Category Archives: Canada
May 10th, 2016
Simone Grenier was born on December 13th, 1930 in St. Prime Quebec on a dairy farm, the fourth youngest in a Catholic family of 11. She had her father Antoine’s brown hair and eyes, a light sprinkling of freckles and just the slightest gap in her front teeth which would later be replaced by dentures. Her graceful features came from her petite mother Mathilda.
During the week, Simone and her siblings walked to the local schoolhouse. In winter, they wore moccasins made by her father and thick woolen socks knitted by her mother. The entire family attended church every Sunday travelling by horse and wagon.
Mathilda and Antoine encouraged their children to be proud and cultured. They were to speak well, dress well, and to contribute to the community. Read the rest of this entry »
February 20th, 2016
Florence Jeanette Thompson was affectionately named “Shorts” or “Shorty” by her tall, charming father, Monty. She was, however, anything but short on spunk, impeccable taste or witchery intuition. Her life was a musical score that captured every mood and timbre. Pretty and blue-eyed, she loved to sing, dance, play the piano, and listen to the birds. She was quick to say, “No” and quick to say, “Yes”. She used baby talk and straight talk. You could talk to her; she didn’t mince words; she’d always surprise you. She lived in tiny backwoods cottages and grand mansions. She lost everything she owned and decorated homes with a credit card carte blanche. She lavished gifts on her loved ones. She had a doggie named Midge and one named Sir Salishan. She loved oatmeal, warm ovens, Coca Cola. Read the rest of this entry »
October 20th, 2015
While many memories of my mother remain blurred—a wisp of her smile or a single note of her laugh—the one thing I recall vividly, are her hands; her long slender fingers, nails finely manicured and always polished in frosty, neutral shades. And while a picture does not often reveal itself in full, the image of Mom’s hands—whether lifting a coffee cup to her lips, baking, gardening, playing piano, decorating the Christmas tree, or tucking us in at bedtime—are always clear in my mind. Read the rest of this entry »
April 19th, 2015
My Mom, Mary Quon, never had what people would call an easy life. Her parents moved to Canada from China during World War II. My grandmother was pregnant, and Mary became their passport baby when she was born here in 1942. My grandparents had met in China, became business partners, and eventually husband and wife. They owned and operated a hotel in Vancouver on East Hastings (a.k.a skid row), frequented by prostitutes and drug addicts. Read the rest of this entry »
April 19th, 2015
Molly Jacobs was born in 1940 in St. Paul’s Hospital, Vancouver. She was the fourth of nine children born to Lena and Alfred Jacobs. Through his family, Alfred was a Hereditary Chief of the Squamish Nation. Alfred was a longshoreman, and they mainly lived on Capilano Reserve in North Vancouver. Her mother had been taken out of residential school after a nun hit her, and so as a child she was home to listen to the cultural teachings of the elders. She was given four ancestral names, signifying her as the keeper of many Squamish stories and traditions. Read the rest of this entry »
April 19th, 2015
My mother, Martha Brown, was born on the 8th of May 1928 in the family home in Langley, B.C. She is a petite woman with what was once very bright red, curly hair, and lots of freckles. She is still affectionately called “Red” by my Dad.
My Mom was the fifth of nine children, and when she was born, her mother, Violet, was 26 years old, and her father, George, was 46. All of the children were born at home and lived until adulthood, except her sister Thelma, who died of pneumonia when only a month old. My Mom was born during the middle of the night and was delivered by her father, as her Grandmother and namesake, Mary Martha, who was a lay midwife, was unavailable. Read the rest of this entry »
April 18th, 2015
When I started writing my mother’s story, it didn’t feel right. When I changed the story to be in my mother’s voice, it worked. The facts became clear, and I was able to understand how she may have looked at her world. My sisters and I were very proud of our mother, who passed in 2008. She was our cheerleader and never wavered in her support of us. I hope that I have done her beautiful spirit justice. Here is my mother’s story as I imagine it, in her voice.
My name is Beryle Maxine. I was born on October 9, 1927, in a rural community outside Ottawa, Ontario. My mother, Jenny, was eighteen and unwed when I was born. Her parents had both passed and she was living with her brother, but had no means to support me. She took a job on a farm, working for the Mackie family as caregiver to Granny Mackie, an invalid. Granny Mackie had two grown children, Florence and Borden. Aunt Florence was a teacher at the one-room school house in the community, and Uncle Borden ran the dairy farm. Read the rest of this entry »
April 18th, 2015
My mother celebrated her 90th birthday with a cruise through the Panama Canal, reclaiming her first married name (Clark), writing a resume on her new iPad and taking a job as an executive assistant. They say Capricorns are late bloomers, and although she has always been a trendsetter, Violet seems to have been born to show me how it is possible to be resilient and graceful through significant change
On January 14, 1921, Violet Jesse Rourke was the 9th child born to Edward and Effie Rourke on their farm in Little River, on the outskirts of Quebec City. She was the only one of her ten siblings to be birthed in Quebec’s Jeffrey Hale Hospital. Perhaps it was because two of her sisters had died as babies before Violet that the doctor was taking precautions. It’s certain that she was given extra care to make sure she survived and thrived. It may also be this “special” status that paved the way in later life for her role as the family matriarch. Read the rest of this entry »
April 18th, 2015
“Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, hold the horse ’til I get on…”
(Mom’s chant one day, at age 56, during a particularly intense episode)
1919: Gwendolyn was born in Brandon, Manitoba, youngest of eight children.
- Her mother was 45, didn’t want another baby, and so didn’t speak to her husband for two years.
- Mom’s father traveled a lot selling farm machinery. Read the rest of this entry »
April 17th, 2015
Violet Alice Marks was born on September 15, 1918, the eleventh of fourteen children, to Katie and Sam Marks in Langbank, Saskatchewan. She slid into the world so quietly, her mother said, “I will name her Violet.”The midwife replied, “With those big brown eyes I’d call her Susan.” The name Vi stuck, but she would soon prove that she was no shrinking violet.
Mum writes in her autobiography: “My first memory was being out in the moonlight with my brothers and sisters, looking up at the moon and the stars. The night was warm; we ran, romped, and squealed ecstatically. It was then I realized I was a person.” Read the rest of this entry »