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Powered by Love

I stood beside the semi-trailer flatbed he sat on, his legs swinging casually over the side. He had done well, owned a trucking firm. We shared stories. Your mother was a great teacher.” That comment came from this man I had just met while visiting my hometown several years ago.

“What made her great in your opinion?” I asked.

“When I was in grade seven,” he began, “because of overcrowding in the schools, our class met in a separate building. Mrs. Fullerton, always involved in drama or musical programs, one day took part of the class to another place in town for a rehearsal and left the rest of us, on our honour,” he stopped for a moment to add a chuckle, “to work on assignments. But, the principal came over to check and caught five of us smoking. That night, at home, I shook in my boots each time the phone rang.” He paused again but this time his sixty-some-year-old face wrinkled into a smile. “I thought for sure it would be your mother calling to inform my dad about me smoking. My father would have… well… I’m not sure… but it wouldn’t have been pretty.” Another pause as his eyes focused squarely on mine. “Your mother never called.”

He hopped off the trailer to stand beside me. “From that day on I had a new respect for your mother. She didn’t find it necessary to shame me or try to create respect out of fear. She shared her disappointment in me and left the discipline to the principal.”

Just recently I visited my hometown again, opened my car door on the main street, stepped out to be approached by a short gray-haired man. He asked my name. “I thought you were a

Fullerton. Yesterday I cleaned out some boxes in the basement and came across my grade

seven report card. Your mother’s signature embossed the card. I really liked her. She was my best teacher.”

What prompts former students of some fifty years previous to remember my mother kindly?

Mother was orphaned at the age of four and a half. Her father, left with six children, the

youngest less than one year old, in desperation turned to the Manitoba Children’s Aid Society. For four years Mother remained at a home with fourteen other orphaned girls and boys. At times she was “farmed out” to use her words to assist some family in need of extra help. There were some unpleasant incidents of abuse.

Bill and Beatrice Campbell, farmers who lived just west of Dauphin, adopted Mother in her

eighth year. Mother tells of a no-nonsense but loving time experienced with them. She had

chores to do, skills to learn, rules to follow, but also time to read, which she loved.

Intelligent, she was advanced from grade seven to grade eight. Many rural girls, of that time, after completing grade eight were expected to stay at home to help on the farm. Although Mother had two other younger adoptive siblings, Bill and Beatrice, proud of her academic ability, allowed her to complete grade eleven. She won the Governor General’s Medal and a scholarship for the highest average in northern Manitoba that year. She then enrolled in Normal School to become a teacher.

The Campbells were not aware of Erich Fromm’s book, "The Art of Loving" where he suggests the four elements of love—care, responsibility, respect, and knowledge, but they practised those elements intuitively. By doing so they helped a young girl overcome unfortunate beginnings to become a confident and loving person.

That strength and love she shared with all her students and her family. In twenty-eight years of teaching, she encouraged her students to dig deep, honoured their individuality, and chose not to humiliate them as a means of punishment. Is it a surprise that fifty or so years later those students remember her kindly?

Mother was more than a teacher; she became the mother of six boys.

After graduating from high school, I came to the city to earn money to attend university. By mid-July I recognized my expectations to enroll at United College would not be met at my present rate of earnings. At home for a weekend, I lamented my frustration with work and my epiphany I could not afford university come fall. My mother’s love for teaching, and me, prompted her to ask if I had ever considered teaching. That weekend she suggested I register for Teacher’s College. She would provide the registration and residency cost to be paid back when I began earning money.

All six of us boys felt her love in the evenings when she read to us: Black Beauty, Beautiful Joe, Lassie Come Home, Pilgrim’s Progress, Anne of Green Gables, and all the Sugar Creek Gang books that were available. We felt her love in the responsibilities that were expected of us, in enrolling us in summer camps for a week, and in the encouragement to take all the education, academic and musical, we could. We felt her love long after we left home in the letters written and the phone calls shared.

Mother’s love extended to her six daughters-in law. “I loved them as the six daughters I never had, she told me.” When marriages dissolved, Mother was there to support and comfort both sons and daughters-in-law. She never abandoned the girls.

I witness with delight the care, responsibility, respect, and knowledge my children have shown our grandchildren during the good and the difficult times of their growth and know the chain of love, begun on a small farm west of Dauphin, continues.

Erich Fromm speaks of a mother’s love as that unconditional love that hangs tight through all circumstances. It is that power of love we honour each year on Mother’s Day.

James Van Praagh, an American writer states, “Love knows no limits and can alter a person’s life forever.”


Fire and Iron

Read more from this Canadian Writer, Norm Fullerton, in his Fire and Iron book. A collection of short stories husband and wife relationship orientated. This Canadian book comes with printable book club discussion questions.

Inspirational Stories of Relationships

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