My mother is the smartest person I know. My father, with doctoral studies from McGill University, a degree from the Islamic University of Madina etc, knows I think this. I think he agrees with me.

She had to stop formal schooling in grade five in order to help care for her bed-ridden mother. She was a spunky child and when I look at her gentleness now, I can’t imagine some of the “terrible” things she says she did – like always waiting for her friends to check their work with the teacher first and upon silently seeing them get rebuked for wrong answers, quickly erasing and fixing her own similarly wrong answers; this way, she was always all correct when she got to the teacher. My mom did this? The one who would make us all walk with her for three long blocks right then and there to return an extra dime the cashier had given her in error?

I can’t imagine what she must have went through to emigrate and adjust to a new country. A cold country – as she arrived in the middle of a Canadian winter. The first time she woke up and saw the white landscape of a Montreal snowstorm, she thought the Day of Judgment had arrived.

We sometimes sit around and laugh with my mom about all her misconceptions in those early days – with my father chortling the loudest. She laughs along and provides the best lines but when my father can’t get his breath from laughing so hard, she quietly turns around, smiles a knowing smile and says the same thing, “what about the egg coupon?”

My father stops laughing at that point and usually exits to read in his library. Then we laugh at him and the time he was send to the grocery store to buy a carton of eggs using a coupon from a flyer. My mom told him to cut the coupon out and submit it before paying. He came back from the store saying he couldn’t understand why the cashier hadn’t discounted the price. He had done as he was told and produced the coupon for my mom to prove it: he had neatly cut exactly one round egg out of the picture on the coupon and handed it to the incredulous cashier. He’s never lived that one down.

Now, my mother reads books and newspapers fluently, attends classes every week, understands complicated financial things which my father (and I) don’t and increases her understanding of the relationship between nutrition and health by researching/reading/discussing at such depth that her young grandchildren are convinced she was a doctor before she married my father.

I’m just convinced, from a lifetime of experience, that she’s the smartest person I know.

A Simple Love Poem

there is
the earth
but it’s not
when you’re
standing on it

it is
small and flat

i can see

there is
this smile
i still remember
from the
first time
i saw it

wide and deep
inside out

there is
this hand
freckled, supple
in motion, soothing
stirring, stroking,
in motion

soft and generous

your spirit

there is
this soul
but it’s not

you spill it

it is
light and a light

i see
my way
by it
– commonplacer, 2007