Edna Ace (Mother) - Truth

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I asked my mother what object in her personal possession sparked significant memories of her life.  She chose to include a post-card of the Queen Mary ocean liner that brought her to Canada in 1946, after the Second World War.  My mother left behind a country in mourning and turmoil.  She set out for a new life with her new husband in a country she had never seen before.

 

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My mother was born on September 3, 1921 in Birmingham, England.  She is youngest girl in the photograph, on the extreme right.  She posed for this photograph around 1925 with her grandmother Lea Wright, her brother William, and her sister Eunice.  Her father, George Homer, served in World War I and was stationed in India.  Her mother, Elsie Homer-Wright, stayed at home to raise the children.  My grandparents were born into Victorian England, and their lives spanned two World Wars.  My mother recalls her early recollections of family life as turbulent.  After completing his service in World War I, my grandfather found work wherever he could, while my grandmother did her best to make ends meet.  My mother remembers alcohol  being a large part of my grandfather's life.  My grandmother kept quiet.

 

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In her early twenties, my mother found work at Lucas', a factory that made bicycles.  When the war broke out, the factory was converted to the production of aircraft parts for military use.  My mother remembers the terror she felt when the air raid sirens sounded, for she knew the industrial city of Birmingham was a target.  She said one never knew where the bombs would land.  You just ran for cover.  

 

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This portrait of my mother was taken after her engagement to my father in 1944.  She positioned her left arm to show her ring as a symbol of love.  After their engagement, my father returned to the War, while my mother performed civil duties marking stray live bombs that imbedded themselves in the streets of Birmingham.  After the air raid sirens ceased, she would walk the streets with garbage can lids marking the bombs for the soldiers to dismantle.  She remembers one night hearing the sirens, but no bombs fell.  She went up on her roof top and saw the explosions in the distance.  She began to cry as she watched the neighboring city of Coventry engulfed in flames.  Coventry was leveled to the ground.  My mother knew the bombs had been marked for Birmingham.

 

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The wedding took place on September 8, 1945 in Birmingham. After the wedding, my father returned to Canada alone, and my mother arrived several months later.  She came to Canada as a war bride on the Queen Mary ocean liner.  My maternal grandmother is not in the photograph.  A year earlier, a bomb landed in their neighbor's yard, burying my mother, grandmother and aunt in their air raid shelter.  My grandmother went into shock and died.

 

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My mother left her father, brother and sister in the summer of 1946.  She was issued a passport and a one-way ticket on the Queen Mary bound for Halifax, Nova Scotia.  On an early summer morning, she stood on the train platform, hugging her loved ones goodbye, it was the last time she saw her father alive.  She would not see her sister and brother for another twenty years.

 

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As she stood on the deck of the Queen Mary, she watched the coastline of England fade and disappear into the horizon.  She was bound for Canada and a new life, with several hundred other war brides.  During the war, the Queen Mary transported soldiers to Europe, zigzagging her way across the Atlantic to avoid submarine radar detection.  Now this great ocean liner transported their wives.  My mother saved this post card which was signed by the Captain, as a reminder of her historic rite of passage.

 

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My mother arrived in Halifax on July 23, 1946.  The war brides were boarded onto trains destined for the West.  She was issued a train ticket for Toronto and a telegram was dispatched to my father with her arrival time.  When she arrived in Toronto, she was transferred to a waiting area for my father to claim her.  She anxiously watched for him in the crowds, but he was not there.  My father had borrowed a car from a friend, and on the trip to Toronto, it broke down.  As she sat with the other unclaimed war brides, stories circulated about other English women who had been shipped back to England because their new husbands were previously married to Canadian women.  A day later, my father finally arrived.  They were together at last. 

 

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The first couple of years were difficult.  She had arrived in the summer and had no idea how cold, dark and long the winters could be.  My mother was carrying her first child during this period.  The stress and isolation took its toll.  My sister Carol Ann was born with a hole in her heart.  The hospital was not prepared to deal with the situation.  The operation to save her could only be performed in Toronto.  My sister died two days after birth.  My mother only held her daughter once in her arms.

 

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These photographs were taken on a picnic outing with my aunt Christine and aunt Vena.  It was an ironic place for a picnic.  The trail in the distance leads to the St. Joseph's Residential School on the Spanish River.  It was steps away from young Indian children locked away and steps away from the spot where my great-aunt in her residential school uniform posed for the photograph holding my father as baby in her arms.

 

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My brother was born on October 19, 1950 at 5:50 pm.  It was an emotional pregnancy, after the lose of her first child.  She was relieved he was born healthy.  She documented his progress over the first year in "Our Own Baby!" journal.  She kept meticulous records of his height and weight and the appearance of his first teeth.  She listed all the gifts he received, and even saved a lock of his hair from his first haircut.  

 

 

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I was born on April 7, 1958.  My mother said I was the last, because "they kept getting bigger".  I was 10 pounds at birth.  I remember my mother as a strong woman, and I would put her to the test throughout my early years.  One time, when I was five or six years old, I remember I use to go to the school yard near our house to play on the fire escape slide.  The slide was two stories high and made out of tubular metal.  We use to love to climb up inside it and slide down.  On this particular day, I happened to lean against a trap door at the top of the slide.  The door opened.  My friends and I crawled inside.  Once inside, we made a huge mess in the classroom.  The janitor happened to be in the school, and we heard him coming.  We leapt through the trap door, slid down the fire escape and ran home.  Later that night, my mother heard about the break-in and the damage that was done.  She had her suspicions.  When she was getting me ready for my bath, she noticed glue on my pants.  She told me that some bad children had broken into the school and had done a lot of damage.  She asked me, "I wonder what those bad kids did in there."  I responded, "Well, they knocked the flower pots on the floor and glued the desks to the floor..."  She made me return and admit what I had done and apologize to the school.  

 

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My mother has seen great changes in her lifetime.  She has faced adversity with immense courage and bravery during the Second World War.   She left her homeland for love and embraced her new life and extended family with great respect and dignity.  She accepted the death of her first child with humility and went on to bear and raise two more children.  In raising her children, she has been a loving and and caring mother and has made great sacrifices for her family and friends.  She taught me to strive for knowledge through education, and supported me in all my successes and failures.  She has lived her life with honesty and integrity and continues to put others before herself.  In 1996, she underwent open heart surgery and emerged with a renewed sense of life.  It is because of her ardent determination for life, she epitomizes all the sacred gifts.