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Ian Ferguson's Mom

I think Ian Ferguson's mom should get an Honorary Leacock Medal for Humour.

The thought has probably crossed many minds because this woman produced and reared the winners of four (4) Leacock Medals.  Ian won the award in 2004 (Village of the Small Houses), and his younger brother Will picked up Medals in 2002 (Happiness/Generica), 2005 (Beauty Tips from Moose Jaw), and 2010 (Beyond Belfast).  Ian and Will, who have other creative  siblings, combined their inherited (or nurtured) humour in the immensely popular How to Be a Canadian.

The mother of all these Fergusons also warrants recognition as the only person to be featured in two Leacock Medal books.  She was celebrated with a chapter in Beauty Tips as well as throughout Ian’s book on his childhood in Fort Vermilion.   

But I am advancing the woman for an Honorary Medal because of her direct contribution to the writing of one of those books.

Stone's Throw Restaurant 
Ian Ferguson agreed to meet with me when I was in Victoria last May.  Over piles of comfort food at Stone's Throw restaurant on Johnson Street, Ian told me about the writing of his book, how it got its title, and how his mother shaped the final product. The book is about growing up next to a reserve in a remote, frozen town in Northern Alberta. 

Round the Corner at Russell Books - Victoria 

The pages this self-labelled “memoir of sorts” talks of times without indoor plumbing, consistent heat and electricity.  But Ian told me that his first draft included stories of even rougher days.

“Before publishing it, I gave the manuscript to my mom and others in my family to read over and check,” he said. “I expected her to come back with a few notes and edits, but she gave me her copy with a whole chapter and more struck out with a big line across the pages – she said I could share those stories after she was gone.”

Ian thought those passages made his mom look heroic and merely emphasized the challenges in bringing up her brood.  But he agreed and took them out.

“I’ve been criticized by some literary purists and pompous students for doing that,” Ian Ferguson said in a snorting way. “Yeah, right, like I’m  going to trade my mother’s feelings for some literary standard or book.”

Contrary to what some critics might say, I think, however, that Ian’s mother might have improved the book.  

I like it because it told the story of a rugged childhood,   in a sort of neutral, low-key Canadian way.  It didn’t go for over-the-top slapstick laughs nor did it, in my mind, overplay the hard times in a cliché that might have suggested victimhood.  Maybe, the book would have edged closer to the latter literary trap had those mother-edited passages been left in.

Like I said in my original review of the book, I liked it, in part, for the things that were not said, and it sounds like this is due to the woman who I suggest should get an Honorary Leacock Medal.

January 2016