Brand building through storytelling

A reunion in my online neighbourhood

I thought I knew a thing or two about the Internet’s power to bring people together. After all, if not for Google, I wouldn’t have found my freshman English instructor from Middlebury College (he hasn’t taught for years) or my co-star in the Oyster River High School production of the recognition scene from Anastasia. It’s only thanks to Google that my cousin once removed, Louisa Woolery, tracked me down while researching her family tree.

Still, I couldn’t have imagined that someone unknown to me could rekindle a cherished old connection right here at

Phyllis Ouellette wasn’t looking for anyone in particular when she Googled “mother daughter” a few days ago. All she wanted was a thought or two to share with her mother, whose birthday is coming up on June 21. Alighting at my mother/daughter gallery, she found herself drawn in by the tributes posted there. Among them was a story Louisa had posted about her late mother, Rosemary Woolery, Although Rosemary was my first cousin, I never her even knew her name until long after her death. But to Phyllis, she was practically family–her mother’s close friend and a guiding maternal spirit to all the neighbourhood kids back in Bowie, MD.

Cousin Rosemary“What a character!” Phyllis told me. “She introduced me to wonderful books, opera, the concept of composting and names of dozens of flowers…. She took us on long nature walks and let us watch as she cooked and baked up a storm (no box mixes for cakes in her kitchen). She held down the fort with six rambunctious kids and laughed about it every day.”

Rosemary used to keep an old brass bell on her front porch. It hung from a rope, which she would swing to call her children home for meals. “Kids came running from every direction, whether they were her kids or not,” says Louisa. She and Phyllis are back in touch for the first time in years, and they couldn’t be more delighted. Their virtual reunion has me smiling, too. Although I’ll never know for certain why my father shared so few details about his relatives, I still the power to stitch up a few holes in the family narrative.

How fitting that Rosemary was named for the ancient symbol of remembrance, woven into bridal bouquets and thrown into graves. When there are no more fresh moments to savour with someone dear to you, it’s comforting to celebrate the past, to turn those moments over in your mind like stones gathered on a beach, polished smooth by the churning tides. I know from experience–both my parents long dead, two friends lost this year–how deserted the beach of remembrance can feel. And yet in fact others are walking here, too, thinking of the same people I will always miss. Every time someone quotes a saying of my mother’s, or recounts one of her adventures, I think to myself, “I didn’t imagine the indelible uniqueness. Other people saw what I saw, and still have not forgotten.”

Posted by Rona

Leave a Reply

Stay up-to-date with Rona.

To see what’s on my mind these days, friend me on Facebook.

Miss my old site?

Visit the archive to find your favorite blog posts and Chatelaine editorials or browse my published articles. Sorry, I’m not blogging anymore.