The weeks that separate the dry winds of summer from the relentless howl of a prairie winter are few and pass quickly. This is when my mother was born into a world falling headlong into the Great Depression. On October 4, 1930, Shirley became the last of four children born to Rose and Ernest French of Herbert, Saskatchewan. Her mother always called her Shirley Ann and it wasn’t until she applied for a passport in 1977 that she realized that she had no middle name after all.
My mom, Miyoko, was born in Kishiwada city in Osaka, Japan on April 28th of 1934. Her mother was Mitsuko, 28 years old, and her father Jitaro, 44 years old. They also had a 7 year old daughter, Emiko, and a 3 year old son, Akira. Her father was an internist at Momoyamab Hospital in Osaka and her mother stayed at home to take care of their children.
My mother was born Nov. 28, 1933 in Camp Lister, BC on the farm which was built by her parents, Margery and Fred Powers who had emigrated from England. She was the middle child, having a brother, thirteen years older and a sister, four years younger. They were among the original settlers in the Creston Valley and it was a very hard life. The farmhouse was a small, very basic building with a kitchen, living room and 2 bedrooms with no electricity until later years. My mother shared one of the bedrooms with her younger sister, Betty, sleeping in a double bed. The house was heated by a coal stove which also doubled as an oven. The bathroom was a wooden outhouse, and potties were used at night. Washing and bathing was done in large galvanized tubs.
It’s fortunate for our family that when the Rev. Alick Trendell of London, England, applied to work as an Anglican missionary, he was given a bulky beaverskin coat and sent to Alberta, Canada. For there he met Etta Wood – artist, schoolteacher, and one of this country’s first female hockey players. Three days after they were introduced, Alick proposed; four years after that, in 1936, my mother was born in Wetaskiwin.
My Mother Mary, no, not baby Jesus' mother, but my actual mother, who goes by Mary, told me that when she was born in South Africa, her parents asked the attending nurse to name their baby girl because they only felt confident giving her a Chinese name. So my mother was given the name she has used most in her life…by a stranger. Perhaps, in that moment when my grandparents placed that heavy responsibility upon her, that nurse raised her eyes to the white ceiling or a fluorescent light bulb in that hospital room, and she prayed for Jesus' guidance. And maybe in that nurses' heart, He spoke to her excitedly, in a moment of inspiration, “Hey, how 'bout after MY ma? Mary!”