My BFF from childhood, her mother died yesterday.
The house where I grew up on a quiet suburb of Winnipeg was surrounded by Borodys. Literally.
On the south side was by best friend Carol-Ann and her mum, dad, brothers and a dog, Binks. And on the north side of our house was her grandparents, Mr. & Mrs. Borody, Senior.
Our front lawn was a path from the one house to the other. Which proved to be an interesting dynamic. Like the time when one Borody adult was chasing one Borody child across our lawn with “The Board of Education”.
Two families growing up, side by side, for years.
Leaning over the fence between our driveway and Carol-Ann’s house, our mothers would gab for hours. The regular kind of stuff that new moms share. I can imagine the joy, “I’m pregnant again!” “Oh my, so am I!”. The two mothers birthing one after the other. Within a couple of months, my older brother and hers, my middle brother and hers, and then we two, born within 3 weeks of each other.
Mrs. Borody was so different from my mother. Didn’t your friend’s mothers always seem cooler than your own mother?
I thought Mrs. Borody had more fashionable clothes. She played Bridge. Didn’t she cook more interesting food? She played golf and travelled. They had liquor in their house, my folks were tea-totlers. Their house was nicer than ours, and a full two-storey.
But I was totally scared of her. She spoke with a forthrightness that wasn’t normal in my family. She was part of that “Mothers Who Know Everything” club. Even until a couple of years ago we would laugh about that time when she caught Carol-Ann and I buying too much candy at Parkview Drugs across Portage Avenue.
Mrs. Borody was the consummate neighbour, the kind of neighbour everyone wants and needs. Who else would have been there at 6AM when we needed someone to take a picture of our family leaving on our monumental journey to live in California?
Our mothers rescued each other more than once for many things, like water leaks, Hallowe’en costumes, borrowing an egg, and boosting the car in winter.
Births and deaths. Tears were shed. Shoulders were there.
Mrs. Borody graciously hosted a neighbourhood bridal shower for my older brother’s bride-elect. Her own son Richard, the same age as my older brother, was tragically killed in a motor vehicle accident when they were both 18 years old. How bittersweet for her.
I will never forget that summer day. The day Carol-Ann’s brother died.
Richard and Doug, two lifelong friends separated forever. How Mrs. Borody bore that grief was an education to me at age 12.
My whole life Mrs. Borody has remained a touchstone to my roots. I would enjoy getting my mom and her together long after they had both moved away from the old St. James neighbourhood.
Then when Parkinsons-like of symptoms robbed Mrs. Borody of her vitality a number of years ago I saw her decline from a stately woman of tremendous will and forebearing to a helpless shell who could no longer speak. It was tough to witness.
But her eyes still shone with remembrance.
I could never bring myself to call her Helen. It was always “Mrs. Borody”.
Rest in peace Mrs. Borody.