Running home in heavy rain as a youngster, I noted, while passing a small black lady on our street, that she was wearing a raincoat just like mine. When I got home, soaking wet, I found my mother had given my raincoat to that lady who had been visiting her at our home. Mother made the point that she had told me it was going to rain and I should take my raincoat. Since I did not think I needed it, she had given it to someone in need.
That was mother’s approach to charity. With six kids to raise by herself in downtown Toronto, it was a while before I got a new raincoat.
I remember my siblings and I making jokes about mother over the years because of her childhood in Chicago. The least of the jokes was that if a black family moved in next door, mother would start packing. It could not have been further from the truth. She would have been the first at their door with a casserole. We children said that was cruel—mother was not a good cook.
My kid brother and I were the youngest and we got the brunt of her training in tolerance. She was rising quickly with her growing company and would occasionally accept dinner invitations from co-workers who wanted to show off their ethnic cooking.
I remember the first time she took two of us with her to dinner with a Hindu family of the mother and two children. Her kids looked on wide-eyed as my brother and I enjoyed what they considered as routine. In our honor, the lady served apple pie for dessert. After we left, we told mother it was two thumbs down on the Indian apple pie.
But, living in Toronto in those days, as it transitioned to becoming a truly metropolitan city, we learned tolerance, acceptance and good food. How can you hate someone after a decent dinner together? The experiences also taught us that there was more to life than mother’s overcooked roast beef, boiled potatoes and canned vegetables.
Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry
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