Archive for February, 2008

South Bound in Winter!

February 27, 2008

snow.jpgImagine my excitement! Having grown up in Canada’s North (Some of my readers think that Canada is North, and how can you be North of North.) This winter I am bound for southern climes. I repeat, in the winter! I just turned 65 and finally have said “enough is enough, eh?”

So, we are packing up and driving south, not stopping until I can take off my winter coat. It may take us three or four days to reach our destination in Florida as we plan to visit Charleston, Myrtle Beach, and any number of the lovely places beckoning us to visit. The advertisements promise that “we will have the time of our lives”. I sure hope so!

Once in Florida, we plan to visit as much of the state as possible, to make plans (or not) for the winters ahead.

When and where I grew up, I can’t remember people going for holidays in winter. Post WW2, times were getting better, but winter holidays…not on my radar. As a young mother in the 60’s and 70’s (I had two children, 10 years apart), I always dreamed of taking my babies to a tropical island. I imagined their tiny feet tucked into the warm sand, mid-winter. It was not to be.

One thing about time…”Tempus Fugit”

So here I am on the brink of a month long trip to a warmer, gentler, more inviting land of warm sand and sea foam, gynormous malls, outlets and flea markets, endless museums, aquariums, and theme restaurants, armed with coupon booklets for discounts on all of them!

When I get back, I’ll report on the trip and whether it lived up to my North “headed”-South headed expectations.

Au Revoir. Be well,

Patti

PS: For those of you, who don’t experience snow, and may not “get it”, here are few photos of today’s landscape, after another 8 inch snowfall. It’s our life in black and white.


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The Luck of the draw (In-laws) Part 3.

February 10, 2008

Those boys! Just imagine 4 boys aged 4 months to 4 years in the sole care of their Mother for 5 years while the Dad went to war. Many families faced exactly that, at the time.

Those boys! The oldest, still referred to as #1, was just a little guy when he peed on his brother in the adjoining crib. Without further ado, brother #2 picked up the hammer that Ruth had left on a dresser from hanging curtains, and crowned #1. Prong side in.

#3 was the quiet one who Ruth took in the boat with her to calm her nerves. He turned out to be an accountant. Sometimes, the future is evident. Fortunately not in the case of #2 who did not turn out to be an axe murderer, but learned to strike a chord on a guitar perfectly or #1 who excelled at sports and aimed at a goal or a flag instead. #4 trailed behind, and saw plenty! He developed the keenest sense of humour and was multi talented. If you can’t join ’em, laugh at ’em, until you can. They were always into something, from burning down a hay field and nearly the town, to “borrowing” a few drinks from a 7UP truck, they had each other to “fan the flames”. What one didn’t think of, three others could. Stories, far too numerous to write. Suffice it to say, it was any boy’s life amped x 4! Thankfully, it was at a time when the local police would give them a scolding or look the other way, and not lock them up! The raucous behaviour continued well into their teens. Never the choir boys, they were all industrious. They had paper routes, shined shoes, caddied and set pins. They earned their own spending money and always contributed to the family grocery bill.

They learned to fish and hunt and took advantage of the lakes and forests around the mining towns they lived in. Their appreciation of nature and boyhood camaraderie shaped their lives and built the solid foundations.

They were very individualistic, bright, competitive and talented. They all married lovely women and had lovely children. (Isn’t that the way it should be?)

To this day, when they get together all hell breaks loose. I look forward to it every single time.

Click on the photos for full size.

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PS: Several years after the end of the war, Ruth and Frank were blessed by two daughters, (my lovely sisters-in-law) and later on another son.

The Luck of the draw (In-laws) Part 2.

February 4, 2008

My Father-in-law, Frank

Frank grew up in Montreal. He was an all round great athlete. Hockey, Baseball, and La Cross were his favorites. He also enjoyed ball room dancing with his sweetie, Ruth, who he married in 1936 and was well known for his poker skills which came in handy from time to time:)
Frank joined the Black Watch 1940-1945 and saw action in Europe as a motorcycle dispatch rider until he was wounded* just before the war ended.

He, like many veterans didn’t talk much about his war experience. He shared the more light hearted, interesting anecdotes, such as, he had learned to reassemble a motor bike from scratch, blindfolded. *Although he had suffered severe burns to his hands and face, he was fortunate to have been treated in the largely experimental operating theater, where he underwent plastic surgery. The expert skin grafts to repair the damage was nearly invisible. The subject was fodder for much laughter. The grafts had been taken from his behind area and applied to the hands and face. “Just kiss me”, he would say. He may have the distinction of being the shortest man in the Black Watch, he was 2″ shorter than the minimum requirement when he signed up. He was nevertheless sent to training camp where he “measured up” and brought an additional talent to his unit: he was a winning baseball pitcher, and was invaluable to the force and their competitive nature!

Frank was overseas for five years. When he returned, he couldn’t get enough of his four boys, and they remember playing with him endlessly. One day, he arrived home with balls, bats and gloves and started to teach the fine art of baseball to his “near team”. Skiing instructor, “par excellence,” saw the boys into local competition in no time.

Frank made his living in the early days following the war, carving and painting Mallard ducks, made into pins and plaques, which he sold to big department stores, and building stone fireplaces. He couldn’t tear himself away from his family. When we reflect back, it was probably a form of self-enforced therapy. He later became an accountant and found his way to the mining town circuit, I have described earlier. At that time, mining towns offered a unique life style-company houses, good salaries, good schools and a safe environment for a family. They also offered a curling rink and a baseball team, so Frank would have been in his glory!

He was a very nice person. He was always supportive and encouraging, and like my own parents, never critical, and always generous. Thank you!

And thank you Frank, for your service to Canada.

Frank in the Black Watch WW2

The Luck of the draw (In-laws) Part 1.

February 3, 2008

Thus far I have not written a word about my in-laws, and fortunately for me, they had a similar background and parenting style to that of my parents. They were very good people, from humble beginnings with a wealth of experience and kindest of hearts. They were hard working, wise and very brave. They had a huge impact on my life. I married their 2nd son, who was a “new and improved” version of both of his parents and I was fortunate to have been loved and valued by this family. In the bargain, I was blessed by several brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law, nieces and nephews who enriched my life along the way.

My mother in-law, Ruth:

Ruth was born in England and grew up in Montreal. As a young woman she went to work in a millinery, making hats. She was petite, beautiful and very lively. She loved ballroom dancing, stamp collecting, skiing and pen pals. She married Frank in 1936 and had four boys, in four years. The youngest was a few months old when Frank joined the war effort. He was sent to England and then to the front as a motorcycle dispatch rider for the duration of the war.

Ruth’s story takes an interesting turn during that period of time.

She had already experienced the effects of war, as a child of a military man in WW1. Now, her husband was away, fighting  WW2.  It seemed to be just the way it was! With four youngsters, she lived in a flat in a working class section of the city. Her best friend, Anne, a native girl with two young children, lived on the second floor. Their husbands were both overseas with the Black Watch.

One spring day, as they sat on the front stoop, watching their older children play on the narrow, dusty, sidewalk, they decided that it was not going to be!

Two city girls ventured into the unknown with their little tribe.

They rented a cottage for the summer. The cottage was on an island and they had to row a boat to the main land to pick up their mail and groceries, once or twice a week. They took turns. Ruth would take one of her quietest boys with her because she was terrified of water and having him with her, gave her the courage and calm to get on with the chore and not freeze up mid way. The summer was a healthy, happy one and when fall came the mothers knew they could not return to city life. They each found suitable houses to rent in a little Laurentian town where they lived until, thankfully, the husbands returned five years later.

It wasn’t easy, but Ruth was well organized and open minded, so she learned fast and managed. People in the small town watched out for families of the military. The local butcher set aside kidney and liver, which was hard to sell in those days, and she knew the value of it. He would give her soup bones with plenty of meat attached for a second meal. She was a good cook, and had a nice garden, so the children thrived. They could ski in winter and run through the woods and fields in summer. They had each other.

Imagine what an effect this story had on me! I learned that we were not prisoners of our history, circumstance and environment. We can forge through fear and create a new reality. She did.

Ruth had three more children after the war and retained her sense of humour. I rarely saw her unhappy. After years of living and working in mining towns, they finally returned to city life. We remained close, if not physically, spiritually.

I understood what a unique person she was, when, as a young married couple, we would visit Ruth and Frank and she would spot a ” tense situation” happening between us. She would ask in front of both of us “well, what has he done now?” Coming from a mother in-law, I don’t need to describe the effect of those words. Among her many talents, she was a psychologist too.

Twenty years have passed by since Ruth died. We remember her fondly and often and we hope that she knows how grateful we are to have enjoyed her gracious “company” in our lives.

The heroine