My Secret by Eric Walters
My mother died when I was four.
When a parent dies when you’re little, you’re filled with all sorts of things: confusion, sadness, anger and a sense of shame. Somehow they ‘left’ because you weren’t good enough, or at least, you weren’t smart enough to figure out how to keep them around and alive.
Growing up this was my ‘secret.’ People could know me for years without knowing that fact about me. Things like Mother’s Day–and the insistence of teachers that you make ‘Mother’s Day Presents’ were like small forms of torture. Unintended acts of unkindness by teachers who weren’t trying to be unkind in any way, but just didn’t know. I was always good at my secrets.
Losing one parent puts you one parent away from being an orphan. You worry about that parent, you panic when they are a few minutes late, you imagine the worst and plan for what you see as inevitable. I got my first job at ten–delivering groceries–and used that money to buy a tent, a sleeping bag, a back pack and a bike. I had chosen a spot in some brush by the railroad tracks where I could go and live when my father died.
The word ‘mother’ was almost like a foreign word to me. It wasn’t until my children were born and they started saying ‘mommy’ that the word became part of my vocabulary again.
You always invest parts of you into your stories. I guess there were many parts of me in this story. I think I know what it would be like to be an orphan. And maybe that’s at least part of what drives me to do what I do in Kenya.
Recently named a member of the Order of Canada, Eric Walters began writing in 1993 as a way to entice his grade-five students into becoming more interested in reading and writing. Eric has published ninety novels and picture books. He is a tireless presenter, speaking to over 100,000 students per year in schools across the country. One of his most common themes involves the Canadian heroes featured in his novels and helping students to become aware of the greatness of their country. He lives in Mississauga, Ontario.For more information, visit www.ericwalters.net.