Disclaimer: These following posts as part of my writing project are not in any particular order of favor. I love my family, all of them, equally. They all know that. Now you do too.
A natural place for me to begin this journey is with one of my parents. They are in fact the reason I am here. For that I thank them (ahem) and move on.
Let me give you a little bit of background first on my family. I have one mommy and one daddy. They are still married after 38 years (a modern day miracle). I am the youngest. I was preceded into the Hamel family by Jennifer, Emily, and Jeffrey. We were all cute, happy, energetic, and dramatic children. We sometimes fought, but we always made up. My parents are to thank for this. As an educator I would truly give their parenting skills an A+. I suppose the first relationship I ever made was with my mother since I spent nine cozy months in her womb. So in honor of her being my first best friend here goes:
Diane Irene Gummeson she began.
One of my favorite things to do when I was a little girl was ask my mommy to tell me a story about when she was a little girl, when she was Diane Irene Gummeson. I remember stories of her peeking over a little barrier where she saw the brand new puppies that were just born to the family dog. I remember countless recollections of her sitting on her daddy’s lap while he played with her hair. One of my favorite stories was of the tricky game of ‘I Spy’ her little sister used to play with their daddy. Did she ever stump him with her elaborate description of a light fixture. Another favorite was a story from the dinner table. One night her Dad picked up the salad dressing and shook it behind his head not realizing that the lid was off. It flew all over the wall behind him making a colossal mess. All the kids sat there with frozen expressions while the laughter began to build up inside them. Would their beloved Father be furious? He broke out into laughter and released theirs as well.
She would also go way back in her family history telling about the time that her great-grandma with the tight bun and tight disposition once spent a whole afternoon rolling down a hill with her grandchildren much to their amazement. Sometimes I think these were my own memories. I knew them inside and out.
We especially bonded over stories of her Daddy and her brother Len, who she lost when she was in her early twenties. I loved to hear about them because I could see a part of her that so few people saw. Her love for her Daddy was so apparent. Her accounts of Len’s mischievous ways were just plain amusing. She would delight in their memories and cry for their loss. I grew to cry with her missing the Grandpa that I never got to meet. Even at a young age I felt it was important to remember them. She made them real to me and the rest of the kids. She let us in on a little piece of heaven. Its truer than true that love never goes away.
So it is clear that my mother is a storyteller. When we were kids and funny little things would happen or we would say some something priceless she would write it down. She had a few journals full of all the things we said and did. Like when I decidedly dumped all my cereal on the floor and after with an innocent look on my face said ‘Uh Oh….’ Or when Emme and Jeff were playing with imaginary guns which they were strictly instructed not to do. When they were caught Emily being the sharp witted little stinker that she was said ‘We’re playing Cowboys and Indians and we’re shooting rattle snakes.’ I can only imagine all the laughs she and Dad had behind our backs when these stories were in the making.
Now all of her children have become storytellers of some sort. Through art, through history, through law, through teaching we are all acutely aware of the stories that make people who they are.
But who is this woman now that all her children are grown and launched? Has she shed her role of motherhood completely?? Of course not. She has taken on a whole new flock of children: the students of Trinity Western University. Most of my friends from TWU know her as the woman who loving bestows mom hugs. At least that’s how they first get to know her. Then she becomes a supporter, a listener, a shoulder to cry on, someone to laugh with, and a friend. This isn’t her only role at TWU. Don’t go thinking that she just has a free hugs stand in the cafeteria. She is the parent-relations coordinator and works her hiney off to create awesome programs for parents to support them while their students are far away. She takes on all the aforementioned roles in their lives as well. I have a sneaking suspicion that once she leaves TWU she will be remembered for her hugs more than anything.
However, all you TWU students out there I want you to know something. You’ve only got her on loan. She’s my mamma.
Only a week ago or so I was feeling distressed. Mom was over at my place and being the intuitive mother that she is gave me one of these famous hugs. Sometimes I like to think that I am a big grown up girl with bills to pay and a husband to care for and that I have become mostly invincible. But when she gave me that hug something happened to me. An all to familiar feeling came rushing back. Tears welled up in my eyes. I felt warm and cozy all over. A little sob crept up that I kept hidden from everyone. I was in my mothers arms. So in spite of my increasing age and increasing degrees and experience in life I am aware that I will always feel like a little girl cradled and cozy, allowed to cry with permission to face my failures and faults, safe in my mothers arms.
Diane Irene Hamel. My mamma, I love you.