Ma Mare lived alone.
Little house in Penetang.
Built by her sons.
Raised seven kids by herself;
nurse at psychiatric hospital.
Wouldn’t say what went on.
Whispers of experiments, another time.
She always tended to her garden—
even while nearing a century.
Went to church, church with bells.
Not all roots displayed on window sills.
Her children would be ruining
what little opportunity they had,
Afterall, it was my grandfather who
knew thread and needle; who
left grade school for hard labour.
One image from the kitchen of that little house lingers:
When my grandfather and his mother kept
making strange utterances one evening.
He noticed my countenance,
smiled and said,
“It’s weird French.”
And so, a braid of tongues began to unravel.
Throughout my childhood, I was frightened by this small woman’s
piercing presence and doubly intense doggedness.
It wasn’t until my last visit to that little house
that I realized where my mother gets her pluck.
My mother, who called my great-grandmother Ma Mare, and
made her tourtière each Christmas Eve.
I recoiled at the taste when I was young—
I didn’t understand savory nor crumbling, paper-thin crust nor
But now, I reach for what’s passed down,
twisting with time, as it spirals;
Ma Mare buried among roots;
braided among mutts.
I’ve seen the checkered tree
in the old Catholic cemetery, and
I want to know its trunk; its branches; its leaves; its fruit; its bark.
And, I want the nest retold, laid bare.
First Christmas alone
I made tourtière.
Jason Spencer’s journalism has appeared in a variety of publications, including The Mississauga News, where he previously worked as a staff reporter, as well as the National Post, Quill & Quire magazine, and The Toronto Star. Originally from Ontario, he now lives, works, and makes stuff in Victoria, BC.