Well, I’ve never been able to do that. There is no photographic connection to my past on my mother’s side. When she was young her father built a large house. He was working in the mines bringing home good money and he built Beatrice, his wife and my grandmother, the home of her dreams. Memories are vague as I was very young hearing the stories but for some reason I remember the house being grand enough to support a back staircase and I believe she told me they would run up one staircase and down the next and get hollered at for the doing by her no nonsense father.
Then sadness. A neighbour was burning brush or something to that effect and a spark landed on the shake roof, ignited and the house went up in flames. In the ash lay my grandparent’s wedding pictures and pictures of their children. There were never any photos to see, at least not any that my mother had in her possession. For me the albums only started when she moved to Mahone Bay, met and dated my father and then married. Any photos from her youth taken after the fire stayed behind in Springhill.
After the house was leveled by the fire the family moved in with my grandfather’s mother, Sarah Olsen, I think that was her name, we called her Gran Olsen. It was a much smaller house with space at a premium for a large family. As a child Gran Olsen looked ancient, exacerbated by a broken nose from her youth, that left the bone crushed and skin wrinkled and dimpled. Any kind of anomaly can concern a child and for me it was frightening because she was also aloof and unfriendly that painted unease. On the rare times she left her room, I hugged my mother’s leg and peeked out from behind her skirt at this strange looking woman. She never seemed to like me or children for that matter, never spoke to me or cared to know us. I think I remember mom saying she was crotchety, that she gave her mother a difficult time for the intrusion on her life. But in return, grandma looked after her until she died.
We children were nuisances in her house, something to be seen if absolutely necessary but never heard. We were told to be quiet, hushed and tiptoed on egg shells as not to disturb her. A couple of times her door was ajar in the morning and I peeked into the forbidden space with apprehension as if it was a gateway to evil and then scurried down the stairs as if the devil were on my tail. My imagination was fine-tuned as a child, a well-practiced pastime in which my toe was no stranger to dipping in dark pools. Remember my story about an obsession with death starting at age five? I was an anomaly in itself. My nanna’s love and warmth made up for any angst the strange, old woman caused me. Springhill was the best place in the world as a kid. All my cousins were there and both sets of grandparents. Best part of my childhood was visiting that old mining town, a two week exciting holiday that dulled, in comparison, the rest of my existence.
I was chatting with a cousin Marjorie on FB the other day. My Aunt Bea recently passed away, the remaining twin of my mother’s older sisters. We started talking about the past and realized we were both confused at the sequence of which our mother’s siblings were born. She thought my mom was the oldest but I thought Ralph and then the twins were older. We came to the conclusion that my mom was a year younger than the twins but we weren’t sure where Ralph fit in.
That’s when a photo of three Olsen girls popped up in the message box. My mom was easy to spot because the young girl in the photo looked exactly like me. It shocked me in the most pleasurable startle. I have a photo somewhere in almost the exact pose and the faces could be interchangeable. I’ve been raised hearing I favoured my father but now I’m not so sure. I think my flat head, skinny legs, thin hair and wit results from dad’s input; but my facial looks definitely link to my mom. Something in me is very pleased and proud to have found this visual connection to my mother who passed away over 25 years ago. As I get older I reflect more about my parents and think how wonderful it would be to talk with them for just one day, even an hour, heck I’d kill for five minutes alone with my mom and dad! Ask all the questions I need and want answers too, tell them I love them; let them see their girl is doing fine.
So I give big thanks to my cousin Marjorie for sharing this wonderful picture! The two gals on the pony are the twins. I was so enthralled with looking at my mother I forgot to ask her to put names on the twins. The girls weren’t identical but I wouldn’t want to venture a guess which one is Beverly and which one is Beatrice Marie (Bea), but if hard pressed I’d say the girl in the rear is Bea but that's a 50/50 chance of being wrong/right.