happiness

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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happiness

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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Crazy driving, constant hope, and tea time (FGK-9)

Based on the timeline given in the previous post, which you can find Here, mom had been in the hospital for 3 weeks when Grandma wrote this letter:

September 1st 1952

Dearest Margie:

I have thought of you constantly all day but you won’t get a letter today from me, there just seemed no way to get one in to you. Dad and Slim and I came home from Calgary right after seeing you yesterday and we met a car right by the slough at Edges and it side-swiped us and burst our rear bumper. Boy! Was Dad ever mad. It was a car from our oil well and they were coming so fast we were really frightened so Dad pulled as far into the ditch as he dared to. We met the same car one Sunday when you were in Isolation and it nearly put us in the ditch that time too, and it tossed a rock up that hit our windshield and put another crack in it. We told him about it too and in no uncertain terms. His car was badly dented and scratched though. We had a miserable little cup of tea with cheese and crackers when we got home, then Dad did the chickens while I got a bit of supper and Slim helped the Ecklund’s milk. Then we got ready and went to church – picked Sheila and Marshall up first at Aunt Ruths.

I loved this story. I can imagine grandma and grandpa in this moment, but I also think of all the times white knuckling it in the passenger seat while grandma drove us somewhere. Or of my favourite driving story about her occurred probably in the early 80s. She was driving home to the ranch from Cochrane on the 1A when a car started following closely behind her. She sped up, the car sped up. She slowed down, they slowed down. Finally she hit the pedal to the medal and shot out of there only to see flashing lights in her rear view mirror. When the officer came to her window what he got was a lot of trouble “How dare you scare an old lady like that, what were you thinking following me?” She got an apology instead of a ticket.

And, there’s the little comment “we had a miserable little cup of tea with cheese and crackers when we got home” which may sound like it was no big deal, but knowing grandma it was a BIG deal. Teatime was something you didn’t mess with in this house, and there was usually something sweet. I remember when Grandma was in her 80s she fell and broke her arm. I was in emergency with her while they were doing X-rays and assessing her. The doctors and staff were quite concerned about her break, but Grandma was livid because it was tea time and what she really needed was a cup of tea. I remember her trying to explain to the doctor that if he’d just stop and leave her be for a minute so she could go out and get a cup of tea, everything would be just fine. They wouldn’t let her go, but I ran out and got her one, and it really did seem to make things better for her. In fact, in my family growing up, and now with my own family, whenever anything even remotely stressful happens, the first thing we do is make tea.

There sure wasn’t many at church, only 24 counting the minster, and he preached a good sermon too. Aunt Ruth and Uncle Ed took the kids for a drive while we were in to see you. They were sure scared of his driving but enjoyed it otherwise. I think they went up to where the Cochrane Rodeo was to be held. We came straight home from church, I felt kind of sick – headache etc. But woke up feeling fine today. It is nearly 10 pm now so I’m really tired. We did a big washing today. Just after we got the lunches put up and got started with the washing. Uncle Clarence and Donnie came long. They stayed drinking coffee for hours. Donnie didn’t get into much mischief though, just let the hose on my washing machine down once and let the water run out it a while before Sheila caught him.

Dad was away measuring hay and Clarence just left and we cleared the table when Dad brought Dave Bryant and Mr. Fox in for coffee and they stayed until 15 to 12 o’clock. Then we really had to hustle and didn’t affect anyone only Dad for dinner but Rose (Reese??) and Slim came in too. However we finally got through washing and doing dishes and I wrote 11 thank-you letters and cards for you while Sheila ironed clothes.

I phoned Mrs. Hope today to see how you are and she said you are just getting along fine without Mrs. Powers. I was pleased to hear that, and Mrs. Hope was very nice, she explained why you had to have the penicillin etc. She said your kidneys needed it, your innards get so sluggish when you are so inactive and the penicillin is just a precaution, she thinks you won’t need much of it ‘cause she said you are rally doing exceptionally well now. I hope you get a little sleep now int he day time too. You must be very tired of all that mess of compresses but try and stand it for a little longer, it will be worth it to be cured.

I thought it was really sweet how Grandma explained to mom what the nurse (I assume?) told her about mom’s health. Mom was only 11 and all alone in the hospital and it probably meant a lot to know that her mom was checking up on how she was, and then to have her mom explain to her what was going on.

It will be worth it to be cured. Forceful hope is a what I see throughout these letters. Words are powerful, and whenever Grandma talks about mom getting better, she never allows for anything but constant hope and positive thinking about how that’s going to happen.

I am terribly tired tonight so I must go to bed now, I’ll write you some more tomorrow and I’ll be in to see you on Wednesday. Lots of love Dear – Mom xxx

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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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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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Horses, school, and firecrackers (FGKk-4)

When I was a kid and I heard stories about my mom and her siblings riding their horses to school I was so jealous. It didn’t matter how many times mom clearly explained to me that they rode up hill in -30C blizzards both ways, or that the school house was frozen solid in the morning, all I heard was “horses”. Now that I’m older and a little wiser I have a lot more appreciation for the cold winter mornings when dad drove me to school (although I have my own hardship stories of walking to school in freezing temperatures uphill both ways to share with my kids).

When it was time for mom to start school, Grandma said they were a bit nervous because mom hadn’t been riding much by that point (she was 5) but knowing that she had her older siblings to look out for her, and their wonderful old saddle horse Buck to babysit her she felt relatively secure about sending mom off.

One morning in the summer before mom started school they got her on Old Buck (I never heard him referred to as just “Buck”) so that mom could practice riding around the yard while Grandma sat in the sun porch and did some sewing. Mom was slowly getting more confident and at one point yelled at grandma to look out so she could watch her trot.

She rode right up to the window and was yelling about how she could ride. Somebody must have rode by or the horses walked out in the field by there, that was it. And old Buck, he shook himself and sneezed and then whinnied away. When he shook himself it nearly took Margie to the ground and she was terrified she hung on for dear life. He never moved but he was shaking his head and looking at the other horses and that almost discouraged her from riding. She didn’t get off, she kept on, she wasn’t quite so smart. And so she rode Buck to school when she was old enough to go to school with the other two kids. Right across the creek, up the hill, I forget how many gates they had to go through to get to school. Marshall was at an age where he was into things too.

And then she digresses into a couple of stories about my uncle chasing off magpies and having a nasty fall in the half frozen corral. Gosh I wish I had known them all as kids.

Like a typical sibling relationship, mom wanted to hang out with the older kids and the older kids wanted her to hang out with her own age group. But she made friends with a girl her age who, according to this story, struggled with arithmetic (I completely relate). Their teacher at the time was a man who had been a Sargent in the army and he was rather strict:

He was teaching grade 1 then, arithmetic and Margie got it quite easily and the other little girl could not do it. He had more patience, he just kept going over and over and over. Finally he lost his patience and Margie was sitting behind the little girl, and he finally lost his patience I don’t know what he said but he just threw his arms in the air and swung around to face the blackboard and threw the chalk at the blackboard. And just as he did that, Margie had swiped out of Marshall’s pockets a firecracker and some matches – she was only in grade 1. I didn’t know they had them even. And she lit it and threw it down on the floor just as he shouted that he gave up and he nearly jumped out of his skin. And after preaching about the bombs going off, the rest of the school were just terrified

Dad laughs

Just awful. Oh but Marshall he was so mad at Margie

Dad: wished he’d done it himself

Grandma: well he was mad because she’d swiped his …. they were precious (dad: his firecracker) yeah, and they weren’t supposed to have them. I forget all the details but that was he was mad about, but they were all shook up because at the school that was very loud. He had a hard time surviving after that I think but there was never a dull moment much when she was around.

I’ve heard both the firecracker and chalk throwing story before, but never from Grandma’s perspective. In mom’s story she said the teacher said “I should throw a firecracker under your chair to get you to work” and since she had them…. well… they kind of were put to use. The version of the chalk throwing story I got was that the chalk was aimed towards the class not the chalkboard, but no matter how this story is told it never ceases to make me laugh.

I remember mom telling me that if any one of the three of them did the least little thing “wrong” at school, as soon as the day was over there was a mass rush to bolt out of the classroom and be the first one home to tell grandma what had happened. The fear was that if you didn’t get your story out first, she wouldn’t believe it. But the one “riding to school story” that I’ve always had mad respect for was when my uncle tied his toboggan to his horse and took it to school so they could sled. Part of me has always thought that being on that toboggan would be the ride of a lifetime. And as someone who has been dragged in a a calving sled behind a quad by my uncle I still believe this to be true. Like I said, I sure wish I had known this trio when they were kids.

Then Marshall got a new horse. We went up to Johnson’s and he had some lovely horses, they had show horses and other kinds. And he picked a lovely little horse for Marshall, wasn’t too small. Marshall figured he needed a new horse. One day, I always watched out the window and could see them from the time they emerged from the bush out in the field, and then they followed the road down to the gate -they had a lot of gates. Margie had persuaded Marshall to let her try riding that horse of his and after riding Old Buck she hadn’t practiced handling a horse too much because Buck knew what to do more than she did. I looked out the window thinking it was just about time they were coming out of the bush about a mile away. And this black streak came out of the bush and headed way off over to the corner where the gate was to get through. And I was frightened, I wondered what in the world had happened, wondered if they were dragging a stirrup of something. Margie had persuaded Marshall to let her ride his horse and the horse knew he had somebody pretty green and he just had a real good run after standing tied to a tree all day that was just what he wanted to do. It was horrifying watching it. I could see the whole show from my window. No wonder my hair is getting white.

The kids could tell more stories about that little school there. But it was good training in its own way. You learned a great many things that you wouldn’t learn in the city schools. All through Margie’s life she went through the good things so vigorously. She would be very tired at night.

The story changes now to to the time when things changed out here forever. I’ve really enjoyed the “before polio” stories, I feel like it’s given me a stronger sense of mom’s adventurous side before she got sick. I haven’t listened to any more of the tape, so what happens next will be a surprise to me as well, but I know that we are in the polio stage of things.

I’ve mentioned this before, but as sad and traumatizing these years are that are coming ahead in mom’s story, they also are ones of faith, strength, grace, and courage. It took a lot, not just for mom but for her entire family to decide that she was going to learn to thrive in extremely adverse circumstances. It’s a story of hardship and pain, but it’s also a story of love and faith.

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Climbing trees and ladders (FGK-3)

I’m back to the interview Dad did with Grandma. Many of you who knew mom likely know the story of the time she climbed the ladder to the roof of the big garage. I’d heard the story told many times by mom, and later my uncle told it at her funeral. Some of the details differed, but both ended the story with the fact that mom climbed the ladder and my uncle got in trouble for that (mom’s version was a bit more gleeful about him getting in trouble than was his).

Here’s grandma’s version of the story, which I assume must have been told to her by my grandpa:

When she started to walk, she never stopped, she ran. And I had quite a time getting her taught not to go down to the creek. She was about two years old going down to the creek, and about then Percy thought he’d build a big two story garage we have out here. Great big thing, the upstairs was for storing lots of things, and they held a lot of tractors and cars and stuff.

He’d come to the time to shingle it, and of course the kids wanted to climb the ladder. Marshall, gosh he was big compared to Margie, he thought he was a big guy, and Margie was about 3 years old then I’d think. So finally Percy had to move in and let him help with the shingling, I forget what job we gave him but he was on the roof, that’s all that mattered to him.

He was up there on the roof, up near his dad, and really up on the peak of the roof. He looked around, and he was a little kid looking over the roof, “dad” he said “look” and Percy did and had 40 fits, it was Margie getting off the top of the ladder and was going to go up on the roof. Percy said “Marshall, don’t say a word you’ll get caught” because every time they got together they fought. Margie would try to do something wrong and Marshall would try to stop her because it was dangerous, and there was a big drop. He <Percy> said, “if you can sneak over close, hang onto some part of her till I get there”, and he had 40 fits getting slowly down casually without a fight without anything happening. But he finally got her It was a long ladder to the top of that roof, to go down the ladder (laughter). She didn’t climb a roof again. That was very dangerous.

When Grandma ways that Marshall was big compared to Margie, let’s remember that if Mom was 3 my uncle was only 6, so “big” is relative.

Remember where Grandma says “She didn’t climb a roof again”? Well, right away we move into more stories of her climbing like she’s Spider-Man.

She was always climbing things. Another time I’d call and she’d answer, and I’d call and she’d answer and I’d call I’d walk towards the sound, and she’d answer right close and I couldn’t’ find her. I was in the trees by the house here and I couldn’t find her – those are really tall trees. How tall would you say John?

Dad: oh 20-30 feet

Grandma: at least that I would say. And she’d answer so close I just automatically looked up, and she was having a great time. She was at the top of the tree hugging it looking down, laughing and talking to me. I couldn’t think of how I was going to get her down the tree. I can’t remember now, it was so long ago, how I gradually got her down, it was awful.

Dad: she was quite content up there

Grandma: Yes

And she was always climbing. The house that Percy’s dad and sister lived in was a two story house and high, that big White House there, and at the bottom of the roof, down under the roof, there was a horse trough that used to collect the rain water and it was usually pretty full. And I couldnt find her another day, she was always running around. She would be three or so then. 3 of 4. And finally I found her on the top on the peak of that roof, not the lean to, but the high house, and the highest part of the house. And at the bottom, she got down to the other roof, the lean to, and that was steep too very steep. If she had slipped she’d have gone into the horse trough full of water

Dad: laughs

Grandma: I’m surprised I didn’t go grey right then you know, it was terrible

Dad: better to fall in a horse tough of water than on the ground

Grandma: well… yes but…

Dad: when we got married, one of the ___ gave a toast to the bride, he had a lot of stories, like you told now, about Margie climbing. I’d never heard those stories before and I havent’ heard then since <and I never heard these stories until I found this precious tape>.

Grandma: well

Dad: I made the comment at the wedding following that that she’s always been climbing through her life (gma laughs). Not physically climbing any longer but she was always climbing.

Grandma: Mentally then that’s right I guess. That’s a nice thing to say.

It seemed as though her life has always been eventful you know. I was lying awake thinking about her the other night. I sure wish I’d have written down a diary, but when would you have had time to? With the gang, the men to cook for and keeping house and raising kid. I had two others besides. Oh well.

And these are just the times she got caught, I’m sure Mom climbed everything in sight out here when she was a kid. Which kind of explains my “Monkey Club” years where my cousin and I spent our days climbing and swinging around trees.

Tomorrow I’ll write about mom and her horse Buck and how she and her brother and sister rode to school. The segue between her climbing and her going to school involved a comical spat between dad and grandma:

Dad: Tell me about her going to school

Grandma: I was starting on that (dad: sorry) you’ll have to be quiet (both laugh). If you think of anything speak up though (dad laughs).

Dad and grandma had such a close relationship. From what I saw he treated her like a mom and she treated him like a son. They respected and loved each other, and each had the other’s back, but that didn’t mean that they didn’t sass each other once in a while.

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happiness

By hook or by crook (FGK-10)

I found mom’s old autograph book. I’d forgotten about these, even when I was a kid I had a little book like this that I’d get friends to sign funny things in. Included are the messages from my Grandma, uncle, and aunt.

Dear Margie, The world is like an onion. Reflecting all you do. And if you face it smiling, it will smile right back at you. Love Sheila. Happy Birthday October 6

My aunt wrote this 2 days before my mom turned 6. my aunt would have been 11.

Jumping Pound, Alberta. November 3rd 1947 . Dearest Margie: If there is righteousness in the heart there will be beauty in the character. If there be beauty in the character, there will be harmony in the home. If there is harmony in the home there will be order in the nation. When there is order in the nation, there will be peace in the world. Love Mother

I love this. I googled it and it gives a few sources, but “Ancient Chinese Proverb” and “Confucius” seem to be the most common. While I was reading this I realized that these words have been woven into the tapestry of our family.

My uncle would have been 10 when he wrote this, mom was 7.

Alberta. November 4, 1947. Dear Margie. By hook or by crook I’m the last in this book. Your brother Marshall. Yours till the cows go home

When I was a kid and was given an autograph book to sign I always went to the back to try and write “by hook or by crook…” and I’m glad to see I come by that honestly. Although my uncle really stepped up this game as this is not only the last page, but it’s glued to the end of the book ensuring that no one else can be “more last”.

Back to the letter tomorrow. Today we head out with the 4H club for highway cleanup.

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happiness

Magic Carpet Ride (FGK-2)

I kind of thought maybe carpet bags were something that only Mary Poppins carried around. But I discovered this bag hidden in a closet, and it’s full of odd assortments of mom’s throughout the 1950s. There were lots of old newspapers, both clippings and full papers stuck in here (as an aside, no wonder Mary Poppins used one of these bags, I was beginning to think it was bottomless – it’s amazing how much stuff fit in there).

A lot of it was about the royal family, and it seems mom had the same kind of obsession with Princess Elizabeth that I had with Lady Diana (who am I kidding, I’m still kind of obsessed with her, she was an amazing woman, but I digress).

The Magic Carpet Bag
I had to add this one in because I thought it was funny they had to mention Queen Mary was still alive.

As I said, it’s the most random bag of goodies. Here’s a photo of my aunt – I believe when she graduated from nursing school. There was also a letter from my uncle to my grandparents who were away on vacation somewhere. The letter was full of how much he’d fed the cows (down to the weight of both the feed and the cows), and how day to day things were going on the ranch.

You know, sometimes I wonder why we keep so much old junk around. But I think maybe it’s for moments like this. So we can go back through our past to figure out who we are.

Mom would have been 16 when this caricature was drawn. The same age my girl is now. It took me a long time to figure out how I felt about this picture. Part of me thinks mom would have hated it, but then she kept it for all of this time, and the tape on the sides tell me she probably even hung it up. I think it represents how she took on life after polio took her body. That brain of hers was amazing, she was a lifetime learner, and who she was… what was inside her… it was so impressive and took up so much space that it was usually what people noticed first before the chair.

Mom took her exercise routine seriously. She knew that the only way to have her body work for her was to work with her body.

I had to add these slippers in, it’s unfortunate that you can’t tell from the photo, but they are the MOST uncomfortable slippers that have ever been invented in the history of forever (maybe not, but they’re super uncomfortable). While the blue fuzz isn’t that bad, the outside is some sort of bristly, cable-like, woven threads of yuck. It makes me appreciate my comfy, warm, UGG slippers.

Mom did high school at a boarding school in Florida, and this menu must have come from there. I had to do a closeup of one of the dish write ups because it’s a story telling menu and I thought it was kind of fun.

But, my friends, I saved the best for last. My parents loved it out on Vancouver Island, they even had a home that was to be their retirement home (best laid plans and all) and we spent a great deal of time enjoying what Vancouver Island has to offer. After they sold the house in the 80s, they continued to vacation there regularly, and before Covid I was taking the kids out every year for Easter- it’s a place that holds a lot of love for me and my family.

Anyway, one year when I was about 10, my cousin came with us. Either Victoria was safe enough, or my parents were naive enough that we were allowed to run the streets by ourselves. We found a joke shop and thought it was the best thing we had ever discovered. Along with a whoopee cushion (that did not go over well at all with my parents but we found it hilarious), we bought several licenses that gave us permission to do things. Among them was a license to burp, which like the whoopee cushion we found hysterical but mom did not.

It is nice to see though, that at some point in her life she also decided she needed a sarcastic and sassy license.

Now, if you’ve ever driven with certain members of my family (I’m not naming names, but you know who you are), you’d understand the necessity of a license like this. So, perhaps it was less of a joke and more of a not so subtle hint 😉.

Along with the magic carpet bag, I found all of the letters and cards that were sent to Mom while she was in the hospital. I spent most of yesterday crying and reading them. There was so much love sent to mom, mixed in with details of ranch life in the 1950s which I’ll talk about later on.

But tomorrow I go back to the tape. I’ve got a few stories about Mom’s love of climbing things to share.

Thanks to everyone for the love and support, I hope you continue to enjoy these stories.

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