my teacher

my mother sits wrapped in an afghan in my kitchen. i’m painting at an easel nearby. she’s reading a karen kingsbury book. karen is her favourite author.

we share a bowl of sliced apples.

there is silence save for the flip, flip of pages turning and the scratching of brush against canvas. it’s a comfortable silence–like a bowl of chicken soup when you’re sick, or a hot water bottle.

eventually she says: “i love my mochas.”

mum has ‘mocha time’ every day at 10:30 a.m. it’s her favourite time of day. “i think i like them even more than i enjoy karen kingsbury books,” she adds thoughtfully. “in fact, i’d be hard-pressed to choose if someone asked me to decide between a mocha and a karen kingsbury book.”

mum surprises me every day. her head might be floppy; her legs wobbly; her hands unable to grip the book tight, but her words are flawless. her thoughts, achingly honest. real.

for a while she dozes over the pages, the book slipping from her tired, 56-year-old hand. then i creak my chair and she awakes. “mochas are supposed to be caffeinated,” she adds sleepily, “but for me they’re quite soporific.”

my paintbrush slows; i turn. “soporific?” i ask. “i don’t know that word.”

“i learned it when i was in grade school through Beatrice Potter’s books,” mum says. “it means, to mellow. to make quiet. sleepy.”

soon, she’s asleep again, and the book falls to the floor. i sit remembering… being homeschooled by mum until grade 5. being taught a new word every day, sometimes five. becoming passionate about language.

cancer may be robbing her of her mind, but my mum still teaches me, every day. in a language more unspoken than not. in more ways than she’ll ever know.



  1. Teneale said,

    June 14, 2009 at 5:13 pm

    I love these quiet moments you have with your mom…and then with your thoughts. I’m beginning to understand why you are such a good writer. I love to read words, but I don’t have the same kind of passion or love to write them. I’m so glad you share them with us. Hugs.

  2. Lydia said,

    June 14, 2009 at 7:48 pm

    I really enjoyed reading this–your description seemed as real as the event. I thought of myself as the daughter and as the mother, the becoming and becoming again of relationship, the ways we shape each other–yours made extra poignant by circumstance. You’re generous to share these moments–thank you.

  3. Amy Pearl said,

    June 16, 2009 at 4:50 am

    Hey girl =)
    I haven’t commented on your blogs lately because I just really enjoy reading them and have nothing else to say =) lol
    I love Beatrix Potter books!! (but I don’t remember that word)
    I love you!

  4. Ann said,

    June 16, 2009 at 11:04 am

    And now she teaches us….
    Much love, Emily…

    All’s grace…

  5. Bernice Shupes said,

    June 16, 2009 at 11:44 am

    Your mom is so young! 56! My mom is 95 + ! So nice that you can visit with your mom. She must live close to you. Sorry to hear she has cancer. She must have no fear for I feel she must be close to Jesus. Visit while you can. My mom’s mind is not good any more. Be thankful your mom’s is! Be blessed today! You are such an inspiration to me, dear Ann!

  6. Deidra said,

    June 17, 2009 at 5:06 pm

    Oh what beautiful pictures I have in my mind of you and your mom. You are blessed, indeed!

  7. Debra said,

    June 17, 2009 at 5:50 pm


  8. GALINDA said,

    June 17, 2009 at 6:04 pm

    thank you so much for sharing the soporific moment with your mom thank you for sharing her love for caffeine filled mocha’s it was sophoterrific…thank you for sharing your love of words thank you for the opening of your heart your ears and eye’s i can see you caressing her hands while she sleeps may your lovingly filled memoirs of words and canvas never subside thank you , you help me to realize no matter the illness it helps to rest the spirit inside…

  9. June 28, 2009 at 12:27 am

    Em, this is so beautiful.

    I also learned that word from Beatrix Potter via Emma Thompson’s movie “Wit,” so it’s fitting and touching that you use it here.

    May blessings continue to be yours.

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