Since I am about to become a grandmother, I have been thinking about mothers specifically and mothers generally. Here I want to introduce you to some of the mothers in my family.
I never met my great grandmothers and in fact I don’t have any photos of my paternal great grandmothers. We tended to lean towards my maternal side, so I do have a photo of my grandmother’s mother, Rose Ellen White Meadows. Her father was a tea merchant in Toronto and she married George Meadows, who was an upstanding manufacturer of forged iron items (I remember a photos of my grandmother in an iron crib he was selling and he made the fence around Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto). Rose Ellen has five children and then became an invalid, probably to avoid having more children. They were basically raised by Auntie May, who was a spinster. My grandmother, Marjorie, was the youngest of the five children.
Marjorie Harriet Meadows married Chick Stone (who I have already written about) and had two children. She was actually my favourite grandmother, probably because like most wives, my mother was not greatly fond of her mother-in-law. Marney, as we called her, had become a dental assistant in her youth and as a widow worked in a library. She was a widow for more than thirty years. I know she wore a corset her whole life, which became an issue in the nursing home she moved into. I am sure she wore it until she died. She loved books and passed that on to all of us. Even in her later years when she was basically blind, she would get books on tape.
My other grandmother was Julia Currey. She was born in the same year as Marney, 1897, but unlike Marney, who grew up in Toronto, Julia grew up in New Brunswick. Her brother went to the Farquharson School in Toronto, which is how she met Jack, her husband. Nana was a phys ed teacher in her youth and in her later years was an ESL teacher. She also was a widow for almost 50 years. She too liked to read, though it was usually sort of strange books about which she would offer her opinions. Her mother, Mary, was a very independent person and I remember Nana telling us that she had driven with her five children (older at this point) from NB to Florida in a Model T. Nana always walked with a limp when I knew her because she had had a botched hip surgery. However, although she walked with a cane, it did not slow her down much. She went to Europe for the first time when she was 69 and did exercises every morning. When she visited she would bring cod liver oil and make us take it and she introduced us to brewers yeast as a supplement and tongue sandwiches ( yuck and yuck, though now I like a different kind of brewers yeast). She believed in vitamins and healthy food, well into the ‘health food’ trend before it became a trend. She was almost 99 when she died and was ‘absent’ the last three years. The second last time I saw her, in a nursing home, she had a book upside down on her bed that she was reading. The very last time I saw her, she kept looking at my brother as if she knew him, since he is the one who most resembles out father. And the only thing she ever said for about two years was ‘Please put me to bed.’ A fizzling end for a strong lady.
My mother was Dorothy Joyce Stone Farquharson, the older daughter of Marney. She was a tall sort of gangly child and woman, 5’10” with big feet and hands and long arms. She met my father at the YMCA in Windsor, got knocked up and had to marry him. I did not know that until she took me aside when I was 18 to tell me that no, they had not married in 1949, but in 1950. She trained as a nurse and wanted to be a physiotherapist, but she had to go home to help take care of her dying father. She worked as a nurse for much of her life, so I heard a lot of nurse stories while I was growing up– making me not wish to be a nurse. Joyce had four children in five years, two girls and two boys. I am the oldest. She stopped having children when the birth control pill was invented. She was a stoic person who loved reading, a love which she passed on to us girls at any rate.
And I am a mother of two children, a girl and a boy. Since I was divorced when my son was two, I spent several years in a custody battle, from which I ended up being the visiting parent, which was frustrating. My kids spent every other weekend, scheduled summer weeks, and every other Christmas with me. However, that did not prevent us from having some adventures. When they were each 15, they decided to live with me in Portland, Oregon. I taught in Japan for a couple of years, during which I visited often and they visited me. Then a few years later, I moved to Turkey, where they visited and had more adventures. While they were growing up, I got my masters degree and became an ESL teacher, which I did for about 25 years. In fact, I went to Turkey to be the director of a language school. My daughter visited me in Turkey a few times and my son visited once and then came back to live with me for several months. Now I am in Canada waiting to get a green card so I can go and live near my daughter, who is expecting my first and possibly only grandchild. I will be the nanny. I am still not sure what I will be called, as I don’t want to be called Nana or Grandma. One friend suggested Nanamo and I am also thinking of Grammo.
So now my daughter is about to become a mother. It is an incredible adventure. I worry about it because it seems that many parents are smother parents and children are given little freedom. I hope my daughter can buck that trend.
A special group of mothers deserves honorable mention here. The day before my daughter was born I went to the first meeting of a mothers group. I am not sure how I was invited, except that pregnant mothers to be are fairly obvious in the small town I was living in. we met periodically, first with our babies and toddlers, with more coming for a few years. Every year we would go away for a weekend without our kids. Over the years our conversations changed from baby topics to the joys of adolescents, to marriage and divorce, and then to menopause. A few members drifted away and two died, one recently from Alzheimers. However, when we get together nothing has changed. The mothers are different, with various professions and interests, but we all get along and respect and cherish our friendship.
Mothers make the world go ’round. We do most of the work of raising our children and providing them with homes. I appreciate the strength of my great grandmothers, grandmothers, and mother and I hope I have passed on that strength to my daughter as I become a grandmother myself.
Happy mothers day to all you muthas!