Family ties

Posted Oct 20 2017, 1:45 am in , , , , ,

My mom grew up in a picturesque Canadian village in rural eastern Ontario—twelve miles from where I now live.  

Dotted with stone buildings and tucked into a rolling landscape of century farms and historic waterways, it’s a place that shaped me as a person, as well as the writer I’ve become.

Several weeks ago, I attended Sunday service in my mother’s home church.

That church marked the different seasons of her life from baptism through to Sunday School, marriage to my dad and finally, a service to celebrate her life after her sudden death.

On the Sunday I attended, pews that would once have been packed with villagers were mostly empty. The organ was shuttered, the choir made up of a handful of stalwart voices, and most of the parishioners were near or beyond retirement age.

After the service, as I wandered through the almost deserted sanctuary with its memories and shadowy ghosts of a bygone era, an older woman approached me.

“You look familiar,” she said. “Do you have a family connection with this church?”

When I explained that I did, her face creased into a broad smile. “I remember your mother and grandmother and recognized the family resemblance.”

As a child and young adult, visits to both my parents’ hometowns were marked by a similar refrain. In the small town where my dad grew up, everyone insisted I took after his side of the family. With my mom’s kin, and despite my blue eyes and lighter hair in a family of “Black Irish,” I was her miniature.

I always insisted I looked like myself, but on that Sunday, at a time when both the church and my family of origin are sadly depleted, recognition of a family resemblance warmed my heart.

How wonderful to be told I looked like my dear grandma and mom and chat with someone who had known them both.

And how wonderful that my ties to family and place are etched on the contours of my face.

In a world that can often seem anonymous and rootless, I’m celebrating that connection to my past—although I could do without being confronted by my dad’s nose whenever I look in a mirror!  






16 responses to “Family ties”

  1. Lynn Folliott says:

    What a heart warming post Jen. I see the resemblance to your mom and grandma even though your colouring is your own and you have a lovely nose!New memories made at your mom’s church to be taken out and warm your heart…Thanks for sharing.

  2. Jen Gilroy says:

    And thank you for reading, Lynn. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. And thank you for your kind words about my nose. You haven’t seen it in profile, though! 🙂

  3. I spent last evening at a meeting with people who know my mother, and they told me they recognized me by my smile. I love finding out that I resemble family members–it makes me feel closer to them. Lovely post.

    • Jen Gilroy says:

      That is so special that you were recognized by your smile and likeness to your mother, Jennifer. That feeling of closeness to family members because of a physical resemblance is precious. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  4. Anne Kinch says:

    Oh, if only we could pick only the best features of our predecessors – we would all be so beautiful! But seriously, what a well written blog – and those classic high cheek bones definitely come from your mom, another beautiful lady.

    • Jen Gilroy says:

      The first part of your comment made me chuckle, Anne! Yes, picking the best features of predecessors would be wonderful! Thank you for your lovely comment about my blog post and my mom. Since you knew her, it’s especially meaningful to me.

  5. Linda Zagon says:

    I love looking at the black and white pictures!!

  6. Wow, Jen! The resemblance to your mom is uncanny. Beautifully written post. I felt like I was sitting beside you in church. xo

  7. Heidi says:

    Family ties are so, so important. At the end of the day, if we don’t have the love of family, life is very lonely.

    Having known your Mom, there is definitely a family resemblance!

  8. Tara says:

    What a beautiful post. I love finding connections to family members. Everyone says I look like my nan and I really love that.

    • Jen Gilroy says:

      Thank you, Tara. I appreciate you reading and commenting and am glad you enjoyed the post. How lovely you look like your nan! The older I get, the more I cherish those family resemblances.

  9. What a lovely post, Jen – and I adore those black and white photos. Family ties and likenesses are so important. I once walked into my mum’s living room and the first thing I saw was a brand new framed photo of my brother… then I looked properly and saw it was of my niece. Until that moment, I had never realised they resembled one another. Sometimes a resemblance can catch you unawares.

    • Jen Gilroy says:

      Those black and white photos are very special to me, Susanna. So glad you enjoyed them too! I also know what you mean about a family resemblance catching you unawares. I had a similar experience in glimpsing a photo of one of Tech Guy’s nieces as a baby and for a moment thinking it was English Rose. Thanks, as always, for supporting my blog.

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