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.
All my life there was an unanswered question, a lie about my birth. It was a riddle that no one would answer. 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.
18 Apr Kay Rea’s story of KathyThere 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.
18 Apr Irene Young’s story of ClaraMy earliest memories of my mother Clara are of a petite woman who never stopped moving, from the moment she woke until well past supper. She was always working, whether it was cleaning the house she shared with her husband Theodor and four children, or shopping for groceries, sewing clothes, cooking meals or baking cookies or pies for desert after dinner. Whenever I complained as a child that I was bored, she would offer me a broom with which to sweep up the dust or some other chore that needed to be done around the house. Clara was born in 1924 in the village of Garlita, Constanta, Romania, the second child of Emma and Gheza. Emma was the eldest daughter of Magdalena and August Frank, owners of the village flour mill. The Frank family had a comfortable lifestyle and would have been considered middle class in their tiny community close to the Black Sea. Gheza was a handsome, swarthy professional electrician who met Emma when he moved into the community to work at August Frank’s flour mill.
My mother, Rosa Faria da Silva Torres, was born on July 7, 1923, in Moreira de Geraz do Lima, Viana do Castelo, Northern Portugal, in a community so small they called it “the place of the street”. Her family were landowners with properties that required many workers. She was an only child, but her mother was the oldest of thirteen children, so Rosa grew up surrounded by many relatives. Rosa was a happy child with short, black, curly hair, running through her father’s fields, while the ladies worked on what would soon become their delicious “green wine”. She loved to dance during the harvest celebrations and sing during the long winter nights, when the family sat around the kitchen fire, embroidering the linen and chatting.
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.
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.
Unfortunately, by the time I had grown enough to consider my mother a person in her own right, she had already died. I now have so many questions and there’s no one left to ask. One of nine children born to German parents living in what was then known as Prussia, my mother, Louise Tabbert, was born on August 30, 1920, the seventh born but the sixth living. From what I’ve been able to piece together, the family, although not wealthy, were able to live a fairly comfortable life working their farm. Then the Red Army began its plundering march to expand Russia’s territory. The army helped itself to things of interest; then burned and slaughtered the rest. My grandmother’s pleas must have fallen on generous ears that day, because the entire family was spared. Traumatized and with no means to continue as before, the impoverished group picked themselves up and fled southward.
My mom was born Allison Jean Swift in Moosejaw, Saskatchewan, on November 28, 1914. Her father, Arthur Swift, worked for the Canadian Pacific Railway and mother Ethel worked in the home. They lived not too far from the station, in a small house with a porch and yard. Mom was an only child. Just before it was torn down, Mom and her dad went to the old railway station and liberated a beautiful carved table that was going to go for scrap. It was her pride and joy, with a hand carved pedestal and four large curved and carved feet on wheels. I have it in my dining room today, and it always evokes memories in me of her clandestine adventure. Arthur Swift died on November 27, 1930, and Ethel died on May 17, 1937.