While most of Canada is celebrating the Victoria Day long weekend – a weekend in which we gather with family and friends, light off fireworks, sit around campfires, eat, drink, and welcome back the summer after what is usually a long, dark, cold and snowy winter – the Gillis clan is also celebrating the birth of our matriarch.
That’s right folks, today is my mom’s birthday. Unlike Queen Victoria who usurped1 the 21st as her official birthday, my mom was actually born on May 21st, a wee 68 years ago.
Much like the queen, my mom has had a significant list of responsibilities during her reign. And also much like the queen, her subjects weren’t always happy with some of her proclamations. A few that come to mind immediately include:
- All homeworks shall commence immediately upon your return to the royal castle, and shall take priority over such activities as play-making, outdoorsing, and goof-offery. Exceptions, such as dinner, shall provide only a temporary reprieve from homeworking, until such time as the matriarch relieves you of this duty, or the hour of bedtime nears.
- All loyal subjects shall be to bed by 8pm, unless otherwise declared by the matriarch, and in direct conflict with the messaging of the season.
- All loyal subjects shall make their beds each and every morning. Cries and protests suggesting that no one shall be privy to the mess of our personal chambers, and we are only going to mess them up later shall fall on deaf ears.
Of course, there were also those proclamations that we fully supported, such as:
- Any loyal subject within the vicinity of the royal kitchen, and in such time as to experience and learn the art of royal bakery, shall be permitted, on completion of the royal baking, to lick the frostings, batters, and other sweets from the royal baking bowl. In the event that multiple loyal subjects are nearby, one shall be selected at the monarch’s discretion, to receive the royal spatula. This shall be seen as recognition of, high praise for, and reward to, the loyal subject who contributed most selflessly to the creation of royal baked goods.
And of course, there were always attempted uprisings – those days where I really just didn’t want to eat my dinner, or couldn’t quite understand why I had to go to bed, or, as I got older, questioned my curfew. Much like the queen, my mom took the uprisings all in stride. She was firm when she needed to be, but also there whenever I had a scrape or a bruise that needed the magic that only mom could provide.
Truthfully, how my mom managed to raise 4 boys – separated by only 6 years – is a mystery to me. I have a difficult enough time keeping myself organized, let alone managing the schedule of toddlers and babies. Worse still, I can’t even begin to imagine how she dealt with 4 teenage boys.
All I know is that she did while somehow maintaining her sanity, her smile, and never ever once losing the sense of pride and joy that was so obvious in her eyes whenever her boys were the topic of conversation. I see the same pride and joy now when the conversation turns to the adult versions of me and my brothers, my sister-in-laws, or the next generation of Gilli3 – my nieces and nephew – her grandkids.
In the past few years our family has faced some rather interesting challenges; flesh-eating disease, a major car accident, several surgeries, various heart issues, etc. Through it all, my mom has maintained her poise and her strength, where I think others would have fallen apart. If I can maintain that level of strength in times of adversity, I think I’ll be doing alright.
We gathered only a few weeks ago to celebrate Mother’s Day, and it was great to sit down for dinner with everyone – my three brothers, both of my sister-in-laws, my five nieces, my one nephew, and my mom and my dad – laughing, eating, laughing, drinking, laughing some more. As I sat there, I spent some time watching my mom who we had dared not to work on Mother’s Day. She sat at the table, eyes sparkling as she watched each of us, chatted with each of us, played with my nieces, held my nephew. And it didn’t matter what we said or did, the sparkle in her eye – the pride, the joy, the love – was ever-present. Through everything, it’s one of the constants in my life on which I can rely.
So mom – here’s to you on your 68th birthday. Thank you for another year filled with laughter and love, and being the best damn mom this guy could ever ask for.
1 Okay, she really didn’t usurp anything. The Canadian Government of the 50s decided (thankfully) that we should celebrate the Queen’s birthday – May 24th – on the Monday before the 25th 2.
2 Thanks old-time-y Canadian Government for recognizing the importance of the long weekend.
3 Gilli being the plural of Gillis, naturally.
- Victoria Day a Holiday in Canada (socyberty.com)
- How to make a jubilee cocktail (guardian.co.uk)
- Queen Victoria’s Fireworks Festival (insidehalton.com)
- Happy Victoria Day (nebraskaenergyobserver.wordpress.com)
- Happy Victoria Day!!!!! (chanelrose.me)
- Happy Victoria Day, Canada! (rainsoftottawa.wordpress.com)