For years, my Mom and I had a weekly tradition called “Mom Night.” Well, I called it Mom Night, I’m not sure what she called it—perhaps “Barb Night.”
It did begin as Barb Night. I was balancing full time work and part-time studies along with the demands of a house and family. To preserve my sanity, I decreed that I must have one evening per week to myself. Just a few hours of self-indulgent “me” time, in which there were no obligations, no phone calls, no demands on my time.
On Tuesday evenings, after a supper of definitely-not-homemade pizza, my husband and son would wisely disappear. Armed with a bowl of munchies and a glass of wine, I would plunk myself in front of the TV for a few hours of escapism. TVO, an Ontario publicly-funded station, was at that time airing a string of British shows—mainly period dramas—which I find make for a great escape.
Those weekly hours of downtime reenergized me. Those obligation-free evenings also gave me something to look forward to all week and I jealously guarded them. Nobody was going to come between me and Barb Night.
Nobody, that is, except my Mom. My tranquil nights of solitary splendour seemed shattered when my mother phoned with a favour to ask. A friend had loaned her a DVD, but Mom did not at that time have a DVD player. Could she watch it at my place?
Barb Nights were invaded. Not just for one week, but the many weeks needed to watch all eleven episodes of Brideshead Revisited. Fortunately, it was a British period drama, which we both enjoyed.
It didn’t take long for Barb Night to morph permanently into Mom Night. The essentials were the same: a British production, an indulgent snack, now provided by Mom, and wine. To that we could now add companionship, conversation, and catching up.
Although Mom lived nearby—perhaps five minutes away—we hadn’t seen each other regularly. This was mostly my fault. Busy with my own family in addition to working and schooling, I hadn’t carved out time for much else.
Now, with weekly visits on our movie nights, we had the opportunity to be a bigger part of each other’s lives. Each week, we shared the triumphs and challenges of day-to-day life. I updated Mom on the news of my little branch of the family and Mom filled me in on family news from the rest of the clan (in those days before social media, Mom reigned as the clearing-house queen of family goings-on.)
Our movie nights continued for years. After we exhausted the supply of British period dramas, we began working through the public library’s collection of classic movies and chick-flicks. The quality of the movie was no longer paramount; it was the visit that mattered.
When my father became ill and couldn’t be left alone for a while, it looked like we’d have to give up our weekly movie nights. Mom bought a DVD player and we tried having our nights at my parents’ place but it wasn’t the same. As soon as Dad’s health improved enough that he could be left alone, we returned to our traditional practice of watching movies at my place.
Six years ago, our movie nights came to a halt. My fault again—I moved to another city. It was difficult to give up that weekly closeness with my Mom, especially when my Dad died only a few months later.
The distance prompted a new tradition of connection: Mom Letters. Since I’m too far away for Mom to visit, I keep her involved in my life by writing letters to her. Every week, I pop an 8-page letter in the mail, keeping her updated on the victories and challenges in my life. And every week, she writes back to share her life and that of family members in my former community. We write about how our gardens grow, what the weather is doing, and, of course, what’s happening on Downton Abbey.
Weekly Mom Nights have transitioned into weekly Mom Letters. But it’s not about the paper we exchange, just as it was never about the television screen we watched. Mom Letters are—just as Mom Nights were—about the connection we make. They’re about the relationship we nurture and the value we hold in each other’s lives. They’re about the link of love between me and my mother.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!
Barbara Lehtiniemi is a writer, photographer, and AU student. She lives on a windswept rural road in Eastern Ontario. Follow Barbara on twitter @ThereGoesBarb.