Yes My Dear
“Yes My Dear” (Archetype Print Ltd.) is not hot off the press.
The book is 15 years old. I happened upon it because it was time to filter Missus’s wine.
We stopped at The Inside Scoop in New Harbour and while Missus made a beeline for brewing supplies, I idly spun the book rack spindle and spied “Yes My Dear … the Life and Times of Joan Morrissey — Newfoundland’s First Lady of Song.”
I tucked it among the packages of filters and wine-making paraphernalia Missus placed on the counter knowing she’d love to buy me a book.
In her dedication, the book’s author — Joan Morrissey’s daughter Debbie Morrissey Stafford — says, “This book is dedicated to my mother’s grandchildren. They never knew their grandmother.”
Place a bookmark here while I speak of synchronicity.
Maybe it isn’t so much true synchronicity as an example of the spooky nature of internet browsers tracking every move you make. Nevertheless, I’d visited Mr. Google’s house, keyed in Joan Morrissey, and tapped Go.
Two images appeared broadside offering YouTube videos — Joan Morrissey and Joan Baez.
Because Joan Baez was an old friend of mine — kinda — I open her video first. It was her acceptance speech at the 2017 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction.
At the time, Joan was 76 years old. Addressing the audience, she opened with words to this effect — “Some of you are too young to know who I am … sure, my granddaughter had no clue who I was.”
See where I’m going, b’ys? Joan Baez’s induction and Joan Morrissey’s story are both means of grandchildren not only getting to know of their grandmothers’ fame but also of appreciating their grandmothers’ lasting renown. Anyway…
It’s been 40 years since Joan Morrissey’s suicide. If the world had been different, if attitudes towards mental illness and depression had been less stigmatizing, Joan Morrissey — surely as a grande dame — might still be alive.
Joan Morrissey’s death was tragic but tragedy is not the focus of this book. Mostly the book is a compilation of memories. Debbie Morrissey Stafford asked her siblings, her extended family, Joan’s friends and professional associates to share their memories. Using those memories the author has produced a book that sings her mother’s praises — as a mother, as a songstress, as an all-round entertainer.
Shame on me, I didn’t fully appreciate Joan Morrissey’s place in Newfoundland’s entertainment history. Oh, sure, I’d heard her on the radio singing “The Mobile Goat” and “The CN Bus,” and seen her in a number of television shows. But I had no idea of the impact she made on the local, and to some degree the national, entertainment industry.
I deserve a smack.
Joan Morrissey’s energy was awesome — awesome meaning likely to inspire admiration, not awesome as an expletive attributive, a word that contributes nothing to meaning but suggests the strength of feeling of the speaker.
Yes, for frig sake, b’ys, you know I looked that up.
Joan had a house full of youngsters that she managed to look after, along with working full-time as a career entertainer. All that, of course, while quietly struggling with depression caused partly — well, truly, who knows what causes depression? — by chronic heart problems.
Here’s my favourite vignette from the book.
At the time, Joan lived in Long Pond, scrubbing the family laundry in the pond’s own muddy water … life was hectic.
Daughter Bev says, “I was young and was always running off so when mom went inside the house she would attach or tie me to tree.”
B’ys, lodge right and wrong on the shelf for a minute — can you picture the carloads of social workers converging on Long Pond today in a similar situation?
I laughed out loud at the conclusion of Bev’s fond memory: “My sisters even now reminisce and joke about how mom would hang a pork chop around my neck so the dogs would play with me.”
Here’s an odd bit of trivia. Joan (Learning) Morrissey was born Jan. 27, 1933 but her birth was not registered with Vital Statistics until March 10, 2003. Figure that one out.
Think about this. At 77, Joan Baez has recently released a new album — “Whistle Down the Wind.”
If the world were different … who knows, eh b’ys?
Thank you for reading.