Due to my father’s job, we moved many times while growing up. I spent much of my childhood in Northern Canada (Yukon Territory) living in a very remote, but beautiful area. I remember living without electricity and having to run a small generator once a week in order to curl our hair with curling irons. We had to haul our water from the nearby creek or heat snow on the huge, black, wood cook stove in the winter for our weekly bath. Our house was so cold at night that the water would freeze in our drinking cups if left out. Being the oldest, I was the one who would have to get up in the night and take my sisters to the outhouse. We took a flashlight and a rifle every time. We didn’t trust the bears. (I’m not kidding)
We had some really lean years. It was too cold to keep beef cows, so most folks lived on moose and bear meat that they hunted. We were no exception, but one year we didn’t find a moose for our winter meat supply and so lived on beans and rice. Vegetables were always scarce. My mother never knew what my father would bring home to add to the pot. She would just take it without much comment -be it beaver tail, porcupine, rabbit or ptarmigan. (The porcupine was tough!)
We often had folks drop by our home unannounced and stay for supper. It never even fazed my mom; at least she never showed it. She always made them feel welcome. Once, a stranger dropped in wearing a bright pink three-piece suit and long, greasy hair. My parents treated him like an old friend and my mother cooked a huge meal for this obviously hungry traveler. The next morning we noticed that he had set up a tent in our front yard right by the outhouse. My sisters and I were quite upset, but my mother just told us that we would have to give him the outhouse for a while and we would use a bucket. He stayed for two weeks and ate A LOT of our food. At the end of the two weeks he invited us to share Thanksgiving with him. We weren’t thrilled at the prospect but went anyway. Evidently, he had rented a space in the little town 10 miles away and when we arrived we could not believe our eyes. A banquet was waiting for us that I cannot begin to describe. Everything you could imagine was served and it was absolutely beautiful with garnished side dishes and sweets of many kinds. We learned that day that he had been a professional chef and just wanted to show his gratitude for our hospitality.
I have tried to emulate my dear mother in these ways. She lived an ordered life, but was flexible whenever the occasion called for it. I loved my home, whether it was a cabin in the woods, a tent, or a trailer because my dear mother MADE it home. When I eventually left home and went to a university, I assumed that all mothers and homes were similar to mine. Not so. I have experienced some very inhospitable homes. It saddens me to think about this, and so I am writing this post because I guess I just wanted to encourage mothers to be earnest in this area. Anyone can build a house, but only some will make a home.
Blest be that spot where cheerful guests retire
To pause from toil, and trim their evening fire;
Blest that abode, where want and pain repair,
And every stranger finds a ready chair:
Blest be those feasts with simple plenty crown’d,
Where all the ruddy family around
Laugh at the jest pity or pranks, that never fail,
Or sigh with pity at some mournful tale,
Or press the bashful stranger to his food,
And learn the luxury of doing good.