In the 1920's, every Sunday, Eliska Kadlecova, her brothers and sister would take walks with their father through the streets of Prague. He was an engineer and taught them the history of the buildings, the architectural styles and the myths that make Prague what it is. Eli, my mother, loved her city and thought she would never leave.
My favourite photo of my mother, Elisabeth, was taken in 1954, in Ceylon, just before she was to be presented to Elizabeth, the newly crowned Queen of England. My mother looks so happy and, as I have always remembered, beautiful. It was the most special event of her life. Born to Herbert and Ethel Jarvis in 1916 in South Croydon near London, Elisabeth was the eldest child, followed by her sister Mervyn and brother Geoffrey. Her father was a public servant for the local council, and her mother had trained as a violinist and, before she was married, even joined the London Symphony Orchestra. However, when Ethel’s mother died in childbirth, Ethel had to leave her career to look after her seven siblings.
16 Apr Jane Torresan’s story of JoJosephine Mary Ellerbeck (nee King), affectionately called Jo, was born in England on January 16, 1915. She was an only child and as an infant emigrated with her parents to Winnipeg. I never knew why. They had a very troubled family life. Lots of arguments, fueled by alcohol, led to a chaotic environment. Mom remembers being locked out of the house in her nightie in the middle of winter. Eventually her parents separated, and, when Jo was five, she and her mother Joyce traveled to Vancouver.
The Macedonian village, Zeleniche, under Greek rule, welcomed the birth of Vassilka Shikleff around 1915. She was the third of four children born to Magda and Ristos Shikleff. Their eldest child, Alexandra, would thirty years later bring Vassilka to Canada. Their second eldest, brother, Turpche, would be cut out of her life when she learned how he had neglected and abused their mother. Her youngest brother Yanni . . . yeah, well, Yanni . . .
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.
Driving home to the farm one summer day in 1968, Mother spotted a small dog at the edge of the road by her turnoff. She rescued this lost puppy. It became apparent after several phone calls that it had been abandoned, so Pip Squeak (aka...
Momma, Carey Margaret, was born in 1914 in Memphis, Tennessee. Her mother was married to a man who, at 65, was 30 years older than she. There was already a sister, five, and a brother, nine. When she was two, her mother died of tuberculosis. Her father, feeling he could not care properly for the children, put them into an orphanage and visited them regularly. The institution served both as a foster home and an orphanage. Momma thinks she may have one memory of her mother – of someone with red hair (like her own) leaning over into her crib. After three years her father moved the children to a different orphanage. He told them he did so because he realized, when he visited the original one, that he had not heard children laughing. In fact, one of the ways children who wet the bed were punished there was to be plunged in a large tub of freezing water the next morning.
16 Apr Esther Chase’s story of LeahOur little house on Hoskins Road in North Vancouver was one of the first cabins built in the old-growth forests of the North Shore. There in the kitchen sat my mother – jet-lagged from her long flight from Australia, holding my newborn daughter in her arms, cooing and muttering a mixture of Yiddish and Hungarian blessings over her first precious grandchild. I was stunned by the vision of the immense cultural changes we three women had witnessed. My mother had grown up in a small village in Czechoslovakia, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. They had no electricity; she never learned to ride a bicycle, let alone drive a car! And here was her grandchild on the threshold of a fantastic, unimagined digital age. My amazing mother had lived to see this earth-altering shift, which meant surviving through two world wars and the Holocaust.
Mom was born in Peterborough, Ontario, in 1909, second child to Michael and Margaret, and sister to older brother Emmett. Eleven more siblings would arrive in this wholesome Irish Catholic family, five sisters and six more brothers, but not until they moved to Vancouver in 1912. Michael provided a comfortable living for his large family with his lifelong career as a respected agent for the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company or, as the family teasingly called it, Mother Met. In Vancouver Mom was enrolled in the local school, Tecumseh Elementary, at 41st and Joyce. She enjoyed school. In reading, writing and arithmetic Mom fared well. Art was the challenge for her. One day, after handing in her assignment, a drawing of a book, the teacher looked at it quizzically and asked, “What is that supposed to be?” Blushing, Mom took back her picture and from then on seldom tried the art of drawing.