“Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe,
call it a family. Whatever you call it,
whoever you are, you need one.”
-Jane Howard, "Families"
Of course, my parents weren't all alone in the world. So I also gained two new extended families. While none of them lived near us during my first year, they did impact my life as well as my parents' lives.
Fortunately, both families accepted me as if I had been Bob and Margaret’s natural daughter, and gradually my life became intricately woven into theirs. Their stories became mine.
Mom was actually the eldest of seven children. The photo above shows Mom and me with her mother (my grandmother) and Mom's three youngest siblings. Mom was actually 18 years older than Brucie, the eldest of the three youngest MacDonald kids.
My grandfather (Mom's dad) had died eight years before I was born.
Mom also had three brothers who were closer to her age.
This picture of all four of Mom’s brothers was taken a couple of years before my birth.
There’s no picture of me with him, but Jim, who was just a year younger than Mom, actually came to help out when I arrived. He’d been married but divorced shortly after, and he never remarried.
Hughie and Mervin were also married by the time I was born. Hughie had two sons, one of whom was only a year older than me, while Mervin had one son two years older than me.
Mom also had two aunts—her mother's sisters—who she was very close to. Auntie Ettie and Auntie Maudie. Aunt Ettie and Uncle Bert had one daughter, Leslie, who was a bit younger than Mom, but old enough to be friends. Auntie Maudie and Uncle Mac McTaggart had no children. but they did have a long-term boarder, Lorne McShane, who was like part of the family.
As for my dad's family, when I arrived, his mother, who I called Granny Shaw, was 74 years old. She’d been a widow for quite a few years by then, so I never knew either of my grandfathers.
The picture here shows Mom with Granny Shaw holding me. I was between four and five months old. (We all look pretty serious.)
My dad was actually the second youngest of 12, 10 of whom survived to adulthood. So I had a large number of aunts and uncles. And several of them had large families, too.
This picture below of my dad and his siblings was taken at a Shaw family gathering when I was seven. His second oldest brother, Bill, had died the year I was born. This is one of the more casual photos taken of them. I believe it was Granny Shaw's 80th birthday.
As you might guess, I had a lot of "Shaw" cousins, all but one of whom were older than me. Some were quite a bit older. In fact, some of my cousins were closer to my parents' age, and were good friends with them.
But the people we saw the most, besides Granny Shaw, were my dad's older sister, my Aunt Margaret (third from the right in the group picture above), and her husband, Uncle Albert. That was largely because Granny Shaw lived with them in Brandon.
Since Aunt Margaret and Uncle Albert were older and had no children of their own, and since neither of my grandfathers was living when I was born, I definitely thought of Uncle Albert as my surrogate grandfather.
However, I can't find a single picture of me with either of them. And very few pictures of them of any kind. The one here was taken some years before I was born.
Similarities and differences
You might suspect from the pictures that Mom's and Dad's families didn't have a lot in common. You'd be right. For example, while the women in Mom's family were into fashion and make-up, most of the women in Dad's family wore little or no make-up and weren't interested in having the latest styles. The two families also differed on things like dancing and women smoking.
Not only that, but Mom was the oldest in her family, while Dad was the second youngest, but the youngest boy.
These and other differences and how they impacted not only my parents but me, are why I'm going to spend the next few weeks going into more detail about my extended family before I relate how my parents met and a bit about their lives before me.
Can you relate?
Do you have a large or small extended family?
Were/are there any family members from your extended family who you were/are especially close to?
Were the members of your parents' families alike or very different? How did that impact you?
. . .
LoveChild: Life Lessons from an Ugly Duckling is the story of my struggle to adjust to the life I was given, and my eventual discovery that, not only had I become a swan but, contrary to my perceptions, I had always been one. Though I didn't realize it until many years later, my life was part of a much bigger plan that all made perfect sense.
I'll be blogging my story once a week.
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