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A Note from Betty's Daughter

I am Betty’s daughter. How wonderful and daunting to be raised by this woman.

It was the two of us. As a young child I was reserved, introverted, and quiet. My mother’s opposite.

There is a photograph of us; I was probably five or six. I am looking up at my mother who is emoting—mouth open, eyes wild. I can’t remember what she was on about. Betty & Ruth

The look on my face is one of awe. I was so careful to protect my emotions and put on a brave front. Yet here was my mother, letting it rip! I was proud and afraid at the same time.

My mother taught English literature at Simon Fraser University from 1965 until her death in 1983. In the late sixties, early seventies, SFU was an epicentre of protest—against war and other injustice. Many of her students were hippies. Several came to our house. One later became my Uncle Nelson.

I felt special to be in the midst of this activity. All of my friends had moms and dads and sat down to meatloaf dinners. I was being serenaded by longhaired beauties in capes. It was magical.

My mother wrote constantly. I awoke, most mornings, to the sound of typewriter keys clacking in her study above my bedroom. Today when I see an old typewriter on one of my thrift store outings, it stirs that place of comfort in my heart.

I think that is what my mother meant when she wrote on November 4th, 1983 , “what is the final demand in life?—more and more and more nostalgia” on a piece of paper as she lay dying of cancer. She was writing about how our hearts are warmed when we are reminded of people we love.

Today, I am a mother too. I now understand my mother when she said she felt more a part of humanity after she had a child. Motherhood has been such a gift and has changed me for the better.

As a daughter, I know a part of my heart will always be broken. I love and miss my mother so much and the yearning and loss have never diminished. We would have been such great friends and she would be out of her mind with love for her grandson.

I recently took two of my mother’s manuscripts, found during a move, to the SFU Special Collection library where her papers are kept. It was just after her birthday and I was missing her more than usual. I decided to park in a different lot than usual, which meant I’d have a bit of a walk to reach my destination.

Ruth & EvanAs I made my way toward the library I spotted a white Volkswagen—circa 1970—pulling up to a stop sign. This was my mother’s vehicle of choice for as far back as I can remember. Seeing that car on that day made me feel so connected to my mother and to the University which was the setting for many of our outings together. My heart felt warmer on that day. I felt nostalgic.

Thanks to my cousin Lee for creating this website and for helping to keep my mother’s memory alive. I look forward to showing my son just what a special and talented woman his grandmother was.

Ruth Anne Lambert

October 2005

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