Which side does the flower go on anyway? Mother's Day on Change Islands

Red Carnation

The United Church on Change Islands

As the sun broke through my window stirring me from my sleep this sunny Mother's Day morning I was encouraged to rest awhile, to bask in the glory of a morning for sleeping in and being pampered.  My thoughts flitted as I lay there, like the shuffling of a deck of cards and I pulled an ace.   I was transported to a time of little girls in pretty dresses on a long ago mother's day.  I remember my sister and I excited about doing our "parts" down at the United Church on Change Islands.  I was a small girl in her Sunday finest,  in a kitchen of half drunk cups of tea while my bustling mother got us ready for the Mother's Day Program.

"Which side does the flower go on?  I can never remember.  Left for boys, right for girls or the other.  Gotta call Margaret or June, can't remember from one year to the other."  My mother would say every year and every year she was right in her guess whatever it was.

On mother's day we all wore a red flower(carnation) in our dress/lapel.  I'm not sure if this was a Newfoundland tradition or a Change Islands tradition. I believe it might be world wide but I'm too lazy to google.  Like all traditions, there are regional variations anyway.  I'm pretty sure everybody wore one though, men as well as women, boys as well as girls.  The flowers were fake of course, nothing bloomed yet in Notre Dame Bay in May.  And there'd be a big search for the container and then someone would get stuck with the pin and it was a big scrabble to get us all rigged out but it always happened and it was always glorious! 

A white flower was worn for those whose moms had passed but in those glorious days, both my parents wore red Mother's Day flowers in their lapel because both my Nan's were alive.  For all the worrying about the weather Change Islanders do, I remember sun on every mother's day.  I wonder why, for surely it wasn't always shining that day!

I grew up Anglican.  In a sense.  I was baptised Anglican because my dad was Anglican.  And I was confirmed Anglican when I was 11 by Reverend Ford(bless his heart) and that's all I know about being Anglican except for weddings.  The Anglican Church didn't have a Sunday School. 

My maternal grandmother was Salvation Army and was a young people's Sergeant Major in her church.  I did for a time attend their Sunday school but I wasn't soldier material.  Most of my memories are of attending the United Church Sunday School with Aunt June, who lived next door.  Every year on Mother's Day they had a Mother's Day Program.

It happened at the church,  not the Sunday School which was a separate building. The United Church is a beautiful building with two aisles and a balcony.  It overlooks the main tickle and smells like old wood and ancient fabric.  It has arches and a steeple and it echoes with memories and voices of a century of worship and history.

The Mother's Day program was part of the regular Service with hymns and prayers but all of the children would have memorized recitations and parts and would recite them to the congregation.  It was a BIG deal.   The recitations all rhymed and they were all dedicated to our mothers or mothers in general. 

Sometimes if there were 5 verses in a "part" then 4 children would go up together and say their "part" and then the last verse they'd all say together.  Sometimes you got to go solo.  I don't remember ever doing that.  I think I recall being there with my cousin Ellen and my sister Marie. 

The littlest kids always stole the show with their tiny two-line recitations.  I remember little boys in too tight suits climbing on the big chairs that were on either side of the alter.  I recall moms or Sunday School teachers walking with the shy kids to give them some support.  I have memories of somebody prompting a child whose lines slipped from their memory like a rolling marble, the trepidation in their eyes fading as the forgotten line was whispered and recollection dawned.  Sometimes we had a prop to go with the verse.  I remember none of them specifically but I have a collage of memories of almost everyone I know saying a part at some point. 

But I remember, most of all, Mrs. Morgan.  She led the Sunday School all year and every year in her finest she was there on mother's day directing us.  For a long time I thought she wrote all those recitations that we  spoke!  How impressive!  Seriously, and to come up with new ones each year was incredible.  Ironically I always hoped  I could learn to rhyme like that when I grew up!  I think I was much older when I realised they came from elsewhere, old enough that it made sense and I wasn't disappointed.  I think I was relieved that she didnt' have that kind of  pressure on her!

And though she didn't write all the words, she was integral in all our lives.  All of us of a certain age from Change Islands remember donning our finest and heading to that service on the second Sunday in May.  All of us remember that it came together seamlessly due to her guidance of all us students.  The Sunday school teachers were a dedicated bunch too, but it was Mrs Morgan who was the heart of the day.  Her clear voice is as vivid in my mind now as though it were happening in this very moment.  She was mother to the Mother's Day Program and mother to the Sunday School all year long.  And I(and I'm sure many others) appreciate her very much. 

I'm here alone now.  Writing this.  None of my kids are here yet but there are presents and cards and hugs and kisses to be delivered shortly.  And I will appreciate every moment. But I myself long for those simple days of lacy dresses and nervous giggles, wiping mud of our pretty new shoes and whispering in the vestry about this and that.  I wish my children had those kinds of memories. 

Traditions are the cornerstones of the solace of memory. Traditions make a family.  Traditions make a community  Those precious moments made an imprint on all of us and is one of many of the things that makes all of us Change Islanders appreciate and feel bonded to each other.  The common memories, the special times, our traditions that generations shared and only now appreciate.

Happy Mother's Day to all, but particularly the mothers on or from Change Islands and especially to my mom, Alice Parsons.  Happy Mother's Day to my daughter Alyssa who is celebrating her first mother's day.  To all my wonderful Aunts and cousins who are all amazing moms.  And to Mrs Morgan who made an impression on all of us with her warmth and constant motherly love, Happy Mother's Day to you as well! 

Happy Mother's Day
Carolyn R. Parsons


Sheila Kelly said…
Love it..you really captured my own memories of Mother's Day on Change Islands! :)
linda peckford said…
Great job Carolyn. Really enjoyed your story and it brought back many memories for all of us who experienced those days.
Tonya Hoffe said…
It's funny you say that Linda because almost all my Sunday School memories are of you!!
Great post Carolyn!!
Lucky you Tonya..getting the best teacher ever on Sunday too!