A Few Charms (Banner)

A Few Charms (Banner)

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

An unfortunate nickname for an unforgettable woman

My mom passed away just over seven years ago. Over the last three-and-a-half years, I have been collecting charms that reminded me of my mom, that represented special memories, or symbolized things I'd learned from her. Writing about her and sharing the stories behind these charms has been, and continues to be, part of my grieving process. It's also a way to keep her close to me.

When Mom was first diagnosed with Alzheimer Disease I bought a rubber bracelet from the Alzheimer's Association with their symbol, the forget-me-not flower, and the words "Unforgettable." I wore it until it fell apart. It seems appropriate somehow that I can now wear Pandora that represents "Unforgettable Moments." This will be the first in a series of posts about this bracelet in memory of my mother. I call it “My Unforgettable Mom – Her Life in Charms." Or M.U.M. for short!

The amethyst zinnia clip and the fish bones charm
One of the most amazing things that my mom did was write out our family history dating back to the sixteen hundreds when the first Leonard (my mother’s maiden name) emigrated from the UK to North America. After the American Revolution the Leonards left New York and came to Canada as Loyalists (loyal to the crown). They settled in the province of New Brunswick, founding the town of Leonardville on Deer Island. My grandfather Charlie left St John, New Brunswick to work in Cape Breton, where he met his wife Rowena. My mother’s birth (and I suppose her ancestry) is represented by this zinnia clip with her amethyst birthstone. My mom grew up to be a true Cape Breton storyteller. In 1999 my mother, who was then legally blind, dictated stories, which she named the “Leonard Family Tales.” These stories (and photos) are about her parents, and about the life - and antics - of she and her three younger siblings. These stories are precious to us now - my brother and I, and our cousins.

Check out the car ferry! The old-fashioned swimsuits.
And my grandmother wearing her boyfriend Charlie's uniform
My grandparents on their honeymoon.

My mother's first photo album with photos from her childhood
When I first saw this retired “fish bones” charm I knew I had to have it on this bracelet. After my mother died I found her first photo album with this picture of her (below) labeled “Fishy.” That was the nickname she had as a child, as did her two younger brothers, Harry and Walter. My Aunt Edna, 14 years younger than my mother, for some reason escaped this moniker. The East Coast of Canada has long relied on the fishing industry and my great-grandfather and his brothers established a fish processing company in 1878 which they named Leonard Brothers, with branches in St John NB and in Montreal. My grandfather continued this tradition in Cape Breton where he owned and managed the fish market down on the pier in my mother’s home town of Sydney - hence his children’s unfortunate nickname of “Fishy.”

Verna (left to right) in her pram, with her mother Rowena, and in her woolen snowsuit

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