Today is my grandmother’s 93rd birthday and she celebrates is in style surrounded by family in Toronto. Recently I had the privilege of spending the night with her. She had a copy of the Dundalk paper which I read to her over morning coffee. I came across a call for submissions for a Canada 150 publication that requested articles and stories about people from the Shelburne/Dundalk area. I told Grandma she was going to be a writer and on her behalf came up with the following. She still has to edit them.
The poem is reconstructed. I actually wrote that for her 75th birthday back in 1999. Join me in celebrating Ivy Sherritt today!
Humble and Kind
“Help the next one in line, always stay humble and kind…” the lyrics of Tim McGraw’s 2015 hit resonate not only with a modern day crowd, but celebrate the values that my 93-year-old grandmother lives to this day.
Born Sylvia Ivy Eileen Demmans on June 20th, 1924 on a farm in Riverview, Ontario, “Ivy” grew up at a time when farms had no electricity, when all meals were made from scratch and the refrigerator was delivered when the ice man came and deposited a large ice block in the cellar. People were always at the ready to lend a hand to their neighbours and the days and seasons were marked by the chores everyone pitched in to complete. There was a deep connection between people and the earth, a harmony and respect that is still engrained in those who work it today. Even when she moved to the city to raise her family, my grandmother kept a garden and made preserves, pies and meals from those scratch recipes that had been passed down to her. She married Archibald Sherritt, had 7 children and one stepchild, has 17 grandchildren and 29 great-grandchildren.
Perhaps you have heard some of the ‘back in my day’ stories that parents and grandparents have recited, particularly the one, “I used to have to walk 12 miles to school; uphill both ways…” In my grandmother’s case, this was true, other than the uphill part. She attended one-room schools in both Riverview and Corbetton both a significant distance from her farm. Her favourite teacher was Mr. Bob Duncan and she played the same games that her great-grandchildren play today: baseball, skipping and hopscotch at recess. Humble and kind though she was, Grandma was also practical, tough and brave. She could navigate Maude and Leo, their horses through driving snow as they pulled her cutter, and she never had to cry over spilled milk because she was so adept at handling their twelve cows.
Grandma’s family roots reach back into Canada’s pioneer history and extend now across North America. Her legacy is her family and the values she has instilled in them. She has given wisdom and guidance yet never judged. She models patience and believes in creating a waste not want not world. She has taught us to approach people with helping hands and generous hearts and to fill our homes with welcome, laughter and friends. She reminds us that it is the simple things that matter and that time is the greatest gift you can give to others; that saying please and thank you and holding doors open are acts of kindness that never go out of fashion.
Ivy Sherritt, the little girl from Riverview, has made a positive impact on everyone simply by being who she is, a woman with a big heart and timeless values. She is the light that shines at all of our front doors.
A Tribute to My Grandmother Ivy Sherritt (born Demmans)
By: Lori Sherritt-Fleming
At 93, she still inspires the telling and keeping of stories,
her smile fairy like and uplifting as she listens.
Fears are collected and calmed in her presence; solutions neatly cross-stitched onto pillows for her great-grandchildren to dream upon.
She never boasts wisdom, though she has plenty to share…from the wonders achieved with borax and vinegar to tips on how to milk a cow or steer a cutter through the snow.
You have to lean close to catch her words above the creak of the porch swing and cricket song, for her voice runs gentle, like the rivers of the place that raised her.
Ivy knows the smell of city rain on asphalt, but she was country born, calling Riverview, Dundalk and Shelburne home.
The aroma of fresh baked pie, of pasture breeze, of grass underfoot is always with her somehow.
In a world of cellophane she recalls the first taste of summer preserves and the sweetness of peas still wet with dew, torn from the pod and popped crisp into hungry mouths.
Her harvest of children have knows such delights.
She has been their diviner, finding refreshment when the well was dry.
“Waste not, want not,” her favourite catch phrase is echoed to this day as everyone scrapes their supper plates clean.
On this day of her birth, they have come to honour her, with a bagpipe procession.
She looks back and she looks forward to the clan of Sherritts she has borne.
And celebrates the greatest gift her long life has given her…family.
Happy birthday Grandma! Love you!