Minnie Zelda Izen, was born in Vancouver on June 8, 1916. She was the first of three children from my grandmother, Mary, who had been orphaned as the result of the pogroms in Lithuania. Mary was sponsored by an aunt to come to Vancouver at the age of 15. She was subsequently married off to the first man who came knocking, William Izen, who had been born in Poland. Mary didn’t love him. Her heart was set for a cousin in Seattle but that was not approved.
My mother was a product of her upbringing. The stiff upper lip, a legacy of the British Empire, was left behind even after independence and it became the trademark of my mother’s parental home in Madras, which is now known as Chennai, a South Indian coastal city in the state of Tamil Nadu, India. Stoic, hardworking, frugal; her family was among the ones who appreciated the finer aspects of art by way of music, playing musical instruments, art and craft. Movies were one among the list of taboo topics and books were meant to educate and elevate the brains and not meant for entertainment. The family lore goes that my affluent grandmother was one of the few children who had a perambulator. She was a genteel lady and often used the word, ‘cultured.’
My Mother Niranjan Kaur Flora was born in the town of Ramghar Punjab India, on July 12, 1941, the second of four girls and one brother: Jaswinder Kaur, Niranjan Kaur, Gurbax Kaur, Jasvir Kaur and Mohan Singh. In Sikh families all girls are named Kaur as all boys are named Singh.
I think the word that describes my mother best would have to be resilient. No matter what happened in her life, she found a way to bounce back and get through it, or around it, with persistence and determination. She was never a whiner or complainer. My mother was born Sophia Petronella Pauw in Dordrecht, in the Province of South Holland, the Netherlands on March 24, 1918, the eighth child and seventh daughter of Rudolf Pauw Sr. and Sophia VanStokrom. An older sister had died at the age of 6 months, another sister and two brothers came after her. She was named for her mother and nicknamed Fia. The family moved to The Hague when my mother was about nine years old.
Simone Grenier was born on December 13th, 1930 in St. Prime Quebec on a dairy farm, the fourth youngest in a Catholic family of 11. She had her father Antoine’s brown hair and eyes, a light sprinkling of freckles and just the slightest gap in her front teeth which would later be replaced by dentures. Her graceful features came from her petite mother Mathilda. During the week, Simone and her siblings walked to the local schoolhouse. In winter, they wore moccasins made by her father and thick woolen socks knitted by her mother. The entire family attended church every Sunday travelling by horse and wagon. Mathilda and Antoine encouraged their children to be proud and cultured. They were to speak well, dress well, and to contribute to the community.
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.