Friday, January 27, 2023

Existential Examen - Day 7

 Today's the birthday of one of my very favourite people: Georgina Arabella Davison, born January 27, 1924.  Yep -- she'd be 99 today, but alas, she died July 10, 2004, at the age of 80.

She was my second cousin, my godmother, and her first name is mine too -- though as you well know, Gentle Readers, I never use it.  My DH and I shortened  "Georgina" to "Gina" when we named our daughter.

Until I came along -- or so my mother told me -- her family and friends all called her "Georgie".  I tried to say "Georgina" but it came out as "Georgie-Nina" and was forthwith shortened to "Nina".  That was her name, as far as our family was concerned. from that time forward.  

Nina had some trials in her life -- the first being that her beautiful mother, Olive Spearing Davison, died when Nina was 3 and her elder sister, Stella, only a few years older.  Their father, my Great-Uncle Fred, had no idea how to cope with two little girls, so they were farmed out to relatives -- first, as a pair, and later, separately.  Nina came to live with my mother's family -- Fred's older brother, Walter, his wife Margaret and their children, Bill and Ruth.  

Georgie & Stella

Ruth -- my mother -- was 8 years older -- but apparently took little Georgina under her wing, for they were like close sisters for the rest of their days.  Nina died less than six months after Mom.

When Mom remarried after my father died, Nina was her Maid of Honour and only attendant.  She was completely accepting of my step-father and my new siblings, and loved us all equally with a generous spirit and open heart.

As a child, Nina suffered a fall and split her upper lip; the scar never completely disappeared, but it added a certain charm to her warm smile.  Later, she developed scoliosis.  In those days (the early nineteen thirties, I think), the remedy was to take a piece of bone from one of her lower legs, and fasten it under the then-enlarging curvature in her spine.  This propped up her spine, and stopped further curvature, but there was enough curve that she had to wear specially tailored tops, dresses and jackets the rest of her life.  

As a stenographer, she rose up the ranks at Fisher Scientific, Inc., to become secretary to the President.  She had a seamstress who made sure she always looked her professional best, and Nina's taste added colour and style to Francoise's skills with the scissors and sewing machine.

Nina and me, ca 1955
When my sister and I were little, she would have Mom bring us into The City (Montreal) to see performances at the Children's Little Theatre in a grand hall in Westmount.  I remember seeing "Little Women" and "Red Shoes".  We were allowed to bring a friend, and sometimes our young cousin, Merry -- Nina's niece -- joined in the fun.

When I was nine or ten, I wanted a pen-pal -- something that was trending in the early sixties -- and Nina came to the rescue.  She had a pen-pal herself -- Brenda, in Yorkshire, UK -- whose mother was a teacher.  Sure enough, Mrs. D. could find me someone in her class to whom I could write, and a decades-long correspondence began.  My pen-pal and I have grown apart over the years; our adult selves are very different than our tween and teen selves -- but we still connect at birthdays, and Xmas.  Nina's pen-pal is in her late nineties now, and her health is failing, but I still keep in touch with her son (also at Xmas)...a chain of distant friendship that's now over 60 years old.

When I went off to university, Nina became my 'second mother'.  I loved to visit her stylish bed-sitter apartment on the Cote St. Luc Road, three doors up from bustling Decare Boulevard, and within walking distance of a delightful area full of interesting shops.  She would have me over for tea or for dinner.  Sometimes we went to St. George's at Windsor Station -- an imposing Anglican church -- on Sundays, where the services featured a boys' choir, complete with red robes and high, ruffled white collars.  After the service we'd walk up the block to Murray's Restaurant for lunch.

There is still abundant evidence of Nina in my life -- in the hand-painted plates and such that her mother created as a young woman; in my love of books, the theatre and classical music; in my understanding of how important it is to keep up to date with current events and world affairs; in old photo albums and autograph books; in photos of folks gathering outside the church the day I was married.  And of course, in my name...and my daughter's.

Today I am grateful for all that Nina gave me, gave us, her family, her many friends, her Fisher colleagues, her world.  As my Jewish in-laws would say, "May her memory be for a blessing."  Yes, indeed.


Kate said...

Such lovely memories.

Susan Sawatzky said...

I am really enjoying your memories...