Thursday, 31 October 2013

My Name

I wrote the story "My Name" (below) about 7 years ago - an assignment in a writing course about our names. My birthday's a good time to share it. It's a quiet day. Last night Sandy Miller came over and we had supper eating a chicken (from the farm shop) that had been happy until the day before I bought it. Then we took things to church for Sunday and went looking for Hallowe'en lights. Not many. Anyhow, back this side of the river in Greenfield Park looking at one of the most fantastic displays when I realized I didn't have my purse. Took Sandy home, opened my gifts, and headed back to church to get my purse. Sigh.

Been for my flu shot. Done most of my physio exercises. Heading out to the Mission as I'm invited for lunch. Otherwise, a quiet day until sundown and broomstick soaring. :-)

Remembering my birthday when I was growing up. It was such fun. We'd have supper and go trick-or-treating. We also had children ringing the doorbell all during supper. My birthday party was usually a different day, and Dad used to make my cakes. No cake molds in those days. He'd make round and/or rectangular cakes, and cut them into different shapes each year. I remember the pumpkin (of course) and a witch...  I can't remember our costumes, but someone must have been a ghost.

One year, a little girl was killed on Hallowe'en by the Southern Counties streetcar. So dark, and it was wet that year. Parents were always with us as we plodded about, but in the end, terrible accidents sometimes happen. I never knew her name. Which is odd, as we lived in a three block by three block small part of Montreal South.

When we got to the Kipps' home on Lasalle (where I live now) we wound our way up the inside back stairwell. There were so many children out. We went out in Grade 9, some of us, and stopped at one of our teacher's. The next day he told me I'd have done better to do my Latin homework than be out trick-or-treating. :-) Such a serious man. And it was my birthday! 

A baby. I still have my first shoes. Walked at 9 months.

Back: Cousin Steve, Brothers Jim and Lorne
Front: Cousin Peter and Ros
Jim and Ros at Beaver Lake

Mrs. Gill's Grade 1 at William White School 1952-53
Very back, Marilyn looking on
Back: l to r - Norma  ??  ??  Betty? Jimmy and Tommy
Middle: ??  Iris  Irene  Roslyn  Linda  ??
Front:  Stanley  Terry and ??
Can anyone fill in the blanks?
I was wearing my white and red smocked dress (Mum made it)
With my cousin and best friend, Peter  c 1953
Grade 7 - Mrs Anderson's class
A very young 12 c 1958-9
Red bows.
No self-respecting 12 yo would look like this now - but they were different times.

Sisters in Haiti - c1972 at the Sisters retreat house in Kenscoff
Back:  Sisters Anne Marie, Virginia, Roslyn Marie
Front: Sister Jean (with Sarah the poodle) and Mother Marjorie Raphael
BBQ at the beach in Duxbury.
I was often in charge of planning meals and feeding people
Sister Louise, one of the Sisters from Canada
Sister Louise used to say: "Use your head and save your feet."

My Name

I was born at the witching hour, 5:54pm on Hallowe'en in 1946. Lorne was five and, already having a little brother, he was desperate for a baby sister. So desperate, he intended to ask Santa for one if necessary, not allowing my parents much time to be obliging elves. Fortunately, Lorne got his sister and he gave me my name. Roslyn. He must have heard it somewhere; Mum didn’t know where he found it. My parents added Ann to round me out. Roslyn Ann.

Lorne is a hazy memory. The day he drowned, when I was three, his Roslyn vanished into somewhere the other side of nowhere. She became Roslyn-the-Good. The Nice. Roslyn-the-Eyes, watching, watching. Roslyn the Cute, the Mute, the oh-so-well-behaved-and-nearly-dead-inside child. Not that anyone noticed.

I was called Roslyn if the ghost annoyed the grown-ups.  Roslyn Ann when once I stuck my tongue out at our cranky neighbours. I was Rozzie to my brother and Montreal cousins (all boys). Roslyn to teachers. Ros to friends as I grew up, and Spooky in October. Our Swiss French teacher, Monsieur Burgat, called me La Tresse, as his sister had had long braids. Buzz (pronounced with a Lancashire ‘u’) was Dad’s pet name for me. It’s not a good thing to be too much Daddy’s special one. I didn’t like my name.

In a Boston convent, at twenty-two, I became Sister Roslyn Marie. For nine years I was Sister – Sister-Any-Name-would-do-we’re-all-the-same, hidden (except for face and hands) within a dark grey habit.** Haitians, with whom I lived and worked briefly and forever, called me Soeur Roselyne and, being loved I fleetingly, almost, liked my name.

The drumbeats, the pulsing earthy life in Haiti fractured the igneous outer layers of my heart. Returning home, somewhere between the convent and Boston’s hospital-on-the-wooded-hill, the fragments fell. My life began then - an arduous journey of self-discovery: emotions long suppressed, experiences denied.

Seventeen years into this Mrs. Noah journey, I was ordained. People asked what they should call me. “We can’t call you ‘Father’,” they said, embarrassed.

“Call me Ros,” I replied. “That’s my name. And please, don’t call me Mother.”

More recently, my genealogy research has led to the freeing of family secrets and added new textures to my Name. A curly-haired child, I resembled my maternal grandmother. Bermuda-born, Gram passed for white in Canada. I’m descended, I discovered, from Pequot Indian, and African, slaves.

Breast cancer has shocked me into a confrontation with my mortality. I courageously dance on the edge and wonder, juggling terrors and uncertainty with a passionate desire to live fully.

As I stitch the oddly shaped and multi-coloured fragments of my Name into a living quilt, I’m beginning to love my Name. Roslyn. Ros. Rozzie. Buzz. Soeur Roselyne. The one I love the best is Auntie Ros. I hope that when I die, my family and friends will gently hold my Name and know that I’ve been a Truth Seeker. And I hope that I, and my Name, being one and the same, will, like the Velveteen Rabbit, have become, Real.

Roslyn Ann Macgregor (a.k.a. Auntie Ros)
March 7, 2006

 ** This is not the attitude of Sisters today. And, if I hadn't been trying to be invisible and to find a safe family, I wouldn't have been there. St. Margaret's gave me so much, as I gave of myself to them. And I loved God, as well as my Sisters. Still do.


  1. Thank you for all the deep sharing you have done on your blog Ros.... it all is so powerful .....and such a deep insight into you and your family.... that can be applied to living life we have been handed..... Once again Thank you.. Jan Ivy

    1. Thanks, Jan. Thanks for commenting.

  2. That's a wonderful treatment of a name. Thanks so much!

  3. Another great entry and so nice to see so many early pics of my brother, which I'll save.
    Thanks for sharing.
    The Leprechaun