On Friday, my mother asked if I would make a toast for my grandmother's 100th birthday. I had some memories prepared, in anticipation of there being an opportunity for speechifying, but the toast called for something different. I decided to keep it simple--a summary of the significant events of her life, along with some historical context. Here's what I wrote. Somehow I said "Brooklyn" instead of "Brockville," but in my defense, the great cities are often confused:
|Anna and her namesake|
Let us celebrate this moment, where past and future are gathered to celebrate the one hundredth birthday of Anna Mcglade. No-one has seen all that she has seen or done all that she has done, but all of us have been witness to parts of a remarkable century. Begfore we raise our glasses to celebrate 100 years and look forward to the years to come, I want to look back a little, and to provide some context for people who may not remember that there was a world before Internet.
Anna Shortall was born in 1912 in Pittsburgh township. She moved to Gananoque in 1916. She had two sisters, Mary and Maragaret, and a brother, Eddie. That same year featured the first National Hockey Association game, the Bull Moose party nominated Teddy Roosevelt for president and the beginning of the Balkan War, which led to WW I.
In 1929 she graduated from Brooklyn Business College. The same year women were recognized as persons under Canadian law, and, important to Jason, the yo yo made its debut.
In 1934, after her father was killed in a tragic car accident, she took over running the Shortall Coal company, providing the fuel that helped people keep their homes warm during the cold Gananoque winters. That same year, Hitler and Mussolini met to discuss their plans for world domination and Babe Ruth hit his 700th home run.
In 1939 she married Hugh Mcglade and in the 1940s, the years of ww ii she had three wonderful children, Helen, Larry and James. In 1946 she moved to the house on Stone st—the house where her children grew up and that her grandchildren came to love.
In 1967, the year of Canada’s centennial, the coal company was sold to the co-op, and in 1973, almost forty years ago, Hugh died. In 1976 Anna retired from the co-op, giving her the opportunity to travel to Europe, and to spend more time with her growing brood of grandchildren.
In 1992, Anna sold the house on stone st and moved to pier i, still keeping, and maybe even improving her view of the river. In 1999, she welcomed the first of 8 great grandchildren, and 10 years ago celebrated her 90 th birthday, riding in style, in horse and buggy, from her apartment.
And now today, 4 generations come together, to celebrate a remarkable person; a business woman, mother, grandmother, great grandmother. A friend to many in town and at church, and someone with much to be proud of.
And so the root
Becomes a trunk
And then a tree
And seeds of trees
And springtime sap
And summer shade
And autumn leaves
And shape of poems
and more than tree.
So let's raise our glasses and say happy 100th birthday Anna. We are glad to come together, and we look forward to the years ahead. HAPPY BIRTHDAY!**The poem is by Langston Hughes. I stumbled on it, reading The Warmth of Other Suns on my way to St. Louis. I see in it more celebratory echoes of one of my favourite lines from Four Quartets: "We, content at the end, if our temporal reversion nourish (not to far from the yew tree) the life of significant soil."