Ancestral Notes

My Family History blog

Carnival of Irish Heritage and Culture #16 – My Creator

This edition of the Carnival of Irish Heritage and Culture hosted by Small-leaved Shamrock is “Irish Portraits”. It is a twist on the old cliche “a picture says a thousand words”. I am “painting a portrait of my mother” with words so you can get a better picture of what she was really like.

My mother was born “Marian Joyce Neil”, youngest daughter of Orville and Ruby Fairbairn O’Neil. She and her twin brother were born in Windsor, her twin dying shortly after birth.

Mom lived all of her life in Essex County, raising a family of three boys and four girls. She knew my dad all of her life, and she “knew’ that she was going to marry him someday. He proposed to her in jest when she was eight years old but she made him stick to it and they were married twelve years later.

Mom was a very creative woman, always eager to learn something new. She was a great teacher too, teaching me to sew, knit and crochet along with the alphabets. I was a good student and was sewing my own clothes before I was ten. She was a seamstress, self-taught, and had a few customers that she sewed for, mostly evening-wear and costumes.

I think my mother had a touch of ADD, she would get going on something, learn how to do it, get tired of it and start looking around for a different project. She went through many “phases”. She went through a “chalk” phase, drawing portraits of us and a mural for the Church. Then there was the “paint” phase when she created a few still-life paintings in oil and acrylic. About this time she was taking correspondence courses in Art, English and Latin and got into her “poetry” phase. She went through the “macrame ” phase in the ’70’s and made a macrame bassinet for my oldest son as well as a few hanging tables and assorted hangers. Then there was the “Ojo” phase, when she bought all kinds of dowels and yarns and made “Ojo de Dios’ “(God’s Eye) of all sizes, from Christmas tree ornament size to 3′ high multi-coloured, complex geometrical shapes. Mom even went to school and taught my sister’s first grade class how to make them.

There have been numerous more phases through the years, and it seemed that she liked sharing what she learned as much as she enjoyed learning the skills. And me, being her #1 student, got involved with the majority of her adventures. I went with her to get her supplies, I was there by her side at all of the craft fairs where she would sell her creations. Whatever she didn’t sell, she would give away to her grandchildren. She never made any money from it, it was a “labour of love” she said. She just enjoyed creating.

Mom was “ahead of her time” in some areas. She had a “water feature” in her garden in the ’60’s, complete with water lilies long before it became popular. So it was just a wading pool with a fountain in it, but back then pond supplies were hard to come by. Faux finishing and stencilling were “old hat” to her by the time they became popular too. She was always experimenting with different techniques when redecorating. I remember the time that she faux painted the dining room table and chairs one day while dad was at work. Well, all H— broke loose when he got home and saw the “marbled” antique cherry wood!

I have my mother to thank for my gift of creativity, which has saved me money at times and gotten me into trouble a few times as well. I learned from my mother that I have to take risks sometimes, be unconventional and try new ideas, and think for myself, not just follow the crowd.

Filed under: Carnival of Irish Heritage and Culture, Carnivals, Family Files, Genealogy, Haines/Hines, O'Neil/Neil, ,

July 2020