Brand building through storytelling

My Mother – Dorothy Buxton

Dorothy BIt’s 11 a.m. on a Saturday morning, an ungodly hour if you’re 19 and recovering from a frat party, and my sleep is being interrupted by a voice from downstairs yelling at me and my 15-year-old sister:

“Get up, get up, you lazy girls, sleeping till noon after being out gallivanting till all hours of the night while I’ve been up since morning, working my fingers to the bone, cleaning and scrubbing and doing your laundry and ironing and..” I can shut off the voice by simply pulling the covers over my head and going back to sleep. Hey, wasn’t that her job?

My mother and I loved each other but never really got each other. I sometimes wished she could be more like my friends’ moms, those elegant post-war housewives with red painted nails and pearl necklaces. Why couldn’t she be more of a lady? Anyhow, I washed the dishes most nights, didn’t I?

It’s only as an adult that I’ve recognized the powerful influence she had on my life, this feisty farm girl who never forgot her pioneer upbringing. The sixth of ten children, Dorothy Lee Cox (aka “Dot”) was born in a log cabin in a snowstorm in southern Alberta in 1910. Her American parents had fled across the border from Montana into Alberta one jump ahead of a sheriff?s posse, as my grandfather had been accused of cattle rustling.

Growing up in poverty, with barely literate parents and nine siblings who fought continually, my mother took control of her life. At age 13, she left home to clean for a family in town and get an education, eventually earning a teaching certificate. This experience taught her that anything is possible if you work hard enough, a message she passed on to my brother, sister and me.

She met my father, Earl Buxton, while they were studying to become teachers, at “normal school.” Smart, handsome, and a boxing champion to boot, he was also a skilled carpenter and cartoonist. Abandoning her teaching career after becoming a mother, she cheered him on, all the way to a Ph.D. in English.

Mom woke up early singing the Stephen Foster ballads learned in childhood– her favorites being “Oh, Susannah” and “Clementine,” and kept going all day long. There was always homemade pie, often made from the apples she managed to grow in that cold Edmonton climate. She gardened, sewed, knit, quilted, preserved fruit, made jams and jellies, and when Dad went away to speak at a conference, she’d paint a room. With her sharp memory, she was a killer at bridge, quickly figuring out where every card lay. She could also ride a horse bareback, milk a cow and pluck a chicken; skills rarely needed in the city.

In her fifties, non-swimmer Mom took swimming lessons, quickly progressing through the various Red Cross badges. She skated with the Wednesday Afternoon Ladies Skating Club, which skated on Tuesday mornings, until she had a bad fall on the ice and broke her arm. She hated the cast and one day I found her sawing it off with the help of my brother. An agnostic, she permanently gave up smoking one New Year’s Eve when I flew off in a snowstorm, as she’d promised God she;d quit if I reached Vancouver safely.

In her sixties, she taught English to immigrant women, sharing her recipes and loving the challenge. She never did learn to drive, destroying a picket fence on her first attempt, and three decades years later, crashing through a brick wall and into Dad’s den by stepping on the gas instead of the brake.

Unfortunately, her mouth-watering pies and my father’s inability to quit smoking killed him at age 67 of arteriosclerosis. Forced to live 18 years without her soul mate, she slowly slid into dementia.

She died suddenly in her sleep 12 years ago, at age 86. I don’t have much of hers, except for a monogrammed silver tea set she never used and I’ve never used. If I had it to do all over again, I’d get up on those Saturday mornings.

Posted by Bonnie Buxton

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