This photo of my mother working at her desk, was taken in 1968 at Ontario Hydro in Sioux Lookout, Ontario. The office was located just around the corner from the elementary school I attended and as a result every so often my Mom would show up at my classroom door just before noon to take me out for lunch. She would hold my hand and we would cross the playground together, walk up the hill to Fifth Avenue, passing the Sarah Vaughan Public Library where I would one day work as a Page, then down the hill to Front Street and on to The Shanghai Restaurant that served Chinese and Canadian cuisine.
I never needed to look at a menu since I would order the same thing every time. Oh what a treat it was to sit in that red leather booth waiting with such anticipation while my mom patiently drank her Coca-Cola and smoked her Belvederes. And then it would appear; the staple of every diner in North America, a white oval plate with red stripe around the rim, golden french fries splayed across it, smothered in glistening brown gravy. Sometimes I would be bold enough to request a milkshake too, and my mother who was a thrifty woman and not one to waste anything would order one for me, making me promise to finish it all. A giant fountain glass of creamy bubbles with two slender straws sticking out of the top would be set before me. For a little girl in grade school it was much too much for my little belly. I don’t think there was every a time I didn’t leave some behind and yet my mother never chastised me for it and still pretended to believe me when I swore to drink it all the next time.
When the Minister came to the house last week to discuss the memorial service she asked us what early memories we had of our mother. The special lunches we had together was one of the first things that came to mind, and as I started to describe them, I was suddenly overcome with emotion as I recalled having picked my sister up from a friend’s house the night before. We had decided we were in the mood for a bite to eat. It was almost 11:00 on a Sunday night and though there wasn’t much open, we managed to find a Dairy Queen that was and each ordered a Poutine - the modern day equivalent of french fries and gravy. I didn’t order a drink because more than once I’ve been given regular coke instead of diet and being a Type 1 diabetic, this is not a good thing. My sister however said for some reason she was craving a milkshake, something she rarely drank and not realizing the significance at the time, she ordered one in my stead.