Mama's in the garden digging young, unwanted raspberry canes that are reluctant to let go their ground from the tangle of roots under the maroon leaves of the nine bark. From the bleachers, a.k.a. the back stairs, I watch the fierce battle between woman equipped with Trowel of Iron, Gauntlets of Tough-Ex TM (which are thorn resistant) and Poleyns of Blue Foam Rubber held in place by nylon web. The raspberry canes should be fearful.

Under the late August sun she digs up weedy clumps of soil, turns them on their backs, chopping and hacking them so mercilessly with the trowel that I wonder who it is she's really battling. Is it my quiet and withdrawn father or is it her friend, whose insincerity has troubled her so? Her own personal demons? Grown-ups have so much frustration over relationships, enough to break up the homes of the children they love, splitting brother from sister.

She stops to rest after her victory removing a small, black, coil-ringed journal from the plastic bucket of hand tools. She begins to write, first standing near the 'well-behaved' raspberries coaxed into their wire and wood perimeter, then sitting on the soil-embeded foam kneeling pad with its faded domestic scene of patio with chairs, awning and the ever-popular cliche potted geraniums, just like ours. How I would love to peek into that dark, dog-earred volume to see what she's been writing..... always writing. Who is she inside and where does the writing go, what does she do with it when it's done?

Every so often she blows away the strand of stray hair that sneaks into the corner of her mouth. This new shorter style, encouraged as an update by Mama's middle-aged friends, is not as practical, after all, as last week's shoulder-length locks of her youth, twisted up into a tight and efficient bun.

She shakes the clear plastic Bic and scratches the paper with it, wearing a hole.
"Honey, there's a pen on the kitchen table. Could you bring it out, please. And the lawn rake from the garage on your way back."

Dutifully, I fetch the literary tool –and then the lawn tool, grabbing a peach from the box on the patio table on my delivery route– the last harvest of the season before frost, not fully ripe but palatable enough. By Monday their yellow flesh will be sweet and dripping with juice, prime suspects for lockup in Grandma's old "Ball IDEAL" Quart Jars and the only two remaining aqua coloured "lightning jars" we use for good luck. The rubber rings are too old to seal the jars properly, so the contents of those two are called "the eaters". That's my favourite tradition, (ranking right after Christmas dinner).... releasing the wires and lifting the glass lid off that first quart jar of newly preserved peaches.

After taking another bite from the fruit in my hand, I place it on a clean-looking bergenia leaf near the edge of the flower bed and feign help by raking the lawn (albeit half-heartedly) while my eyes wander, looking for the Mysterious Disappearing Black Book. Sly woman, my mother, she must keep it buried in the soil !

Returning to the bleachers, I finish the peach and toss the pit under the low wooden deck. I imagine years from now a small stalk of a tree growing taller and taller each summer, alive with potential as it eases between the planks forcing them apart, stretching its branchy arms to be blessed by the sun and breaking the deck into bits asserting its desire for freedom.

I wonder about my Mother's freedom, or lack of it, and her potential. Had she not married my increasingly reclusive father and had me, their child, what would she have done?

The squirrels chatter as they run full speed through the bobsled channel created by the rail between our fence and the neighbors. They argue amongst themselves but mostly, they're angry with us.

Crows are cawing in the trees overhead, performing like the banshees of late October. They seem meaner than they were last year. Do they sense my Mother's frustration or are they simply possessive and we're in their territory... which incidentally, Mr. Crow, belongs to us! I throw a pebble to indicate ownership but it falls yards short of its target who is sogging a piece of white bread in the birdbath.

The bees who were drunk on raspberry wine a month ago have left, happily inebriated and are likely now dead. I don't know much about bees years. The only buzz now is a DC-8 on its way to the airport glinting in a beam of late afternoon sunshine. Mama looks up at it crossing the now overcast portion of sky. She always looks up and follows them until the atmosphere disolves body and wings. I wonder what she's thinking? About the people and their possible destination? Worrying that it will crash like the one on the news last week? Of escape? Where would she go? Paris or Athens? Maybe just Vancouver.

Mama gathers and hugs each bunch of iris leaves into a bundle and ties the plant with thick green garden twine. I stopped asking "why" when I was seven, at Mama's request. As I don't ever expect to have any iris leaves of my own, I don't ask now. I do know that 'her' mother tied the leaf bunches themselves into big, fat knots in the front garden of her pale yellow cottage in Marpole. I watched from the little wooden chair my uncle made, also pale yellow, eating fallen apples from my chubby child's hand.

"Gramma didn't do it like that."
"Yes, Gramma didn't do it like that," she sighs.

Double-negatives from last year's English class do a rag-tag contrapuntal march through my mind, wondering if they're in the right place but stop dead at mama's "Goddammit!"

"What??" , I ask, startled.

"Raspberries..." she says in a muffle, sucking the side of her left index finger.

Hhmf – 'Fucking goddamn raspberries' would make her finger feel better but Mama never uses the "F" word. She hates it with a passion. I remember the two-day in-house detention of my tenth year.

I walk over to her, "Do you need a Band-aid, Mom?"
"No, sweetie, I'm O.K."

The polish of her coral-pink painted nails is chipped along the edges and there's garden soil under them. An angry red welt is forming from nail bed to knuckle.

"I love you Mama."

Her eyes smile at me and small wrinkles appear from nowhere along with all the love of the generations of mothers before her.

"I love you too, honey."

She puts down the garden clippers and gives me a hug.