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!

Happy Father’s Day, Pai

Our handsome daddy

Our handsome daddy

Daddy – in honor of Father’s Day, we took a little stroll down memory lane and found some of our favourite photos from days and moments spent with you. What we found were so many laughs, so many adventures, so many full, full bellies and so many memories made.

Dad, we love you and can’t wait to come spend the day with you to celebrate a day in honor of who you are to us – all while making new memories with you.

Happy Father’s Day, Pai ❤

Love, your girls ~ Julia, Toni, Jacqueline and Andreah

The story is Jacqui punched Andreah... Right?

The story is Jacqui punched Andreah… Right?

Avô

Avô

Fishing with dad

Fishing with dad

Summer trips

Summer trips

Graduation ceremonies

Graduation ceremonies

LONG ass road trips... To B.C.!

LONG ass road trips… To B.C.!

Hikes and adventures

Hikes and adventures

Birthdays

Birthdays

Always surrounded by women...

Always surrounded by women…

Stroll on the beach days

Stroll on the beach days

More celebrations

More graduation celebrations

Finally gaining some balance with the male/female ratio

Finally gaining some balance with the male/female ratio

Still loves his time with his girls though

Still loves his time with his girls though

First visit at the new house

 

Sisterly similarities

I like thinking about similarities. Things that are the same in every family, things that are the same in friendships, finding the lines that run parallel with each other throughout everyone and everything. Some similarities I have stored and keep with me. They are the similarities that run between me and my sisters. I have noticed that we have small traits that are very similar; they are the things that keep them close in my heart when I’m having a long day, or when I’m sick and need to remember connections to home.

Jacqui and I grew up at the end, so when we were little we spent a fair bit of time together. Whether or not that was because we wanted to actually spend that time together is uncertain, especially when you have a strange younger sister like me (I am an odd one), but we have some similarities that I think are strange. We both wash dishes in the same stance. One foot is curled up and resting against the other leg in a strange way, but I noticed it at Lillian’s birthday party. It made me smile quite a bit, cause I thought I was the only one. Another one is our need to change things around – we both like reorganizing and moving our furniture around. To the outside world it may seem like we are not happy with the placement of things, but for me I just like a fresh start every once in a while, and it gives me a new timeline of memories when the furniture is placed in a certain way.

Now Toni and I have something very similar within each of us, but we deal with it in very different ways. We both have the same anger and frustration that brews inside. Toni has a better grasp on hers, and I can’t seem to actually construct coherent thoughts with mine, but sometimes when I am seething angry I think of Toni, what she would do, what I would do, and then I find a middle. Toni and I also love music. Every chance I get I listen to music, whether it is kitchen dance parties, or writing the blog post for the week, designing things or editing photos. It helps set the pace and rhythm of whatever I am doing. That and dancing is just plain fun, even if I do look ridiculous.

Julia and I have very few similarities in the way we act, and our personalities, although I looked up to Julia constantly in my formative years as a role model. A couple things I have noticed are small things. We both curl the same leg up first when we sit, and we both have a crazy array of facial expressions. That and we have been mistaken for twins, which I think is awesome.

I like keeping these small traits I share with my sisters close to me. When I’m doing my dishes, I hear Jacqui’s laugh, her amazing full-bellied laugh. When I’m dancing around, I can see Toni’s cheeky smile. When I’m reading or watching a movie or playing a video game with Joe, and I curl my leg in, I think of the movie nights past where Julia has done the same thing, squishing into the couch to get comfy.

We all have different lives, and different things that make us so wonderfully unique, but I like having the little things that remind me of my sisters, and remind me that even though we are different there are hundreds of ways we are always connected.

I love you guys, and I am missing you terribly!

~ Andreah