Guest post – To Sophie, my mother’s namesake

Julia’s mother-in-law and the Sisterhood’s second mother, Dianne, joins us again as a guest blogger. Check out her first post here

I miss my mom, some days more than others. It sneaks up on me when I least expect it. In the summer I think of her more than in the winter, her birthday was August 12.

I remember as a child listening to my mom. She was number five of 22. The reason that my grandparents stopped at 21? My Uncle Bernard was just a baby when my grandfather passed away. My mom was part of the first baby boomer generation; she was born in 1918, just after WWI. She was made of stuff you just don’t see these days. Her childhood was harsh, her life as an adult was no easier. She was beyond tenacious; she was stubborn. Sophie may have inherited this gene.

Mom talked about when my grandma gave birth to her twin boys. Born in the field, they were premature and too young to survive past a few days. They were kept warm in baking pans on the door of the wood stove. My mom talked about my Uncle Romeo and how he and my Aunt Yvonne had tied up all their siblings one Saturday morning while my grandparents went to market. Life in northern Ontario was an adventure, to say the least.

These were the easy stories to tell. She didn’t speak often about her relationship with her parents. My mom was outspoken; my sister inherited that gene. I guess Mom voiced her opinion one too many times for the liking of my grandmother and they parted ways. I didn’t see much of my aunts, uncles, cousins or grandmother growing up.

Following Malvina`s funeral, the Labine daughters

My mother and aunts after my grandmother’s funeral. Mom is third from the right. 1967

 

My uncles after my grandmother’s funeral. 1967

My uncles after my grandmother’s funeral. 1967

When my grandmother passed away I was 10 years old, the last of nine children for my mother. Through a series of circumstances, Mom was not allowed to raise her first five children. She was a divorced woman at a time when that was not popular. There was no Social Services safety net at the time. Mom had a Grade 6 education, not quite enough to financially support her brood. The bias of the time dictated that she was unfit. This judgement caused her to lose custody of her children.

After Mom married Dad, they had us four. I like to think Mom kept having children until she achieved perfection. Both my parents were married twice, but I couldn’t tell you much about my father and his first family as my parents separated when I was two.

What I do know for certain is that WWII was over, I was a baby boomer like my mom, the family birth rate had dropped by over 50% and we had become urban dwellers. We were sophisticated! Milk came in glass bottles and Aunt May’s Bakery delivered bread in a plastic bag right to your door.

Christmas 1961. I’m the cute one with the baby.

Christmas 1961. I’m the cute one with the baby.

My mom was the sergeant major in our army. She taught my sister and I that we didn’t really need to work hard in school, some day we would fall in love with a man and he would take care of us for the rest of our lives. RIGHT, because that worked so well for her.

She also taught us girls how to sew, cook and put away preserves. Today, I am thankful to know how to do these things. It has helped me leave my mark here. Everyone I know appreciates NanaJam.

Mom had old, outdated standards, as far as I was concerned. My brothers didn’t need to help in the garden, or to learn how to vacuum; that was women’s work. They joined air cadets, went to summer camp and skipped painting the house.

She fought hard for us and taught us a work ethic that carried us through our adult years. I remember my oldest brother was followed home by some rough kids. Mom met them in the back yard and hopped the fence to where they were. Angry words were exchanged, the police were called and the other kids left. We were a tight family.

Through time, we grew up and moved away. We found our careers, married and raised children. We have watched each other grow older. Mom passed away in 2005. She was 86 years old. If you look closely, you will find parts of my mother in each one of us.

Each of us is given a set of tools, things that will help us through life. We gather these tools when we are young, hone the blades as adults and use them throughout our lives. I look at the toolbox I have and compare it to my mom’s. Ben once said that my mom only had a flat screwdriver and a hammer in her toolbox, and that someone had broken the handle on her screwdriver.

I look at all she accomplished in her life and tried to imagine the battles she had fought. It’s true she was not educated, never owned property and died as poor as a church mouse. She used to say “It’s not a sin to be poor, just inconvenient all the time.” When asked what kind of car she drove she used to say she was the Lone Ranger without a horse. She never expected anyone to carry her, she only asked for fair treatment from a system that was learning compassion. She led by example and never expected anyone to do something she wasn’t willing to do herself.

One of the greatest things mom taught me was that family was first. Work is a means to an end. It is the way we support ourselves. Mom would say things like “You can love money all you want, but it will never love you back.” Friends are great, but in the end it is family that will see you through.

As I preside over my mini-dynasty, I hope that I have learned enough from my mom to be worthy of this position. It is with great joy when I look at my grandchildren and know that they will grow up with weird uncles, crazy aunts, goofy cousins and a Nana.

Mom was a storyteller. My sister says I have inherited that gene. When we gather as family for a BBQ or a birthday, to celebrate each other or just because, let’s remember to tell the stories that keep the past alive and help us remember where we came from.

~ Dianne

If you’d like to write a guest post and join in the Weather Vane Sisterhood fun, email us at weathervanesisterhood at gmail dot com. We’d love to have you!

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6 thoughts on “Guest post – To Sophie, my mother’s namesake

  1. What a great read and a lovely view into your past and art of my history. Grandma was such a strong woman and I will always look at the picture of her laying brick and remember that she worked so hard, she literally broke her back. What an amazing woman and role model, I’m proud to call her Grandma! XOXO

  2. Dianne has captured the spirit of our childhood and the struggles we watched our mother endure. She fought the system, family court, the mother’s allowance system and an ex husband who never contributed to keep her four.

    Sometimes I think she never stopped fighting. But she taught us how to fight too. For the important things. It was sometimes hard to see compassion in her, but it was there – no doubt at all. She fought for us the four of us and for the five she was denied to raise.

    She caused us to be successful in what we did. She is the single biggest reason for my success now. I learned from her.

  3. Thanks Dianne, really loved reading this and seeing the photos!! They remind me of pictures of me and my siblings, the likeness is hilarious. Really appreciate learning more of where we came from. It explains a lot when I think about all of us. We’ll have to come out for a visit soon. Take care.
    Love, John

  4. I love hearing stories. I love hearing stories about my family history. I feel like I can never get enough. I want to know everything that I can about out family. Yes, I do agree you do have this knack for story telling-which I do appreciate. I know I live far away, but my ears are always open to more stories.

    Thank you

    Much love
    XOXO

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