This is a photograph my father took of my mother and me on holiday in India in 1971. I think it says a lot about my Mum. Even with elephants pounding steps behind, she doesn’t look back. She has always lived that way, her sights trained on the next adventure. My mother, Thelma Abraham, was born in India in 1932. School was not considered a priority for girls back then. But Mum buried herself in books and, eventually, after having four children she decided to get the education she wanted.
She could have taken a correspondence course. But my mother wanted to pick up “word processing” and enrolled at a high school in Mississauga. We used to do our homework together, and she’d tell me about classmates who smoked cigarettes and necked in the hallways (comforted by the fact that she had tucked me away at an all-girls Catholic school where smoking and necking required more planning).
I think the limitations of her upbringing made my mother determined to raise us so differently. It’s why she would take us on road trips through Europe, and, when she worked with the airlines, junkets through Asia. It’s why she pushed for our family’s moves, from India to England, and finally, in 1972, to Canada. Everything here was about the next thing – a young country, wide open and expansive, with nothing but potential.
What one regret do you have as a mom?
I always try to see the glass half full. Although I really thought you would be a lawyer. I suppose I expected you to go on with school, you were always one for books. Of course, many times I had to steer your boat when I saw that you were going to hit the rocks. But you managed to steer into a blue sea.
What piece of advice do you have for me, raising my two children?
Children should be taught that the world is their oyster. They may fall down along the way, but falling down they learn to pick themselves up and walk on their own. I think the job of parents is to broaden their children’s minds, to encourage them to dream.
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