Monday, September 27, 2010

Thoughts about My Mother, Yoria C. George (1920-2010)

The Terrible Shears

"The terrible shears went clack clack clack."
D. J. Enright

Today would have been your 90th birthday, Mum.
Last month, you were slipping away from us
in hospice care, diagnosed with kidney failure.

Such a well-appointed room; outside, a buddleia
swarmed with butterflies. Donna remarked,
you were too far gone to enjoy such luxury.

As with Dad, dying of cancer three decades ago,
I wished I could drag you back from
where you had gone, use the jaws of life

to restore you to what you'd been. But oh no,
the terrible shears, they never stop do they,
the terrible shears going clack clack clack.

Christopher T. George

Gibberish or Art

The Muddy Muddy Mersey

Tomorrow, at midday, I'll
receive Mummy's ashes
in a plain box, eschewing
an extravagant receptacle.

The time's come to collect
her and to take her home,
to the city she knew before
we sailed that ocean-blue.

Aye, come next year, I will
scatter my Mummy's ashes
in the muddy muddy Mersey
-- the Mersey of memory.

Christopher T. George

Gordon and Yoria Feb 22 1945 bigger

Chocks Away, Chaps

Thinking of my mother passing at 2:30 AM today,
I keep looking at the happy wedding photographs

from seventy-five years ago: all those uniforms!
Woollen gray of the Royal Air Force: Dad rakish

sergeant in the RAF medical corps, khaki jackets
of my Mum's fellow Auxiliary Territorial Service pals.

My Mum's Joan Crawford-plucked eyebrows;
Dad pulled her into the seclusion of the limo.

Christopher T. George

My father was a sergeant in the Royal Air Force medical corps. He told me a story about being in the French countryside before Dunkirk and seeing German Panzer tanks coming along the lane. He said he dived into a haystack to hide from the enemy.

The above image of my Mom and Dad on their Wedding Day, February 22, 1945, was taken while the war was still ongoing -- it didn't end in Europe until May when the Russians captured Berlin. My Dad wore his RAF uniform but Mum wore a suit though she was in the Auxilliary Territorial Service (ATS) helping to monitor the German planes flying over Britain. Her ATS friends, all in uniform, formed a guard of honor for Mum and Dad when they emerged from St. Anne's Church in Aigburth, Liverpool, after the service.

The fold-out Christmas card shown below was sent by my father to my Uncle Doug, Mum's brother, from northern Germany (Schleswig-Holstein) at Christmas 1945. It shows the occupied zones of Germany, with the Russian section shown by the Soviet soldier dancing with the Russian bear at top right.

Gordon RAF card Xmas 1945 smaller cropped

We had a nice memorial gathering at the Burgee-Henss-Seitz Funeral Home on Falls Road in Baltimore on Saturday, August 28. Following are some of my remarks at the memorial.

Yoria Christine George (1920–2010)

"To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die."
—Inscription on an old gravestone, courtesy of Lisa J. Cohen

The Naming of Names
By Christopher Thompson George

A number of you might not know the origin of my mother’s unusual first name, “Yoria”.

Here’s the explanation:

My maternal grandfather, George Thompson Matchett, served in the First World War in the Lancashire Fusiliers as part of a British Expeditionary Force sent to Greece in 1916, a sideshow to the Western Front and the Allied forces disaster at Gallipoli in 1915. Grandad was there for nearly three years, mainly helping to guard supply wagons going to the front, where the British were fighting the Turks and the Bulgarians.

Grandad was based in Salonika, present-day Thessaloniki, the capital of the Greek province of Macedonia. The local people called him “Yori”—Greek for “George.” When he returned to England in 1919, he decided that when his daughter was born he would call her “Yoria.”

You also might not be aware that in our family Mum’s nickname was “Lule.” Yoria’s cousin, Frank Norman, whom Mum characterised as “a lovely boy,” could not pronounce “Yoria”—so he called her “Lule.”

I never had the privilege of meeting Frank. He was the only son of my favorite aunt, Auntie Mary, my grandmother’s sister. Frank was killed in June 1943, part of a crew flying a Lancaster bomber on a bombing raid on Germany.

My father, Gordon B. George, also had a nickname within the family. It was “Grod.” He received this nickname because as a little boy, he was unable to spell his name, and he wrote it as “Grodno Groeg.” So, to me, as his son, he became “Daddy Grod.”

I would like to think, if all things are right, that “Lule” and “Grod” are at this moment together again.

(The title above links to a memorial page for my mother on the Burgee-Henss-Seitz Funeral Home Inc. website)