The sun is out and the birds are singing up a storm. It is the most perfect Mother’s Day here in Central Ontario.
I have been researching my family history over the last year and it is the most amazing thing to learn about those who came before you. We are much more than a blending of their DNA, we are the legacy of their hopes and dreams.
I am lucky enough to still have both of my Grandmothers, as well as my Mother. In the many photographs I have seen, the smile on one, the expression of another I see on my own face. I stared at the image of my great grandfather for hours once to see my own eyes and have been trying to find the farm of another great grandfather that I never knew.
Yesterday I had the privilege of meeting the granddaughter of Richard and Belle Stephens. Their farm is the one of the two here in Muskoka that have been at the center of my painting life for nearly three years. “Room with a View“, “Window Seat“, “Yellow Door” and “Waiting” are all from this farm.
I learned that the builder of the house, Neil Livingstone, may never have likely lived in the house at all. The house was only ever the home of the Stephens until 1960. All of their children were born in the kitchen of the house and Richard, Belle and Richard’s father, Thomas, died there. I believe that the chair in “Waiting” is in the spot Thomas would sit and watch the laneway.
The black and white photo at the right is of Elva’s three brothers, Lloyd, Earl and Ross in 1936. You can see the house in the background and the door up on the balcony is the doorway in “Room with a View“.
The photo below is of Richard and Belle Stephens around 1943. My immediate reaction in seeing this photo was of how kind their faces are. No wonder this house has always felt so welcoming. It amazes me that traces of the wallpaper in the photo are still visible on the walls of the house today and that the woodwork was obviously painted much later. When I think of how feisty 91 year old Elva is and I see her mother, I can tell where she got her strength from.
I am not painting terribly much at the moment. My house is in too much chaos for that, but this is giving me time to work on the book. I have a few more photos to collect and one more interview and the first draft will be done.
I like to think that the legacy of Mothers and their sons and daughters will be remembered long after the bricks and stones are gone. I am hoping that, I too, will find traces of my own and that their dreams will not be forgotten.