happiness

Edna’s Story 7 (FGK 124)

I’ve said this before, but a day in the life of Grandma is exhausting for me to read. I can’t even keep up with my laundry now and I’ve got a fancy machine that does almost all of the work for me. I really need a machine that also folds and puts away.

Well we aimed to spruce up that cottage cute too. It was all shingles outside and wallboard inside. I really don’t think any newlyweds should ever do their own decorating. We were so dumb and green about the job and chose the hardest wallpapers to match etc and just didn’t have a clue how to do it. Our ceilings were high and we thought it would look smart to have a drop ceiling. Percy brought in the sawhorses and put those planks on them. We tried to put the paper up to the ceiling across and down the drop on the other side of the room. What a schemoozle! There was always one end of that long slimy wet roll of ceiling paper dropping off just when you had the other end all neatly stuck on. Then when you ran to grab it the loose planks would upend and away went the paper hanger, or the glue, or both. It just wasn’t funny. Of course we were dumb enough to start in the living room and do all our practicing there. But when it was done it all looked lovely. Then Percy decided his job was outside staining the shingles. He made himself a scaffold to stand on and one nice day when I had the front door open and I was in the pantry peeling onions with tears rolling down my cheeks from that job, his scaffold broke and he took a nosedive right in the front door. He brought his pail of brown shingle stain in with him and splashed it all over one wall of the newly papered living room. I ran in to see if he was hurt and was so relieved to see he wasn’t but when he saw my tear-stained face he said “Good grief, you don’t need to cry about it.” I assured him I wasn’t crying. I was only peeling onions and he wasn’t so pleased about that either. Then we both saw the wall and I think we both felt like really crying.

Like Wordsworth’s description of Hiawatha’s friends “Straightway ran the path between them, never grew the grass upon it.” The path between me and Jack Copithorne’s and Nicoll’s was certainly well-worn. We used to meet at least once a week for tea, and always walked, as it didn’t seem far. Aunt Ada was an exceptionally fine cook. Her lemon jelly rolls and hot biscuits just make my mouth water to think about them. Nan Copithorne was always sewing and redecorating. I remember one time she decided to paint her long dining room in red and pink. We were all quite horrified, just couldn’t imagine anything pleasant about that combination. When she was finished she had us down for tea and were we ever surprised! It was beautiful. We learned that tones and shades make all the difference. Nan’s homemade bread was superb. For tea in June she would often serve strawberries, rich yellow cream, fresh bread, and fresh homemade butter. But the laughter and gaiety of those gatherings out-shone any food you could mention. Everyone had such a crew of young men working for them and every home had a girl to help too and they were all like one big happy family. They just made their own fun to compensate for the hard work.

I didn’t own a washing machine for five years after we were married. Those were the dirty 30s and money was scarce. My sister in law, Annie, had a five year old Maytag and allowed me to use it whenever I wanted to. The water here is the hardest in Alberta, a queer hardness, soap just went like chewing gum in it because of the rock formation peculiar to oil and gas fire lids. There were no water softeners dreamed of then. We would save every drop of rainwater and melt snow in the winter and sometimes haul water from the creek when all else failed. Laundry was a big job. Heavy loads of snow in boilers of water, all to be heated on the stove. I used to feel I was such a nuisance when Annie wanted her stove to cook on. And heavy loads of wet clothes to be carried home by hand and hung on the clothesline. We scrubbed and polished our bare floors. Polishing by hand is very hard work, but it certainly preserved the surface and in those days we preserved everything.

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