Edith Anne Smith was Mom to us. Maybe Momsie in a moment of abandon.
She died Nov. 5 at the home in which she was born 88 years ago. She started out life at six pounds, 14 ounces, and by the time she was 13 months old, her parents, Lillian (nee Creech) and Wesley Osborne, had to run to catch her.
She was born of stern stuff during the depression years on a summer Sunday on August, 28, 1932 at 3:45 p.m., and long outlived her younger siblings, Jim and John Osborne, surprising herself. And nobody knew how to stretch a penny better than Momsie. She had to. She and her husband, Charles (call him Popsie, if you dare) – who survives her – married on April 12, 1952. They eventually had four mouths to feed, Kevin (Loretta) Smith of Ripley, Ont., Beverley Smith of Mississauga, Ont., Michael Smith of Inverhuron, Ont., and David (Catherine Richard) Smith of Point Clark, Ont.
Born in consecutive years, we got into all sorts of mischief together. We were a creative unit in the days before video games and laptops. Late in life, Mom was still discovering our secret adventures. But by then, the threat of retribution was gone, and besides, we had lived to talk about them. She laughed about it all, in the end.
She was married in a gauzy sky blue dress that still hangs in the family closet and wore a knot of flowers in her hair in that ceremony at Clark’s Church, a country church on the 12th concession. She had taught at a one-room schoolhouse in Teeswater, Ont., for a year, earning the princely sum of $180 a month.
She could do math like a whiz in her head, filling up her grocery cart at the IGA in Kincardine, Ont., then doing a mental calculation to see what it all cost. And she very quickly subtracted what the family could not afford and replaced it on the shelf before she hit the checkout. We the children considered ourselves “well off.” Someone told us it meant you had everything you needed.
During the 68 years of her married life, Mom established an armload of favourite things to do. She bought a Singer sewing machine early in her married life and proceeded to sew our clothes – even coats. She had done the 4H thing. She sewed clothes for her mother-in-law, our beloved Grandma Smith (we called her “Bangy” and she signed her Christmas cards that way, too. That’s another story).
Anytime somebody had a baby? She’d get her knitting needles out and zip up a little sweater, bonnet and bootie set. She knit socks and mitts and sweaters with reindeer on them. I dare say she could crochet, too. She’d rustle up a quilt, too, for folk, sewing all the stitches by hand. She had this crazy quilt house pattern that lived a long time. It was her go-to design. All of the scraps from dresses she sewed for me or for herself would show up in them. I’d recognize the fabrics.
She got her hands on an antique loom through Bangy, and proceeded to weave us all scarves, all plaid ones, just they way they did in olden times. She was an expert on plaid clans. She loved everything Irish and proclaimed we were 100 per cent Irish, although after many generations of both family branches being in Canada, I am sure some other nationalities had sneaked into the mix. She so wanted it to be so.
Most of all, she proved especially adept at researching genealogy and would get requests from all parts of the country and beyond the border to find details on ancestors. She was a regular visitor to the Bruce County Museum and Cultural Centre in Southampton, Ont., and contributed a lot of clippings and bits of info during her life. She was such a familiar face there, I think she had her own key to the clippings vault.
But don’t ask her to do all of this on a computer. She seemed to be afraid that it would blow up if she touched it. Maybe it would; Her powers were such. She had binders full of the fascinating details of people’s lives. She’d clip and clip. When the local paper arrived, if you didn’t get to it quickly, you’d be reading newsprint with holes like Swiss cheese in it.
She was information central. Mention a name from the past, and off she’d sweep from her chair and find the exact binder that had old newspaper photos and stories about the person. She could storm you with information. She knew everybody. And she knew who was related to whom. She knew all the mazes of people’s lives.
Sometimes she could surprise you. Once at a family party, we observed her munching on sushi – well outside of her comfort zone. “Mom, do you know you are eating sushi?” we asked, incredulous.
“Well, if Braydin can do it, so can I!” she said, speaking of her great grandson. And she had some more.
But no matter what, nothing – just nothing – was better than ice cream. Particularly if it was Black Cherry.
We can hardly forget the time when we were quite young children as mom was preparing for an important dinner, and whipping up some strawberry chiffon pie. But she didn’t have a beater, so dad, ever the clever mechanical genius, devised something to whip up the froth, using an electric drill.
Unfortunately, the drill thing sprayed pink chiffon all over the walls and ceiling – just before the guests were to arrive. It would be an understatement to say that Momsie was aghast. But we all survived it, wearing little grins. (At least, we the children did.)
Our Christmas tradition: watching Chevy Chase’s “Christmas Vacation” from a spotty VCR tape. Every time we watched it, we’d laugh like we’d never seen it before. She had a silly streak.
One thing she said to me that has stuck: if ever I hoped that an exciting future event could be happening right now, she’d say: “Don’t be wishing your life away.”
She is survived by all of her children, and a host of grandchildren: Chad of Lloydminster, Sask., Blair of Waterloo, Leanne of Kincardine, Adam of Kitchener, and Kelly-Anne of Australia.
And 10 great grandchildren to boot: Wyatt, Braydin, Rowan, Jack, Ethan, Hughie, Declan, Addison, Emmett and Grayson. All a growing family from the lady who knit a life together from that little house north of Ripley.
Cremation has taken place and a private service will be held at gravesite.
We will all miss her pink jello.