There was great excitement in London and New York the day my mother was born. Not only was March 7, 1926 the day the world heard the first transatlantic telephone call, but the inhabitants at 27 Annie Street in Sunderland, England, heard the first cries of baby Gladys Kathleen Bainbridge.
Kathy made her entrance into a family that did not expect more children. Her seventeen-year-old sister Lilian helped the local midwife with her delivery. Adored by her often absent father, Kathy was raised in a very strict Victorian manner by her mother. Four years later, another surprise, her sister Audrey was born. Read the rest of this entry »
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 »
My mother, Julia Mary Lorenz Neher, was born on October 31, 1920, in Bukovina, Romania, the illegitimate daughter of a 21 year old peasant girl named Theresa Paul. Before mom’s birth the Paul family were making plans to immigrate to Canada, specifically southern Saskatchewan, where mom’s grandfather had established himself some ten years earlier on a homestead near Wood Mountain. Their immigration process took longer than normal, because Theresa’s sister Rosa was disabled, and the Canadian government forbade invalids to enter Canada without proper documentation. The government also required that the family produce a signed petition guaranteeing that the Hungarian community would financially support Rosa. Read the rest of this entry »
“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 »
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 »
My mother, Eva Miller (born in 1918), died in 2010. She was 91. For three months after her death, I talked to her, I really did. I asked her how she was, and her response, “I’m fine,” was typical mother speak. When I pressed that mother voice about the afterlife, the response, both simple and complex, was “Unfathomable!” Strange that she spoke so eloquently while dead, but while alive had so many secrets.
Mom was an extraordinary woman. Born on a farm in Chatham, Ontario, she was a direct descendant, through her mother, of the United Empire Loyalists and natives who fought against the Americans in the American Revolution and War of 1812. She was an iron butterfly and endured where others would have faltered. Read the rest of this entry »
She was an only child and as an infant emigrated with her parents to Winnipeg. I never knew why. They had a very troubled family life. Lots of arguments, fueled by alcohol, led to a chaotic environment. Mom remembers being locked out of the house in her nightie in the middle of winter. Eventually her parents separated, and, when Jo was five, she and her mother Joyce traveled to Vancouver. Read the rest of this entry »
Pauline Olivia Verigin was born on Dec. 11, 1904 on a homestead in south eastern Saskatchewan, near Tisdale and Star City. She was the first child of newly immigrated Russian peasants Anna and Peter Verigan. Her father was truly disappointed she was not a boy to help with the harsh farm existence they were facing. So five years later when her brother John arrived on the scene , followed in 2 more years by brother Peter, she was virtually relegated to the dictates of the three men in her world. Pauline was the maid, chief kitchen and household servant for the family from an extremely young age. She also worked in the garden and looked after the animals, including cleaning out barns and coops and milking cows. Read the rest of this entry »
With few facts and fewer memories, it is not easy to paint a comprehensive picture of the totality, the gestalt of a person. Be that as it may, the following is an attempt to present, as clearly as is possible, a straightforward, honest depiction of my mother, unclouded by sentimentality and bias. These are the facts, as I know them, as pertain to my mother’s life. Let the facts, few though they may be, speak for themselves.
Note: as this is not my story, but my mother’s, I use the pseudonyms Dor for my mother, and Demo to denote my father out of respect for their anonymity. As far as I know, they are both still alive and would prefer this. That my father is being as forthcoming as he now is about mother and the details of our lives together is a truly wonderful thing, and I thank him for that. After a life of denial, it can’t be easy, and is testament to his good character. Read the rest of this entry »
My mother, Nancy, was born in 1931, the second youngest of 12 children, the eighth daughter among nine sisters, raised on a sprawling farm in West Saanich on Vancouver Island. Her father, a peasant from southern China, arrived in Victoria in 1907. After settling on small farm he rented, he asked a friend if he had a sister he could take as a wife. But the promised sister was frightened at the prospect of marrying a complete stranger in an even stranger land, and her family, desperate to honour the arrangement, turned to an older sister, my grandmother – already considered an “old maid” at the age of 21 – and asked if she would go instead. At 44, her husband-to-be was more than twice my grandmother’s age; he was 61 when my mother was conceived. Read the rest of this entry »