When put together, the threads I have of my mother’s life resemble a kind of open woven fabric, a shawl perhaps – a few bright strands with lots of holes. Still it's comfortable enough to wrap myself in and even find some warmth.
Elizabeth Howison – “Betty”, was born in Deadwater, England on October 17, 1927. Born a twin, she had a brother, Donald George, who died at the age of six weeks. On his death certificate it claimed “failure to thrive”. I think my mother always felt guilty for being the strong one.
My mom, Dorothy Elizabeth Hodgins (nee Dodd, yes she was Dot Dodd), was born in Fort William, BC in the 20's. One of four kids, her closest sibling was my aunt Shirley who was only one and a half years her senior. They were perfect sisters - total opposites - perfect partners in crime. Shirl was brash and beautiful, whereas my mom was the sweet, innocent one. Shirl's nickname for my mom was Doe. Appropriate, I always thought, because my mom had big hazel eyes and resembled a doe.
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.
JANE DIXON-WARREN: def: power tool wielding feminist laced with irrationality, tempered with practicality, sprinkled with theatricality but no sentimentality.
Diana Madeline Jane Bushby (aka Jane) was born in London, UK on JANUARY 25 1935, the 2nd child Stanley and Ruth (aka “B”) Bushby.
When I was seven years old my mother had dinner with the Queen. When I saw her in her evening gown I was quite sure she was the most beautiful woman in the world. She wore a yellow taffeta ball gown that showed off her shoulders and diamond necklace. On her feet she wore glass slippers with diamonds in them just like Cinderella. Over top was a deep purple velvet evening coat. My father wore the full dress uniform of a Canadian Mountie. That memory of my young, beautiful and glamorous mother with her handsome prince has always dazzled me, especially after I found out she was so frightened that night she could barely eat.
Ada Stoute (nee Moore) was born August 14, 1935 on the tiny island of Barbados in the West Indies. She was raised with her 2 brothers (O’Neil and Cameron) and 2 sisters (Ina and Etheline) in the county of St. John’s. Her mother died from cancer when she was around 11 years old, I think. Her name was Winnifred. Her father lived to a very old age. Despite being the youngest in her family, she left Barbados when she was about 18 years old for England, determined to work and bring her brothers and sisters to live with her. She left her first born daughter, Julie, with my father’s mother. In those days, this was common practice. There were no paternity tests; the child was given the once over by the family and if the child resembled the father, that was that. First she sent for my father, Randall Stoute, and they were married in London. Then, one by one, she brought her brothers and sisters and daughter to England. Her second daughter, Angela (me), was born in England, June 19, 1963. Her youngest daughter, Susan, was born August 10, 1966 in Toronto.
How do I know my mother’s life? From memory? Perhaps from anecdotes she relayed during our long walks to and from the grocery store. Still other parts feel sewn into me, as if she deposited them into my imagination for safe keeping.
My mother, Hilda Margaret Hardie (née Salter) was born May 24, 1914, in Manchester, England. She was the first born of Maggie and Alfred Salter. Maggie was a housewife and Alfred a leather artisan who specialized in violin cases. She grew up in a row house on Milton Street, in the area of Manchester captured by the long running soap opera, Coronation Street.
My mother. She was born in Edmonton in 1929, the youngest of three sisters.
Her name is Doris Elaine (I can't think where these names come from) Gregory. Her father, Len, was a plumber and her mother, Leone, had been a nurse. They met prior to the First World War and decided to hold off marriage until Len came back - “just in case”. He came back, they got married and started their family. Len was from England, Belpur, and had come to Canada with many of his 8 siblings.