I ended up thinking about this place today. I sat with my children, as we do on Sundays, ate a meal and shared stories and as they left and I find myself alone at the table, I feel a certain sadness for the passage of time. Sundays with Gramma meant a blade roast, cooked slowly, all day long. Sundays meant cartoons with Grampa on the sofa. I’m grateful for my family and the memory of places that remain in my heart. If you are in my family and have a photo of yourself on this front step, please forward it to me, so that I may include it here.
They lived off of the front of a woolen mill, the only one in all of Western Canada. The evening we arrived at the Magrath Wool, Card and Spinning Mill, was the first time I had ever met my grandparents. It was a one bedroom apartment with a curtain strung for a bedroom door. To the right of the front door was a small office with papers and invoices heaped high on a huge oak desk. Some old black and white photographs were pinned to the bulletin board.
To the left, a living room opened up, with a sofa set before a half wall that was easily called the Wiley Coyote-Couch because every evening after work, Grampa would sit for the cartoons with as many grandchildren as possible nestled around and about him. The half-wall revealed on the other side, the kitchen where most of the visiting would happen. My Gramma was the nucleus of this portion of the home. I still remember her, without dentures, eating a slice of white bread slathered with butter and sprinkled with white sugar. The sound of her laughter and the appearance of her crinkled face stay with me.
Deep into the living room was a second sofa, this one was a pull-out bed. My parents would sleep there. Beside the sheers on the living room window, grew a huge Christmas cactus, dust woven in and out of its myriad of branches. There was a small electric organ in front of the same large picture window and Gramma would play Aura Lee and Going Home and make my father weep.
The evening we arrived, Gramma met us all at the front door, squealing. It seemed my father held onto her forever. She had one of those cover-up aprons on, more like a duster…it was covered in golden flowers and was as soft as can be. Grampa was called in from the mill…Gramma called him, lovingly, Jack. Whenever he made his way into the kitchen from the mill, his first gesture was to lift his suspenders up and over his big shoulders. When he smiled his eyes always filled with tears, it was just the way it was. He smelled of this wonderful scent of raw wool and wore little pieces of grey and white fluff in his hair and on his clothing. I loved these two with my whole heart.
The sight of my grandparents for the first time, was indeed, a little taste of heaven. Having lived on the move so much, it was those memories that I would grow to hold onto and keep in the treasure box of my soul.
Somewhere in our interview, Auntie Eleanor told me that she received names from both of her Grandmothers…Mary Eleanor Haddow Moors and Mable Burrows Elliott. Eleanor Mable, of anyone, brings to mind my own Gramma Moors. While our time was so short, I have to say that I absolutely loved having Auntie Eleanor all to myself. It seems that when families get together, they are all about LOUD and CRAZY…so much food…so much laughter and fun. On Tuesday morning I reveled in having quiet conversation with this dear dear soul.
For a zillion years, Auntie Eleanor and her beloved husband, Uncle Ted, hosted our family reunions. There was always a campground bustling with fun of every sort, a family program in the afternoon to show off just what an insanely talented family we have, big meals and candy toss. So many golden memories come from our family reunions. In the days of being a wee little thing, my most precious recollection is of our Grampa Moors sitting on a chair all by himself…his huge family sitting perfectly quiet in front of him on the grass. His eyes watered with his smile…he tapped his toe…held both hands on his knees…his racing cap on…looking out upon his family…and sang Froggie Went a Courtin’. He knew all of the words.
John Moors Hanging With a few of His Crazy Grand Children
Auntie Eleanor told me that she didn’t remember much of anything. Hmmm…funny…as we connected with one another she spilled out all sorts of little narratives. It was pure magic. That evening, I slept out at the farm…all alone with Max. It was funny, but at the same time frightening because it was dark and perfectly silent. I wanted to go out and buy myself a snack, but I was afraid to leave. As I write, this sounds ridiculous. My second cousins, Kecia & Mack and their beautiful baby, Maverick, delivered chips, dip and a can of pop and just hung with me for a while…that was awesome!
When they left, I took photos of the photos on the walls. I felt surrounded by the spirits of my ancestors…very powerful experience indeed! Thank you, Auntie Eleanor. I love you.
George Elliott and Mabel Burrows Elliott
My Great Grandfather, John Moors
My Great Grandmother, Mary Eleanor Haddow Moors
This…from my beautiful cousin, Margy…daughter to Auntie Eleanor…a treasure to me in my deepest soul…this free write is something that she wrote ages ago. I cried when I first read it, but it sort of captures what happens when our family gathers. While the shape of our family changes over the years as we lose precious members and gain so many new babes, the love remains the same, forever.
Tents, trailers, cars and campers, sleepless nights, babies screaming, pancakes in the morning, soothing. eggs, bacon and parade, duck pond, and the creek, stinky suckers float on by, laura screams, we’re all insane.
Family in one space, generations multiplied by genes of persons past, I don’t wonder anymore, your ears, your lips, your skin. Aunt Ruth, always here, feelings, love, connections, Our family made from all that’s good and all that made us strong. move over now, get me cake, this program will be long.
God has made us one, you have my eyes, energies, blood that pulses through our veins, we are the same, different, strong, loving arms embrace, come and sit, you are so beautiful, sit down, spend some time.
pains, children, love, divorce, disease, wisdom, who is who? great aunts and uncles, getting old, sadness seems to flee away by memories of love, hope, hearts and blood flows through our veins, with all the world we stand apart, brought together by our hearts.
how is it that we fit so well? friends are in, so are we, they feel right, everyone will it better, united, open, fresh and new, old ones, young ones, blessing on the food,
dig in, bottomless pots of heaven sent. salads, salads, feed my sheep, in a line we go to graze on carrot cake, barbeque beef, Mom exhausted, wouldn’t have it any different. chinese salad, pasta too. Baked beans, grandpa, chocolate cake, belly ache, fruits and greens, bowls of color, left over food, feast continues far past noon.
Kids with tap shoes, clogs and strings, made up songs they will sing and family grins, French, english, hip hop dance, pride, laughter, sweet, kind, upside down on the table, puppets talking, let’s go on, parts and pieces glued together, flexibition, poetry, babies sit on grandma’s knee, Aunt Jackie holding two or three, there’s jamming in the kitchen
Here’s the show, the drums, the sticks, music played, with energy, and laughter fills sacred air and hence the divine, togetherness, thrill of thrills, here we go, old times, gay little eskimo, a froggy went a courting go. sit still, quiet say the mothers. tradition has it place.
rodeo and competition, candy throw, run and play, peanuts for our uncle bob, coffee on, he drinks the pot. cousins, sisters, aunts and uncles, grammas, grandpas, brothers, hope you make it, distance time, life beginning, life change and happens, who is sick? and who is able? what age are you now,? heart to heart, eye to eye who’s your Father? never mind, I see it in your smile.
Now stand quiet, hold it still, seems the same, just new faces, children, family, other races, permeates, with resounding pleasure. Cecil’s boat, and strong wind, take it home, no fun again. disappointed children.
freedom to be who you are, who’s your partner? who’s the star?, who affords such a car? circles, squares and dirty looks, just be forward, don’t be shy, get another plate, here we feast together, have a smoke behind the barn. I’m sure you’ll find another.
fishing like they have been given, grandpa moors, river banks, lakes and roadside fishin. breeze, smells, don’t stay long, mosquitos, flies and black eyed suzannes, come back just in time for seconds. adults sit in shelter, wait, guarding home, home, always there’s forever.
genes, talents, eyes, hair, lips and disguise, I fit in, so do you. come back and stay awhile, you are a puzzle piece, without you there, I wonder why. I have your butt and you have mine, Moors they say, what about this nose I carry, it’s a guess, it’s from genetics, blood and cells, make impressions, we are tied with heart of hearts, we are strong, weak and needy, we have life, we have freedom. Life is good, we’ll meet again if God is willing
In this photo, the two lovebirds that started it all, John Moors (my grandfather) and Florence Elliott (my grandmother).
John and Florence Moors
A portrait I painted just yesterday of my Auntie El, to celebrate her 90th year….she is now 91, going to be 92 in January. I love you, Auntie.
My Auntie Ruth is a force not to be reckoned with! She is a very strong woman who has a sharp memory and a very particular type of wit. Ruth holds strong opinions about most things (it runs in the family) and articulates them with emotion and power. A woman who puts family first, she loved spending extended periods of time in both Peace River and New Zealand. With fondness, she talks about branches of her/our family who are separated by a huge physical distance as though they could not possibly be held any closer in her heart.
This week she shared some of her narratives and I treasured every moment of the time we spent together. As I delved deeper into the paternal side of my family history, I wanted to hear, first hand, the recollections of two of the matriarchs of the family, my Auntie Ruth and Auntie Eleanor. It is with great fondness that I recall visits out west while my own military-family seemed to be, every couple of years, on an east-west migration. Auntie Ruth and her family were a big part of what it meant to be ‘a Moors’.
Many hours were spent in friendship and family…teasing one another…complaining…and typically, exploding into laughter. I am so happy for the previous interviews that my second cousin, Danielle, has worked on and the beautiful family album that contributed so much to our chats early in the week. Several of these photographs are borrowed from this treasured resource.
St. Mary’s Dam…Ruth swimming with friends…
Family Reunion St. Mary’s Dam…cousin, Linda in foreground…Gramma Florence Elliott Moors with her back to us, likely late 1960s. My own mother’s face, just slightly above Linda’s arm…
I am so grateful for our conversations, dear Ruth…and look forward to connecting some of these narratives with the research I have already documented. I love you.
A portrait that I painted for Auntie on her 90th birthday appears at the bottom of this post.
What a wonderful feeling to hit open roads…heading south always gives me some sense of going home to my peeps. I weep when I see this blue up against this yellow…reminds me of grampa and our talks as he drove, with his racing cap on (ball cap turned backwards). The past two days, I moved between Raymond and Magrath and Lethbridge…connecting with that feeling, pretty much the whole time. Interviewing two of my beautiful aunties about family history was a joy.
I started Tuesday morning off with bacon, eggs, hash browns, toast and coffee at Ying’s Chinese and Western Cafe. I love that there is no choice here…no brown and white toast, for example. This was where I bought my penny candies as a little girl…and where grampa went in to catch up on the stories. I chatted with these folk (different-but-the-same) over my first two coffees. Thing is, the place looked so different years back. Apparently, one of the fellas told me, May died some years ago and Mark lives in Lethbridge. There used to be booths with high backs…dark wood. These Canadians were a part of my childhood story. I felt blessed in remembering.
From there, I went out to the cemetery to have some time with my relations who have passed and who rest in such a beautiful and peaceful spot.
The mill…a spot where family photos were taken…keeps on changing as it changes hands. For our family, though, it will always be connected to that smell of wool and grandma’s roast beef.