As I watched my Mother walk across the stage accepting handshakes and hugs along with her degree, I started to wonder how well we really ever know a person. My Mom has been so many different things in my life; but how well do I really know this woman?
She has been my lifegiver and caregiver. She has been my advocate and my adversary. She has made mistakes, she has made apologies, she has made my bed. She has been my teacher, my preacher, and my best friend. She cries when she’s sad. She cries when she’s happy. She cries when she’s mad. She likes reading the morning paper outside on a lawn chair drinking coffee while the sun is rising. She likes toast with jam and peanut butter. She has been taking care of everyone else her entire life and as I watched her walk across the stage, it occurred to me that for the first time since I’ve been alive, we were all together to support her and her alone. Our family was there for her. Our cameras were pointed at her. The gifts and the cards were for her. This moment was hers and we sat in shared gratitude and pride for this woman who is always taking care of all of us.
Our family has suffered the effects of alcoholism, violence, abuse, absent fathers, and the generational trauma that is associated with colonization. I was spared from much of this experience because my mom made a decision to break the cycle. She worked hard to love me, to nurture me, to parent me. My education was important to her and I graduated high school with my graduating class, as did my two sisters. The three of us are all currently attending university, along with my cousin, who has become more like another daughter to my mom than a niece; and my other cousin has been inspired by my mom to pursue her education as well. Our Grandmother and Uncle have their Masters, my Aunty has her Culinary Arts diploma, and my Mother now has her social work degree. The rest of us are slowly trudging toward that end as well. We are a majority family of women; educated, Aboriginal women, and that is a lethal combination.
I have learned first hand from my family how important it is to have positive role models and influences. We all struggle at times, life can be difficult and sometimes the challenges are overwhelming, but in the end we always have one another to lean on, to encourage us or just to listen when we feel like we want to quit. I am so thankful for this family. I am so thankful that, as flawed and oppressive as this country can sometimes be, that we have access to education; because education means empowerment and empowerment means peace.
My mother has been my rock and the foundation upon which I am building my skills, abilities and confidence. Her influence has given me everything I need to succeed. She began her journey toward her degree at 48 years of age and she obtained her degree at 54 years of age. That, in and of itself, is admirable and indicative of the fierce determination that she has thankfully passed down to me.
I take this opportunity to honour my mother, Sandy Coolidge, and all the mother’s out there who sacrifice their dreams, who put their desires and wishes for themselves on hold in order to care for their families. As a daughter of one of those women, I tell you that I have never been so proud as when I watched my mom accept her degree. The greatest gift you can give your children and especially your daughters, is to chase your dreams with a vengeance. Show them how to break through the barriers in their own hearts because I guarantee as they watch you achieve your dreams, they will see that you know your worth and because of that, will know their own worth as well.
Thank you, Mom, for this gift you have given to me and to all of us.
“You’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!”
- Dr. Seuss