My mother birthed and raised thirteen children, enjoyed a very good marriage with our father, volunteered so much that, as an adult, I nicknamed her Valerie Volunteer, and got her first real paying job in her sixties. She was a force who, when she died over twenty-five years ago, had her obituary written up in the newspaper for all she had done in her community and her life.
She loved to read and had shelves upon shelves of lovely hardcover books. She hounded all of her children to use correct grammar and loved to see good marks in English and language skills on our report cards. I knew that she wrote her own speeches to all the community organizations she led and I even remembered her writing rhyming poems in honour of young couples at their community presentations and other such events. The night I heard her speech as the new candidate for provincial election I was mesmerized. That night I realized whether she won or lost, the important thing was her being nominated to run. Yes, she was a force.
When my mother died our huge village church was filled to bursting, the centre rows reserved for mom’s many children, their spouses, her grandchildren and even some great grandchildren, and the rest of the building upstairs and down overflowing with friends, neighbours and acquaintances who came to pay her their heartfelt respects.
I always loved her but I didn’t always appreciate her. She could be unfair, or so I thought as a kid the day she refused to take me shopping with her when I’d tried to sneak out the front door after she called my name. I had to stay home that day and miss the treat she had planned for me. I realize now that she gave me more than I ever knew with lessons such as that.
In the couple of years before she died, I had encouraged her to write a book. My father was gone, she was alone and I suggested she might find writing her own novel very interesting and enjoyable. She started, and I got the first couple of pages to correct her typing. By this time she had lost her centre vision and could only see with peripheral vision. That made her touch typing skills crucial. I was ready to correct more pages but before we could do that she passed away. I got hold of the large brown envelope full of typed pages. It was titled Maggie and I thought it was fiction. I carefully saved it as a treasured remembrance of my mother.
A number of months ago in chatting with my daughter, she reminded me that this November would have been her grandma’s one hundredth birthday. We talked about celebrating because Grandma and Beth had talked 25 years ago about celebrating their November birthdays together, but Grandma didn’t make it. She died that summer in her 75th year. During this conversation with Beth I remembered Mom’s story that had sat in my files–oh, I knew exactly where it was–for all those years. What if I were to get it out and publish whatever it was for the family?
That was the plan. I started reading and before long I realized this wasn’t fiction at all. Maggie. My grandmother’s name was Margaret but she had always been called Maggie when she was younger. This was my grandmother’s story from the time she was about four years old up to and including her marriage, her children, and just who she had been. It also detailed Grandma’s broken marriage, a subject that we had never discussed as I was growing up. And now, in these pages, Mom was telling it.
But she had never finished the story and I spent months ruminating about just how I could publish Maggie. After lots of discussions with family and writing friends I decided to leave it in Mom’s voice and insert my own voice where the story wasn’t finished. I think it works and the big advantage was that it was still Mom’s story. So for Mom’s one hundredth birthday on November 7th, I launched the cover reveal above. That is Mom at five years old, Alice Doxey at the time, the Lingelbach church east of Stratford where her family went, and lots of musical images because her family was very musical, a trait that has been passed down through the generations. The red is for my grandmother because she loved colour. Not for her the black dresses that women of her day wore as soon as they got married. This red is for my memory of Grandma buying some bright red taffeta and having a dress made out of it. It also occurs to me that perhaps I know where my own strong-willed personality comes from. Thank you, Grandma.
The book is available now on Kobo and Kindle. It’s launching on December 2 and if you’re nearby please come. Crossing my fingers the print copies will be in my hands by then. It will be in print on Amazon by then as well.