Let’s face it. How many mothers do you know who can throw a perfect pattern of kitchen knives into the wall? Who won and lost a couple thousand bucks (and a fur coat) in a single night of poker? Captured by Hitler. Branded a traitor by Stalin. A Red Army soldier during World War Two, she had half a dozen alias’s. But in Saskatchewan, to this day, everyone knew her as Agnes.
Despite the horrors of war and deprivations beyond the imagination of her children, grand-children, and all the rest of the Spicers’ to come, Agnes had a powerful, unquenchable zest for life. She swore like a trooper, relished a good stiff drink, and loved her children with the fierceness of a real Russian bear. Only five feet tall, she was formidable.
A legendary cook, known to all the travellers along the Number Seven Highway between Saskatoon and the Alberta border, she once declared she would never let anything get between her and her food again. My father, Eric Spicer (pictured below) remarked to friends she always sat with her back to the wall, where she could keep an eye on whoever came through the door. That’s a story I learned only today, as people in Saskatchewan respond to the CBC interview that played across the province this morning. A detail like that is an important clue into a puzzle that mystified me and my brothers for an entire lifetime.
Who was this Force of Nature we called Mom? Are there other stories out there? I am on a detective mission to uncover “the missing thousand days of my mother’s life” during the War. The story is picking up an international audience on-line. This morning, a chilling note from Ukraine from someone who knew my mother:
“For your sake, I hope you do not find the answers you are looking for.”