The Standard, May 26, 1999
Over the years, my mother’s family has had the distinction of celebrating five golden weddings and one diamond. Not bad out of a family of nine children, one of whom never married. The children of these families emigrated to different lands in search of a better life, hence I have cousins in Australia, U.K., U.S.A and various parts of Canada. Although we are separated by many miles, the bond between us has never been broken. Evidence of this was clearly seen at the various celebrations in Australia, Canada and the U.K. where many of us travelled to attend the festivities. Remarkably the second and third generations bonded as though they had known each other all of their lives. Most of these celebrations were followed by travelling the various countries in a group, listening to stories handed down by our parents, who had incredible memories, and the inevitable singsong at the end of the evening which the Scots love.
There is, however, a slight flaw in the family – if you can call it that. Nearly all of my female cousins are named Margaret Livingston whatever. Back then the first daughter had to be called after the mother’s mother and the first son after the father’s father. To add to the confusion, two of my mother’s brothers and one sister married two sisters and a brother. Not only do several cousins have the same first name, their surname is also the same. For instance, we had a Big Alex Girvin and a Wee Alex Girvin but the Wee Alex outgrew the Big Alex and we had to rename them Young Alex and Old Alex. Whenever there is a family gathering we have to say which Margaret (there are six) we are referring to by using their surnames. My name is actually Margaret too but I am called Rita, although it is not on the birth certificate. My dad wanted to call me Patricia after him (Patrick), especially since I was born on his birthday. That was a no-no back then so he called me Rita. Sadly, there is only one aunt left (Margaret) surprise! surprise! out of the original family and although she is going on 92 years of age, she can still touch her toes without bending her knees and goes to line dancing.
The golden weddings have come to my generation and the first one was celebrated last week here in Canada although the cousin is from Australia. True to form, relatives came from all over the globe and we were once again set for a trip down Memory Lane. Unlike our parents, we couldn’t remember where it was. My daughter-in-law hoped the relatives would wear name tags so she could identify them. I told her not to worry because they were likely Margaret, Alex, John or Andrew.
It was at one of the backyard reunions where we admitted our memories were not so great these days. It wasn’t until we spoke about it openly, that we realized how laughable the situation was.
One cousin, a professional nurse mentioned she used Ginkgo Biloba to improve her memory. All of our ears perked up in interest. When someone asked her how long she had been taking it, she admitted she couldn’t remember. We all roared with laughter. My son added that he had been taking it also. When asked by someone if he thought it was doing any good, he confessed he didn’t know because he kept forgetting to take the pills. Another cousin said he was taking a similar pill. When questioned further, he couldn’t remember the name of it. Someone else who was on Ginkgo Biloba – I can’t remember who – was also taking a vitamin for ringing in the ear. He couldn’t remember the name of the ear ringing disease. I mentioned that I had to write down the times I put cookies in the oven because I often forgot. Another cousin suggested that I get timers. She told us she has three timers but unfortunately when one goes off, she often forgets which batch of cookies it is for. At this time I interjected that my husband had been taking Ginsana and it didn’t do anything for his memory either. I was immediately told that Ginsana is for energy and not memory. I said that it still didn’t work. My husband piped in and said “Oh it worked alright but I was starting to think about doing some work, so I quit taking it.”
This is typical of some of the lighter moments we shared – and no one was even trying to be funny.
Our visitors are starting to head back home now and soon we will all settle down to the daily routine. We laughed so much as we travelled the scenic Niagara Region, which they loved, but the earlier stories of memory lapses stole the show. However, there is one thing that will never fade from our memories and that is the truly unique bond that this family shares.
Grandma and Grandpa Kemp who would surely be proud of their offspring, probably never imagined that their descendants would span the globe and out of the whole bunch, there is not one black sheep. At least, none that we can remember.