My mother, Patricia Primrose Lazell, was born in Grays, Essex, England, on January 16, 1924. She was the daughter of Harry and Ethel, and the youngest of three children. Harry was a longshoreman at the Tilbury docks, and was a handsome 6’1” to Ethel’s 4’11”. Ethel had had polio as a child and wore a special boot. I remember my mother saying something about how her mother was bitterly self-conscious about her pronounced limp.
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.
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.
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.
"I was an oddball right from the start - a really weird kid. I smashed all the neighbour's flower pots and smacked their newborn baby at age 3 - I don't know why... I guess I wasn't getting enough attention. I went across the street into the forest at 4, and picked bleeding hearts to sell door to door for money for my piggy bank. I faked sick from school, because I hated being harassed by bullies, and getting in trouble for colouring outside the lines." My mum - speaking about herself.
“Oh, yes, let’s, it will be such fun”, personified the way Patricia (Patsy to her friends) lived her life. Whatever she did, she did fully; whoever she talked to had her complete attention. She was a woman of great accomplishment and great passion. She died from complications of Alzheimer’s in 2004, as her mother had before her. I miss her tremendously.
Marilyn… I got your notice at a very synchronistic moment… and so I decided to splat on the page and send it off to you. It did cross my mind that my mother might not like the idea of her world being splatted on the page and sent off for someone to read… but then again I thought… to bear witness is to validate in some way and I think my mother has in so many ways not been validated… and so… dot, dot, dot… I will validate away.
Wilamina Becker, my mommy, was born on August 27, 1926 on a tobacco farm outside Momart, Saskatchewan. Her mother, Francesca (my namesake) had an incident with a married Scotsman in a barn when she was 16. Lots of mystery around the Scotsman. Anyway, to try to escape the shame surrounding this incident, Francesca’s parents moved the family to a farm in Surrey, BC.
My mother’s life divides neatly into chapters, but it’s far from an open book. I never know which details of her stories are richly embroidered and which are more or less told as they happened. An actress by nature and profession, she is a born storyteller. Any oral history inevitably reshapes truth as fiction, so when she said to me, “you don’t know anything about my life,” I assume she meant I understand only what she intends me to.