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.
Gladys Ina Marie, my mother, was born April 26, 1916 in Sarnia, Ontario to Emile and Emma Burge, their 4th child and 3rd girl. At 18, Emile had emigrated alone from Sweden, courted and won Emma, a 2nd generation Swede from a large family in Bay City, Michigan, who initially shunned him because of his accent. Together they moved to Canada. ‘Papa’ was a traveling lumber salesman for years; then operated a Shell gas station beside their house.
I am writing to you and about you on my birthday. My first birthday with my daughter. I am surely blessed. Where do I start?
I just want to tell you I miss you. You would like Sapphire Mignon. When she smiles at me my heart explodes and all is perfect. All is as it should be. How did you feel when I was born?
My mom, Margaret Veronica Cahill (known as Peggy to her friends), was from Dundas, Ontario. I’m not actually sure what year she was born, but the date was April 8th, making her a feisty Aries ram. It must have been in the mid...
"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.