happiness

Haying and Strawberries (FGK-21)

Thanks to some of you, I now know who the Barkleys are. I sure wish I’d known Mrs. Barkley, her letters sound so thoughtful and loving. And I know that I keep commenting on the handwriting, but hers is really quite fantastic. I can’t explain why exactly, but I really liked this letter, it made me feel warm and happy inside like a good cup of tea. Oh, and while I am thinking about tea – notice where she says they broke a saucer. Honestly, it never occurred to me when they’d bring food to the men in the field that they’d have tea cups with saucers. I don’t know what I’d imagined, but I just never thought of cups with saucers. So much work, but it does make tea taste better!

Although this letter is about daily life in Jumping Pound, the letter itself was mailed from Phoenix Arizona – it cost 6 cents to mail a letter from Arizona to Alberta in 1954 apparently.

So, where was Auntie Sheila off to that was giving her butterflies? Interesting to see that there was yet another polio outbreak in the area at this time – mom had been in the hospital just a few days short of 3 years by now. Kind of puts things in perspective for me with our current situation.

Sunday August 30 (1954)

Dear Margie

We haven’t heard any report of you lately and surly hope you are moving around now.

Sorry, I have been so slow in writing lately. Hope everyone else hasn’t neglected you so.

We are still at this hay job but hope to be finished in a few days. Our garden is producing a little now so it makes my job a little easier. Mr. Barkley’s brother from Longview came and helped us and we have had quite a good boy to drive the tractor or the bailer. Carmen and I had to get pulled thru a creek at the Kaster place one day and I got stuck in a creek in Mr. Wallace’s field yesterday. Just broke one saucer hitting the bumps in all our trips that really was not too bad the way we had to go at times. I guess they will come to the house for the few dinners left.

Have been expecting some more good strawberries but as yet they haven’t arrived. The raspberries I believe were better than ever. I just had to go to Cochrane for them. Irene and Clarence met the at the school to get theirs.

Have there been many new patients coming in? Surely too bad there are so many cases again this year. The man and wife we know are in isolation yet but are evidently showing good improvement already.

My niece and her husband were here for a few days a week ago and expect some friends from Vancouver for a few days this week so hope this haying is finished before they arrive

Guess Sheila will be having butterflies today. Sure hope she likes her choice. We’ll all miss seeing her at the weekends. She really looked well and nice when we saw her a couple of weeks ago.

Hope to get some barely swathed this week. Plenty of green grain around yet. My men are talking bailing some hailed crop at the Kaster place.

Be a good girl Margie and hope I hear another “forward” report on you soon.

Best Wishes,

The Barkleys

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A Real Hay Day (FGK-17)

Today is Mother’s Day, so I decided to post a letter to my mom from her mom. I can hear not only Grandma’s voice, but her “mother voice” throughout this letter. It’s so full of love, and also carries the mother reminders (did you write the thank you letters?), and also includes how she’s got mom’s back and is so proud of how well she’s doing.

I also had a little laugh, because it does not seem as though family conversations about the Stampede have changed at all in 70 years – lots of grumbling about how it’s not so great this year and we’re just not going to bother with it, then we all go down and have the time of our lives. Same. Thing. Every. Year.

RR2 Calgary, Alberta

July 9th, 1953

Dearest Margie

Just thought I’d scratch you a few lines so that Sheila can post the letter form the Old Timers Hut at the Stampede tomorrow ‘cause I hear they stamp them with some special stamp from there and thought you would like to have it.

Sheila and Ann rode up to the school and the rocks this morning while I made cookies and weeded the flower garden. It sure was a beautiful morning an the newly cut grass smelt so good. The weather is staying perfect for the Stampede and that is a good thing because there is a terrific number of tourists in Calgary.

Did you write and thank Aunt Annie for that nice box of eats yet? Hope my cake didn’t make you sick.

Marshall is busy plowing up in the homestead with Bill, and Ken and Dad are building a hay slide in Grand Valley. They are going to camp over there for the three weeks it will take to put up that hay and Mary is going to cook for them so Sheila and I will really be alone here. I have been trying to coax Sheila to go to Banff with me to take a course at the art school but she is not interested. Marshall is just not interested in the Stampede this year and doesn’t want to go at all, we have tickets for Saturday night by may not use them.

Is Smokey ever glad to have Anne here – he’s just showing off all the time. I took a snap of Anne holding him in your room this morning but I doubt it will come out very well, it’s none too bright in there now that the leaves are on the trees.

Aunt Ruth phoned this morning to say she heard Aunt Agnes’ Mother had died so Claude and Harry are coming back from the coast right away, they motored over together. I haven’t been talking to Winnie for a long time, have you thanked her for the mice yet? I guess I should phone her one of these days.

Marsh said that Shirley Norman is in the hospital again. He said there were 24 men there, the barn is over a hundred feet long, and they didn’t get it finished. He and Richard worked together and he said Hazel really did have a field day – they served them a swell afternoon tea – ice cream etc.

I owe Margaret Rowland a letter for ages now, I guess I should be writing her instead of you but I sure get terribly lonesome for you these days, just pray and pray that you will soon be able to walk and then you can come home for holidays at least. We sure have lots to be thankful for though – you are progressing really fast for the length of time you’ve had treatments.

Well I guess it’s time I made afternoon tea for Marsh & Bill, Sheila & Anne want to take it out to them I think so I’d better get to work. I’ve cut out quite a few things from the paper for your scrap book. I’ll take them in on Sunday.

So long for now dear – will see you Sunday

Loads and loads of love

Mom xxxxxxxx

The fancy stamp they put on the letter at the Stampede Grounds. 3 cents to mail a letter!!
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Christening, pageant, banquet, and first steps (FGK-16)

I’ve found a beautiful letter from Auntie Gertie. You know, it’s funny how things evolve. I started this wanting to know more about mom and her life before me – stories were so rare about her life before and particularly during polio. But I’m finding that along with discovering more about who mom was, I’m really learning a lot about our community here in Jumping Pound, what rural life was like in the 1950s, and the power of love and faith. Somehow it seems fitting to me that I’ve found these letters and these memories while we are stuck at home because of Covid, and I couldn’t imagine writing this anywhere besides From Grandma’s Kitchen.

Cochrane, Alta

October 25, 1953

Dear Margie,

We’ve certainly thought about you often, especially since you were home at thanksgiving. I’ll bet you felt as if it was the best thanksgiving you ever had. Even the weather co-operated. Sorry we didn’t see you then, but perhaps next time you are home we’ll have a chance.

To-day we went to church again and it was a christening Sunday Service. Vernice Wearmouth had her baby christened and she had the hiccups so bad we all got the giggles. The babies were all good as gold and stayed right through the service.

Last Thursday I went to a pageant on the Growth of Christianity. It was held at Western High School. It was quite good, one scene had all real Japanese actors and I really enjoyed them. the girls were ready pretty. The play went back in history to the pilgrims who came over in the Mayflower and took us through scenes up to present times in such countries as Scotland, Holland, Africa, Japan, and ____?. The costumes were very interesting and added quite a lot to the story.

Last Wednesday George and I went to a banquet at the Nag-Hey(?) a rather picturesque restaurant built of pink logs. The main room has a huge fireplace at one and over which are hung crossed ski poles. On the walls are show shoes, skis, and other sports equipment such as fishing rods, etc. There are some beautiful pictures of Indians painted by Gerda Chiristofferson. the skin looks so real it makes you want to touch it. Back of the long guest table is a huge drawing of a bucking horse and various brands. At each side of this are old fashioned ox cart wheels. On the table is a church wagon illuminated inside by a green light. There are many curios about, stuffed animal heads, a snowy owl, a model Indian teepee etc. The one side of the room has very large windows that command a beautiful large scale scene of the mountains and the sunsets.

First of all we had cocktails or ginger ale as we preferred. Then we had a scrumptious chicken dinner. Later after a speech by Clarence and one by Edith Edge we had a sing song. Mrs Sam Scott played the piano. Then we had a dance. Everyone had lots of fun and it was sure fun to be out with friends again.

The W.A. had a fine Floral Tea a couple of weeks ago. Mrs. Whitburn lectured on how to arrange flowers and care for them. Later the bouquets were given to the holders of lucky tickets. Then we had a tea and ___ of home cooking. I sold tons of the lottery tickets. One was to Nellie Bapti and another was to Mrs. Barkley. Georgie Copithorne won a lovely bouquet of roses and mums. By the way my sweet peas stalks and holly hocks are still blooming. Every day I expect to seem them frozen down but so far they have survived.

Last Friday the school children had a very interesting sports day. They had standing and running broad jumps, high jumps, foot races, and relay races. Then they put on a first aid show, demonstrating various bandages. It’s as rather cleverly done. Each child went over a high jump and purposely fell. At a signal from Mr. O’Brien certain students ran forward and gaven the patient a certain kind of bandage or a firemans lift etc. Done that way in a natural setting the first aid was quite effective.

Mrs. Cornelius Buckley married Art Koher lately. This Wednesday Edith Sibblad is having a small shower for her inviting only her well known friends. It should prove a very interesting party too.

Patsy is 5 years old now. My sister Sibyl(?) had a birthday party for her in town. None of our children ever had a real birthday party with guests and presents before. They always had a birthday cake but that’s all, so you see Patty had a pleasant surprise on her birthday.

I made rather a pretty punch work cushion cover lately. The design is made by pink roses and is done on black velvet so it is quite effective. Punch work is fun to do and I enjoy it.

Well Margie it’s time to get supper again. Seems as if all I do is cook. Food disappears at an alarming rate around here.

We are all glad to know you are improving and putting on weight.

Love and best wishes to you form all of us

Aunt Gertie

Edna just phoned to tell me you got some new shoes and took several steps today. We are so thrilled. Do keep up the good work. We are really proud of your progress.

That last part may have made me tear up a bit. Gosh, Aunt Gertie was a wonderful woman.

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The True Spirit of Easter (FGK – 14)

Today I’m sharing a letter from mom’s cousin Lawrence. I didn’t know him really besides from stories. He and his family moved back to Alberta in my junior high years (so about 82-84), but unfortunately Lawrence passed away in 1986. My mom adored Lawrence, every time she told a story about him she lit up, I think he was one of the boys who allowed mom to be a Tom-boy and play with them. In fact, when mom told her version of the Firecracker story , his name was mixed up in it – I just can’t remember if she was trying to impress him or if he helped egg her on.

Box 58, Cochrane, Alberta

14, April, 1954

Dear Marg

Gosh this sure has been a busy day. In fact, it has been a busy week. We had tests sent out by the office, one on Social, one on Science, one on English and one on Math. I haven’t taken my science test yet and I don’t know what marks I have on my math test. I got 68% on English and 52% on Social Studies. My social was a little low and has been all year. I should have good marks on my math though. The test, although very long was seemingly easy.

It gives me test anxiety just to post his grades. Report card time was always a nail biter for me as my grades were usually less stellar than one would have wanted. Grades are an odd thing, when we are in school they are one of the most important things in our lives, when we are living our lives, they are pretty much forgotten.

I don’t know whether or not I told you that the grades one to five were doing an enterprise on Indians. Well, they are. We had a big celebration today. Everyone was dressed up with fancy Indian costumes and we even had make up to make us look like Indians. I borrowed a fancy outfit from the Indians worth about $175.00. It was beautifully beaded. O’Brien took our pictures and if they turn out all right I will send you some.

Say in my last letter I told you that pen pals letters were flowing in a constant stream, well today I got another. She is a girl from New Zealand who seems to be very interesting. Her birthday is on the very same date as Dave’s, May 27. She lives on a dairy farm where they milk 97 cows! She sent pictures and everything. However she stated that her mother had passed away about a week before she wrote. I’m sure sorry.

We are having our house painted at the present time. We are having our men working away on that.

Will you be home for Easter? I hope you will be. I might get to see you for the second time in two years! At the moment I haven’t to say more except to wish you a very happy Easter Marg. May you feel the true spirit of Easter.

As ever, Lawrence

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A Letter from Aunt Ruth (FGK-12)

I was almost taken out by a bad cannoli Sunday night, so I skipped yesterday, but it gave me time to think about this time capsule I’ve discovered. I feel so blessed that it fell into my lap at this moment in time, it’s precisely what I need right now.

Today I’m sharing a letter from Aunt Ruth. She was my grandma’s sister, a fantastic artist, and mom always spoke so highly of her.

Dear Margie

Well how are you today? Fine I hope. We are all pretty good here. It’s trying to rain outside this morning so I’m afraid my clothes on the line are not going to get dried out very much. This rain will wash everything off though, the grass and flowers are just simply covered with dust.

We had a picnic on Olive’s birthday and took some snaps and at last we have our camera adjusted properly so they aren’t too bad. Aileen is holding Lloyd on her knee and Pat is standing up in front. The men and Gordie were all playing horseshoes so I didn’t get them in, however you will be able to see the two wee ones. The one of Gordie holding Lloyd isn’t too bad is it? Also Marion Beatly and her little brother isn’t too bad either. Also, Marion says she wishes she had her hair curled.

Yesterday we all went up to the Brooks place, it’s almost 17 miles west up past Helen McDonald’s road away in the bush. My I did enjoy the drive and it’s just like a park about there. I’ll try and give you a little bird’s eye view of it. They took us all through each of their homes and they were so neat and clean and nicely furnished. They all burn sawdust up there as you know they make their living with a saw mill.

Aunt Ruth’s birds eye view for mom

Well Margie, Dorthy and Bill Anderson are being married on Wednesday so things are pretty busy in town these days. Aileen had a shower for Dorthy in the hall and she really did get a nice lot of things. They are having a dance in the hall after the wedding for everyone who wants to go so think we may go.

Your mother tells me you have last week’s Star weekly so I won’t bother to mail it to you. What do you think of Edith’s picture on the front page? I think she is much better looking than that don’t you?

As luck would have it, this article fell out of a bag of newspaper clippings a couple of weeks ago. I believe it’s what Aunt Ruth is referring to. It was published in the Herald July 8, 1953. Mom would have been in hospital 11 months by this time.

We still don’t know whether they are going to open the schools on Sept. 1st. There seems to be so much Polio around.

All the kids have the horseshoe craze around here now and so far Gordie is the champion but he gets more practice because he plays with the men up at Claude’s. Even the girls are trying it. We also have a tennis court kind of lined up out here and they play ping pong rules.

Sure be glad when you can come in and see us again Margie.

I hear you have had Wes P____ up there to see you, you really do get to see all the celebrities.

I couldn’t make out his full name, but he must have been a local celebrity.

Well Margie dear, I must go now and if you still want the Star weekly Aug 22 we will send it along if you drop me a card to let me know.

Lots of love from us all and especially from me

Aunt Ruth.

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Long Distance Parenting (FGK- 11)

The second part of this letter from Grandma to mom. This is September 1952, mom had been in the hospital for about 3 weeks. I love how Grandma includes mom in daily life at the ranch, describing things so well that even I feel that I am there. And the gentle reminder to mom about her compresses and ensuring that her caregivers remember to be gentle and attentive to her needs, so subtly done in a way that probably was soothing to mom.

Tues Morning.

The men all took lunches today and they are going to finish the haying, it is a lonely morning. Marsh and Ken just ran the binder so Marsh is always getting after poor Slim for being so slow with the haying. Delores and the kids were just in, Delores wanted some certo to make jam with.

We haven’t heard a word about how the Cochrane Rodeo went, everything is sure quiet here. I told Sheila she better jump in the car after diner and got up and spend the afternoon with Anne and Rosie. Sheila is sure lonesome for you and everyone is finding life dull. I daren’t even think about this empty house after the kids go in to school. However, I am lucky I can see you twice a week and I can look forward to the day you can come home. But you will find it terribly lonely here after being in there. There is so much going on in there all the time and someone around you all the time. I think that whole hospital has an air of happiness about it except sometimes Mrs. Hope looks worried and distressed. I think she is overworked don’t you? Well, I must get busy, I’ll write some more after a while – cherio xxxx

When mom was sick and had started her chemo, she talked a lot about looking for the silver lining in everything. I see those words here too. I would be more likely to be devastated that I could only see my 11 year old twice a week, but Grandma makes it sound like it’s the icing on her cake (and for those of you who remember, Grandma made the BEST icing). If I was Mrs. Hope I’d be worried and distressed looking after so many sick children too, but Grandma doesn’t dwell on that, instead she shines a light on the happiness of the hospital. Words are important, they can change how we perceive a situation, and Grandma seems to always look for the lining.

2pm

Dear Margie:

Do you miss Mrs. Powers very much? Every time the nurse brings the compresses be sure to remind them to be careful how they place those sandbags against your ankle or leg. Keep on telling them ‘cause they are so rushed they are apt to become careless and it is really important.

I should be baking a pie for tomorrow lunch but it’s hard not to write to you, you are so near and dear to me, I miss you terribly, but writing is next best to talking to you only i don’t get answers to all my questions.

I think Sheila must have gone up to Annies. You would have come in and said goodbye etc, but Sheila is so silent sometimes, I long for your company.

I had such a laugh about the comment regarding my aunt. At this time, she would have been about 17, and for some reason it made me deliciously happy to read that she was a normal teenager – holding the surly silence of a teen and escaping over to her aunt’s for a visit without saying anything (Aunt Annie lived in the old house, so she was just across the yard – definitely within yelling distance).

Dad came in for dinner time to say they broke the bailer just when they only had about 3 acres left to do. He doesn’t know whether he can fix it himself or not.

I am making buns so I must stop writing soon again. I sure have a stack of mending I should do too.

And she says that it would be boring at home. Grandma sounds like she never stopped except to sleep, or maybe to write to mom. And while they weren’t having constant parties, I can assure you that they all had a more active social life with people who really mattered to them than I do now.

I notice Rex out snooping around the bailer in front of the garage while Dad is working on it. He is sure getting big and rough now. He wants me to play with him like you did and he nearly knocks me over. I noticed Lady and her colt down on the flat across the creek this morning. You could see quite a change in the country now. We have had two severe frosts and everything is turning brown fast. The peas all froze in the garden, we only had one feed of string beans. It just seems as though school should be starting, it is in the air I guess.

Well I must get to work again I guess, the frig is melting and will need cleaning this afternoon too. Will write more later – love mom

Wed. Morning

Dear Margie – I was too tired to write more last night and I am a rush to get in and shop this morning before the stores close. I am sure looking forward to seeing you. Will write more to you tonight.

Lots and lots of love dear

Mother xxxxxx

I am so grateful I found these letters, I feel like Grandma and Mom’s stories are coming alive in this kitchen.

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1952 – A timeline (FGK-8)

I have a letter written by Grandma to Mom in the isolation hospital dated September 1, 1952 that is 5 pages long. I’ll share parts of it as we move ahead, but at the end of her letter, Grandma included a timeline of the days before Mom was admitted into the isolation hospital and told her that she could stick it her diary if she’d like.

Throughout this project I want to be as culturally sensitive as possible while remaining historically accurate. I am including the more outdated term “Indian” although we now generally use the term First Nations. The stories I was always told were that Grandma and Grandpa built and maintained good relationships with our Morley neighbours to the west and I want to honour that. But our terminology has changed and I think my grandparents would also want to be respectful and culturally sensitive.

1952

July – Friday 25th – a young neighbour took sick

Saturday 26th – show in Cochrane

Sunday 27th – we went to church

Monday 28th – we went to Cochrane, you stayed in

Tuesday 29th —-

Wednesday 30th – took Indians to town (Cochrane) and brought you home – tired. You went to bed for your supper

July 31st – Went to show in Calgary with Dad

August 2nd – Saturday – went to show in Cochrane

3rd picnic at Morley. 4th —— 5th ——-

August 6 – Wednesday night – took Vera over to Margs – you were feeling sick – Sheila made you lie on chesterfield and covered you with the green rug.

August 7th – you ate a good breakfast – the last I cooked for you – toast eggs etc. But you stayed in bed all day and felt pretty miserable. was very sick at night.

August 8. Went in to Dr. and was very sick – went to Isolation Hospital

The timeline has never been very clear for me, I found this quite interesting to see how the last couple of weeks went for mom before she was admitted to hospital. How scary it must have been, and how the virus seemed to be a roll of the dice as to who was going to be sick and who would remain healthy.

I have to admit that reading this made me tear up a little. Honestly, most of the letters are painfully beautiful to read. But here, as Grandma was laying out the last bit of time that they had with mom when things were “normal”, it just made me so sad for Grandma. Much as mom never complained about things, I never once heard grandma say a bad word about anything that happened during this time. But as a mom it must have been absolutely heart wrenching.

Tomorrow I’ll share some of this letter from Grandma to mom.

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Driving and Stanford (FGK- 7)

Dad and Grandma talk about how mom got licensed to drive. Mom had to use her left leg to drive as she had no controlled mobility with her right. The sheer determination of mom and my grandparents for her to have as normal a life as possible is amazing.

Then she wanted to get a job and she took – a friend of ours who had a home oil company said we need a girl – a receptionist – at the front of the office and we’d love to have her there. And we thought, well she could live at home if she could drive a car and go in. And so she tried to take, she took drivers lessons, the whole course. And then the night before she was to have her final test the gentleman phoned me and said that she’d done very well but they couldn’t possibly recommend her to drive. And I was feeling quite furious. To let her take the whole course and then not let her have her test. And he said well we’ll test her, but I want to tell you that I doubt that she’ll pass the test. And so Margie was just furious. So she went in early in the morning for her test and she said I’ll put him through the windshield when he tells me to stop (haha). And show him. And so she did, and she got her license to drive.

And we got her a nice car and she worked as a receptionist and also she took a business course. And typing.

Dad: is that where she learned shorthand?

Grandma: I don’t know that she knows shorthand

Dad: no she does

G: that’s where she learned it then

My memory -I’m getting too old. I should have done this a long time ago. anyway she got that and it has helped her all her life having that business course. It was to one side kind of.

Then when she completed that business course, while she was working there was when she took it. She decided she’d like to go away to university. And she wanted nothing but the best so she wrote to Stanford University in the America and put her application in there.

When I was a kid, like under the age of 12, we often had Pony Club on Wednesday nights which meant Dad (who was deathly allergic to horses) was still at work when we needed to get out to the ranch to catch and load horses, so it was mom who took us. She’d drive out in our old Jeep and wait for my sister and I while we caught our ponies and got them ready for the trailer. Together we’d line up the Jeep and trailer and I’d guide her back and hook it up. Once the horses were loaded, mom drove us to Pony Club where we’d get our horses ready for our lessons.

I remember driving through Cochrane, which only had the one 4 way stop at the time, and she’d start hitting the gas as we sped on the 1A towards the bottom of Cochrane Hill because if we weren’t going for broke before we started the climb, the poor Jeep could barely make it up the hill.

There are also stores of mom racing around Europe in the little car she got the semester she studied in France.

I can’t imagine how cross she would have been at the thought of not being able to pass her test, but I know the determination she would have brought to that exam. I mean, really, the best way to ensure mom would do something was to tell her she couldn’t – and clearly Grandma was the same way.

The tape ends with mom heading off to Stanford. It ends suddenly, and I remembered that my attempts to stop mom from coming over to see what was going on failed. She never found out about the interview, but dad never got to complete it either.

However, I have the letters still to go through. I wish I had mom’s responses – and maybe they’re hidden in a box here too, Grandma kept everything.

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Home for Christmas and School (FGK-6)

Grandma talks of how she went to the hospital asking if mom could come home for Christmas.

The physiotherapist who was there, worked on her, lifted her arms and worked on her, exercised her and everything. But for 2 Christmases I would go to the doctor who was in the hospital and ask him if I could have Margie come home for Christmas dinner, I’d get a nurse to come with me look after her, and bring her in an ambulance, do everything that he would recommend if she’d be allowed to come home for Christmas dinner. He said, well she might as well she’s not going to live anyway don’t you know. That’s two years we did that.

This is the second time Grandma mentions that she was told by a doctor that mom was going to die, and the second time Grandma says that she just went ahead and did what she believed was best for mom and for her health. I should add here that mom said to me several times when I was a kid how hard grandma and grandpa worked to establish a good relationship with the hospital staff. Aside from it being what they believed was the right thing to do, they believed that if everyone who worked there knew that mom was a loved somebody, that she had people who cared for her dearly and who were really invested in her getting better, that she’d get better care. Particularly since they were only able to go in and see her twice a week for an hour. Mom was still a kid, to leave her in the constant care of strangers took an immense amount of trust and faith. This is a lesson that was well taught in my family and that I’ve passed onto my kids with this same story. Be kind to those who are looking after somebody who you love because not only is it the right thing to do, but it helps your loved one be better cared for. It is a rule that has seldom failed me.

Years went on, what a long time she was in there. The teachers that taught the children in that hospital were really something. She was smart and got a good education. After many years in the hospital she came out of there.

Then we got correspondence from the government and we did 2 years here at home and it was so lonely. She was young too then, and sit and study here at home in a busy household here it was. It was pretty lonely for her to be studying off in her room, not seeing other people her age.

Percy had, before we brought her home, he built a lovely physiotherapy table in her bedroom and I found out she was taking oh I hope I can remember the times correctly, the number, it was so long ago, I wish I had done this then, written it down or something. but the arms, and the legs, I think each one 30 times or 15 minutes a time. I exercised them. And we had weights on pulleys and for weights we had old fashioned irons that i used before we got electricity things like that I used for weights on pulleys and she could do that with my help. She gradually kept up her strength in her arms and her legs and several different methods they taught me. I took a light physiotherapy course before we brought her home so that I could exercise her. And it was quite a complicated physiotherapy table Percy built, quite well done and I think it’s still upstairs in that garage and all the pulleys and weights I used were old pieces of hand irons, or horseshoes or anything for different weights. And she just worked so hard, twice a day each one was done 15 times. And quite a few exercises, I can’t remember them now I suppose Margie could.

Anyway, then she had to study her school work herself from the correspondence teacher and it was a lonely life because I was busy in the kitchen we had quite a crew of men to cook for. So she did alright though, she worked steady and hard at her schoolwork.

After a couple of years of keeping close touch with the doctors and Physio and that, Margie began to use crutches and get around a little bit in the house. We had, my kitchen was three steps below the rest of the dining room so that was a dangerous thing so we built a new kitchen that was level with the rest of the house then too so that was nice. So it was just getting a very lonely life for her I thought for her, and she did too but she never complained. And when winter came it was too dangerous for her getting around with her crutches and so I wondered (oh here she comes, she won’t approve of this… is she coming????) i wondered if I could find a school in a warmer climate not too far away from home, and I found a little school in Florida. Daytona Beach /Florida with no steps because she couldn’t go up steps with, she wasn’t far enough advanced with her crutches and exercises. And we found a little school with no steps and I found a place where she could board and she went 2 years then. In her high school. She graduated from grade 12 with honours from that little school. In fact they put a plaque up outside the school honouring her for the gallant attempts she made and how well she did. I was very proud of her. That was 2 years I think, might have been 3, but I think it was 2. And she got through grade 12.

A few things happened here. We get the story of how Grandma’s kitchen came to be. I have tried to imagine how the lean to kitchen looked for years, but I’ve never seen a photo of it, and I still have a hard time wrapping my mind around it. I was told that one time mom was walking on her crutches into the old kitchen and fell going down the stairs. Grandma said that was it and the new kitchen was built. She really maximized on that, as this kitchen is a beautiful big space, and the room in the house where family always seems to gather.

Secondly, grandma talks of finding a school in Florida for mom. When I heard this, I thought of how challenging that would be in modern times with the internet – ensuring that the school had all of the physical accommodations that mom needed, and that she was in a place where she would be well cared for. And then, in the 1950s, to send your kid away to school in Florida was like sending your kid to the moon now (well, not quite but almost).

Finally, there was a moment where Grandma thought she heard mom coming. This is when I realized that I’d been in the room while they interviewed, because I remembered being sent off to divert mom from coming over. Grandma was right, she would have been upset. The years were so full of pain and trauma for mom there was an unspoken agreement between us all that we would never speak of them. Honestly, I’ve struggled with how mom would feel about me speaking about it now, but a few things have happened recently that makes me think she’d be ok with it. Mom didn’t want anyone feeling sorry for her, and she didn’t want to have to go back and sit in that pain (I wouldn’t either). But, mom, and her whole family, has this incredible story of courage and love and faith. and I consider it to be an incredible honour that I am telling that story for her.

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happiness

Day by day (FGK-5)

And so we are back to the time mom spent in the hospital. The timing here has been interesting because I’m listening to this tape while I’ve found all of the letters that were sent to mom while she was in the hospital.

Every letter and card has been kept in boxes and I’m pretty sure not looked at since mom left the hospital. But I remember her saying what a treasure they were to her while she was there as they were a steady contact to the outside world.

I actually found the hospital rules stapled together in a blue covered booklet titled Alberta Red Cross Crippled Children’s Hospital: Booklet for Parents

From the first page: The children who are patients at the hospital are those with orthopaedic disabilities whose parents cannot afford the prolonged hospitalization and medical care that serious orthopaedic disabilities demand; as well as those children with orthopaedic disabilities who cannot be adequately treated in any other hospital.

Grandma talks about when mom was transferred to the children’s hospital:

After a long long time, I can’t remember how long. She couldn’t move her arms or anything. they put her in the children’s hospital. I was allowed to see her for a half an hour twice a week.

Can you imagine? A half hour twice a week. The pamphlet says: Visiting hours are twice a week , from 2:30 to 3:30 pm each Wednesday and Sunday parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters over 16 years of age are admitted. Grandma wrote in a letter that she’d shown up 2 minutes late and had been turned away because rules are rules.

Below is the introductory letter that must have come with the blue rule book. When I read this stuff, I often wonder how my grandparents didn’t come completely undone. As a parent myself now I can’t even imagine how gut wrenching this process must have been.

Mom was always pretty strict about her routines, and I’m guessing it came from this time. What struck me though was the line “Your child will be dressed every day to give him a feeling of ordinary living”. I completely understand it, and support it as it was probably the best thing they could do, but it’s a bit surreal to imagine trying to feel like you were living an ordinary life in the hospital during this time.
From what I’ve gathered, mom was having a really hard time eating at this time. I loved that they included candy, with the understanding that it is a special treat. But I was raised in a house where we were taught that gum was gross and not really allowed in the house (I have the same rule now) so the idea of gum making people in the laundry room frantic was something I could relate to.

I thought it was interesting that there was an emphasis on building the whole child. Think of what formative years these are for kids, and how much would have been missed by being in the hospital. When I saw that they had a library with over 2000 books I immediately thought of mom. But, as grandma mentioned that mom couldn’t even move her arms when she was moved there it’s unlikely that she was able to read anything unless there was someone there to read to her.

Every effort is made to give your child a normal, full and satisfying life. At first I kind of brushed this off. But you know, mom did go on to live a full and satisfying life. As for normal, from grandma’s stories it doesn’t sound like mom was ever a “normal” child, but she did learn to embrace the new normal that had been given to her and absolutely made the best of it.

Bloom where you are planted is a staying that has guided me, and I think mom embodies this phrase.

The tape is almost over. I am guessing it’s been about 30 years since dad and grandma recorded it – which apparently is just enough time for me to have forgotten that I also was sitting in the kitchen when this interview took place.

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