Celebrate Our Grandmothers
My first notion for “They Came’ emerged when I was a kid and discovered that some women I knew didn’t have first names.
The United Church minister’s wife was Mrs. Adams; the librarian, Mrs. Day. The woman across the alley from us was Baba (Ukrainian for grandmother) Yewchin. The woman who peeled potatoes with me at my first part-time job in the hospital kitchen was Baba Slywka.
Most of the women on the cards in my mother’s red recipe box didn’t have first names. Mrs. C.A. Johnson’s Ginger Snaps. Mrs. MacDonald’s Bridge Mix. Mrs. Doctor Ross – Food for the Angels. Widow Denovan’s Oatmeal Cookies.
I knew my mother’s first name: Barbara. I knew other women had first names, because my mother called her friends, Helen, Donna, Neva, Grace.
The day I realized I didn’t know the first names of either of my own grandmothers was the day I began specific research for “They Came”. Starting with my own family, I was shocked to discover collective memory sketchy when it came to my grandmothers. When I questioned neighbours, friends and acquaintances, I discovered the same scarcity of information about their grandmothers and great grandmothers. But about fathers, grandfathers, uncles and sons, people had many, many stories.