happiness

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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happiness

Aunt Nan goes to the stampede (FGK-13)

Mom used to talk fondly about her adopted grandparents who lived down the hill. She told me how she used to love going down and being spoiled rotten before they had grandchildren of their own. In my childhood, one of those grandchildren, then grown up, used to be so tolerant of me as I was constantly drawn to the creek and would come and help me out when I got myself caught up doing stupid things with my horse. Never once was I scolded, I was just helped out of my mess and sent on my way.

My dear Margie,

Although I don’t write very often I think of you a lot, especially last week. I hope you didn’t miss going to the Stampede. We went on Monday and I was bored all afternoon. I thought it wasn’t as good as usual and decided I wasn’t going again. The evening performance wasn’t as good as usual but I enjoyed the chuck wagon races, but I gut just as much and perhaps more over the radio the remainder of the week.

The exhibits were just the same old thing and the Midway was as smelly and noisy as ever.

I hope next year you will be able to be one of the crowd. I’m so glad you are progressing so well.

We are all complaining of the heat now. We are never satisfied are we?

We had Jean home two weeks ago and it rained each day. she didn’t even get to the ranch.

Uncle Jack is going out tomorrow, taking out a married couple. I guess having will be in full swing in a few days.

It doesn’t seem possible you’ve been in Hospital a year, but I guess it has been long to you, however the next one will pass more quickly.

Heaps of love from Aunt Nan.

Maybe the Stampede wasn’t all that that year, but I think perhaps Aunt Nan was trying to make mom feel better about missing out.

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happiness

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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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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happiness

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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happiness

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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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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On the hill

I was driving down Cochrane Hill today, stuck behind a big truck going very slowly when I had a childhood memory pop up.

When we were kids often we had horse activities at times when dad wasn’t available and mom would have to take us ourselves. Now that I’m a mom I realize how hard it is just to get two humans out of the house, forget tack, horses, and hooking up the trailer (forget loading the horses and driving us.

The fact that mom could do all this given her physical limitations is absolutely amazing.

I remember often her having to drive the trailer up Cochrane Hill – and when we were little she was hauling with just our old Jeep. She’d have to drive through the flat part of town as fast as she could, and even so we’d get 3/4 of the way up the hill and we’d slow to a walking pace.

We always got wherever we were going – she had more patience than I did clearly – but sometimes I look at the things we did or places we went and I’m quite amazed at how brave mom was.

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