought to the incredible role my mother played in our Nova Scotia summers. I think this is true of the role most mom’s play in family life. Mom’s quietly get the jobs done that family life requires and are often taken for granted and not appreciated for all their dedicated work.  I now know how much I took my mom’s role for granted.

I hate grocery shopping, meal planning, cooking and cleaning the kitchen. I dislike most chores that involve the kitchen and over the course of my adult, mom, life have complained about these chores regularly. However, now that I examine the ways in which my mom managed all things food related in Nova Scotia I am quite humbled.
While we were building our cabin mom was quietly, without complaint, feeding us. She did this on a Coleman camp stove, over an open fire and without the benefit of refrigeration, running water, counter space or storage cabinets.

Trips to the grocery store involved canoeing or sailing across the lake and driving 30 miles of back country roads to the store. After loading up the car with enough food to feed a family of seven for seven days in the wilderness she would stop to pick up blocks of ice to load in the cooler and she’d head back to our pond. She’d load the groceries and ice coolers into the canoe and paddle across the pond to our cabin site. Then we would all pitch in to help unload the groceries and carry them up the hill to the “kitchen” in the woods. If something was forgotten, tough luck! There would be no going back to the store until next week.

For all my mother’s efforts, I honestly remember only two “meals” in my ten years of Nova Scotia summers. I remember on the way home from our first summer stopping along the side of the road for a “picnic” lunch. Our family of seven sat around a picnic table, each with our own plastic spoon eating Bryers Blueberry ice cream out of the carton. I later learned this was because after seven weeks in the wilderness, with unexpected medical expenditures (see prior “Arterial Bleeding is Bad!” post), the budget had been depleted. We traveled 17 hours home from Nova Scotia with a gas card and spare change. It was the spare change that provided our “picnic”.

The second meal I remember was during our third summer at the cabin. We went “modern” that year and installed a floor, a cast iron wood stove and a double sink (Beth and I provided the “running” water). While dad installed the woodstove, Beth and I picked blueberries all day and that night mom cooked our first meal in the oven of that stove, blueberry cobbler. Yummy!  (The stove also came in handy for drying wet sneakers.)
As I think of all that my mother accomplished, with humor, creativity, dedication and grace, I am humbled and amazed. I am thankful that she rose to the challenge of managing day to day family life in the wilderness of Nova Scotia. And, I will try to remember my mom the next time I’m grumbling and complaining on my way down the street to the grocery store.
 
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