happiness

Mom’s Tour de France 6 (FGK 97)

Several things about this letter make me emotional. First of all, it’s shocking to realize how much happened to mom in those teen years – at 11 being in the hospital (well really she was still 10 but a month or so from being 11), all of those years spent wondering if she would survive the effects of polio, praying for her to sit up or be able to walk again. Then off to boarding school in Florida before attending Stanford – and then off to France. There are also little details in her letter that fascinate me. When mom says they were up at 4am to explore for the day, I wonder how she got ready. Even when I was a child and mom was stronger and more agile, getting dressed took her a couple of hours. She had to put on a back brace that had various layers and many snaps and straps, then she had her leg brace to navigate as well. Mom didn’t complain about it, but getting ready every day was almost a full day event for her as she got older. Then there’s the accessibility issue. As a child I remember going places with mom and there were no such things as automatic doors, and many places had steps to get in – all of this took mom extra work to navigate. Some of those heavy doors she couldn’t get through without someone there to hold the door for her. I had to do a short stint on crutches when I was younger and I was shocked at how frigging tiring it is to haul yourself around on them. I’m struck by her courage, and also the kindness of her friends travelling with her.

This letter was written October 6th, 1960 (Margie’s birthday)

I just got back from a marvellous birthday party which my friends have sprung as a surprise – and it really was!! They called me down to Ruth and Patti’s room and when I walked in there was the most fantastic cake I have ever seen plus a big sign on the wall saying “Bon Anniversaire.” Then they all sang “Happy Birthday” in French. The cake was an enormous French pastry with “Bon Anniversaire Margi” written on it. This involved a problem as far as cutting was concerned but it all disappeared within a few minutes. French pastry is really just out of this world. Gail gave me the most darling French poodle for my bed which was looking very bare with nothing on it. Pat and Ruth gave me a big potted plant for our balcony. Margi and Rosemary gave me some candles and Penny and Kathy gave me some more French pastry and some lipstick (the colour all the French girls have been wearing).

I left off my first letter when we decided to go to Paris last weekend. Friday morning we had lectures until noon about how to adjust to French life, get along with the people etc. At noon we were free to go and catch the first train to Paris – something I’ve waited for so many years to do that I couldn’t believe it was happening. We stayed on the left Bank which is the student section. We were too tired Friday nite to do anything but walk around a bit, see the Louvre illuminated and go to bed. We got up at 4am Saturday morning to go to Les Halles which is the great vegetable market of Paris. We walked around all the Halls while the people taught us the name of the food in French and gave us some grapes. We then went and had the most delicious onion soup I have ever stated at a little restaurant. The soups they have here are out of this world. After this we went back and slept until 10am when we went to take in such things as the Toulaires, La Place de la Concorde, the Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower etc etc. We sat down at a sidewalk cafe and had a cup of tea on the Champs Élysées. Gail and Ruth and I bought a piece of French bread, some cheese and an apple and sat down on the banks of the Siene in front of Le Louvre to eat our lunch. It was so much fun just sitting and watching the people and boats that we spent an hour and a half there. After this we wandered through the gardens around the Louvre and back to our rooms to go to bed early. Sunday we caught the Metro to the Ile de la Cite to attend Mass at Notre Dame. None of us were Catholic so we decided this wouldn’t be polite so we went in a little bit but spent most of the time walking around outside. We then caught a bus to the Louvre – it would take a lifetime to go through it but I saw the Mona LIsa and several other masterpieces. I would like to spend the weekend there – I hope it isn’t too long before we go again. Paris is absolutely charming. What I enjoyed most was not the tourist spots but the more out of the way places like the quasi of the Siene and the parts of the Left Bank. I miss my car needless to say, because there are so many parts of this fabulous country I want to see. Not only is Paris full of fascinating things, but just going through the countryside is an experience. I’m starting to get some friends among the French students now which is fun because they don’t talk English. I never realized how poor my French was before!! This is certainly an incentive to work on it. We have really had a lot of work piled on us for the past two days I’ve been locked in the library back in the old routine.

Margi Copithorne

Stanford in France

Place Anatole France

Tours, Indre et Louvre

France

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happiness

Mom’s Tour de France 4 (FGK 95)

I finally have a year – 1960. So mom was about to turn 20 while on this adventure, and only 19 while she was on that ship. She lovingly gave my boy a trip to Iceland with his school when he was 17 (unfortunately mom died a couple of months before he took the trip, he wanted to badly to be able to tell her all about his adventures when he returned). I thought of mom and my grandparents often while the boy and I were texting across continents and time zones – I was very grateful for technology so that I knew he was safe and having a good time.

The Cochrane paper only printed excerpts of mom’s letters from her travels- I really hope that the whole story is in the letters in this box here. Of course, I’m sure that all the best stories didn’t even make it into the letters – but it’s fascinating to hear of her travels.

Sunday September 24th, 1960

We are all starting to are preparations to leave the boat – it seems as if we have been on here forever.

We had a masquerade ball last night. Gail, two others and I went as a French singing group. We didn’t win anything, but we had all sorts of fun parading around. The name of our group was les Quatre Barbes (The Four Beards). We made the hats and beards out of paper and borrowed striped t-shirts from some boys. we were a weird looking lot. There was singing afterwards and folk dancing. None of us in our cabin could get to sleep last night so we sat up all hours talking. As a result I didn’t get out bed until 3:30 this afternoon! I can imagine what Dad has to say to that!!

We must be nearing land as it is getting very misty out and we pass the occasional ship. One night when we were out in the middle of the ocean we passed a big liner at night. It made a magnificent sight with all its lights.

Later – We passed a lighthouse on Ireland a little while ago. This time tomorrow night we will be going across France in a bus on our way to Tours!!

We just got back from the mad pizza foray. It is so funny to see the Italian waiters rushing through the room with the trays high above their heads screaming in Italian while everyone is trying to grab the pizza. The tall Americans are very frustrating because they can reach the trays easier. Marshall would have it made. A darling little Italian officer who is one of my friends brought us a large pile so we missed all the crowd.

I almost know how to play bridge which will be a very bad habit. It’s really not so terribly different from whist except for the bidding and scoring which I find harrowing.

I had a letter from Mrs. Neilson when I got on the boat. It was so very nice to have a bon voyage card on board. Please tell her “Thank you” for me when you see her.

September 25th – We’re sailing up the channel now and due to land at Le Havre any hour. There is such an air of excitement on the ship when you walk around. After 10 days that land is going to be a thrilling sight.

It is very sad to leave all the good friends we have met while crossing. Sharing experiences with them made it all twice as much fun. I’ll try and write some from Tours.

Margie Copithorne.

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Mom’s Tour de France 3 (FGK 94)

My first thought was “If I’d found myself alone for the day in New York in my early 20s, the last thing I’d have done is gone to watch the UN.” But then I realized that I had found myself alone for the day in New York in my mid 20s and I spent the day at the Museum of Natural History – just a different sort of nerd I suppose.

September 22nd

We have been on the ship for a week and there are only 3 more days to go. I have my sea legs and am no longer sea sick but our cabin is a state of chaos.

They are holding a Model United Nations on board this afternoon but I went to sleep instead of going. It would have been fun to compare it to the one in New York —- which reminds me.

I haven’t told you about the first part of our trip yet. We had fabulous flying weather from Calgary to San Francisco. All the changing autumn colours over the mountains were low enough to see all the details. The customs men boarded the plane in Spokane for me, so I didn’t have to leave it once during the trip. It was interesting to see all the country we drove through by air, when we got near San Francisco I could also see the road by which we left.

The jet flight from San Francisco to New York was marvellous, it took us only 5 hours to cross the continent. There was no noise to speak of and no rough weather the entire way. We were up 29,000 feet.

Our boat was delayed by the hurricane (Donna) so we didn’t sail till 10 pm. The university rented part of a hotel and we were let loose in the city from 9am to 7pm. Five of us spent the morning touring lower New York in a bus. We went up to the United Nations building about 11:30 am and I was so fascinated I spent the rest of the day there. We made a fairly complete tour of the building and then attended a Security Council debate on the Congo. It was thrilling to sit there and see history being made. Gail and I got caught in the 5 o’clock rush when we were trying to get back to the hotel. They are really trying to kill off the pedestrians in that city. You take your life in your hands every time you cross the street, even on the “walk” signs.

Getting on the boat was chaos. Everyone was screaming at everyone else in a different language. We almost died when we saw the ship. It’s just a little larger than the one we took to Nassau I’m sure. The rooms make that one look like a luxury liner. Nevertheless, we are having all sorts of fun on it since most of the people are students who don’t really care about things like that. We got a wonderful view of the New York Skyline and the Statue of Liberty as we were leaving the harbour. The next day and since then – we have seen only the waves and a few porpoises and birds.

By the way, I haven’t thanked you for my roses! They were just beautiful, and cheer up our little cabin no end. It was so exciting to get mail the next day, far out in the Atlantic.

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Mom’s Tour de France -2 (FGK 93)

I recall having a conversation with mom when I was an adult where she said something like “you have to remember, I’m essentially a paraplegic” and it completely threw me. Although I knew she’d lost use of her stomach, back, right leg, and most of her left leg muscles due to polio I was so used to seeing her marching around on those crutches it was easy to forget how fragile she was. I was fortunate enough to have taken a 3 day cruise several years ago (ironically to Nassau – which mom references), and navigating the movement of the ship and the small quarters of the cabin was challenging at times – I can’t imagine doing all of that on crutches like mom did. If she fell it was a big deal, she needed help to get back up and often medical assistance as well. It astounds me how brave she was, and how brave my grandparents were because it must have been incredibly frightening knowing their baby was travelling by ship to another part of the world.

We’ve jumped several years from the letters in the hospital, but still it’s amazing how relatively quickly mom went from the letter sent by Grandma asking her if she thought she’d be able to sit up in bed, or be able to learn to walk on her crutches, to letters being sent by mom on her way to Europe to study. No wonder Grandma wanted to let the community know how well mom was doing, they’d all spent years praying for her to get better. While it wasn’t perhaps the full recovery that they’d hoped for, mom was really living an extraordinary life.

Margie left Calgary on September 13, by plane to join her fellow students at San Francisco and fly by jet to New York to catch their boat to sail to France.

Ahoy there:

I am out on the deck sun-bathing and trying to keep my stomach in one place. Why, oh why didn’t I pack my sea-sick pills. We have finally hit upon a cure – always keep something in your stomach, this is very fattening, but it helps.

I wish you could see the “Asconia’ (our ship). I don’t know where they got the pictures for the folder “Burnett’s” gave me but it wasn’t this ship. Actually it has quite a history. It was sunk during the war and remained at the bottom of the ocean for ten years. An Italian company bought it – dragged it up, and fitted it out as a student ship.

There are six girls in my cabin, all going to Tours. The room is about the same size as the one we had in Nassau (very small) and we are all jammed in there with six months of luggage. We take turns dressing.

The crew is just charming. They are all very Italian and when they get excited their gestures and expressions are something to see. Their English is not so good and my Italian is worse so as a result our conversation consists of a little bit of each. The steward and maid for our room are very mischievous and love to play tricks on us. One day we came in and discovered a pair of pyjamas stuffed with a face on it posed to represent one of us when we are sick. They have a terrible time getting us out of bed in the morning as everyone wants to sleep until noon. Gail and I have a French lesson at 9:15 am so we at least have to get up for that. There is always something to do on the ship – language classes, discussion groups, folk singing and dancing, art and music groups, card games, etc, etc. There are students from all over Europe and America on board. I haven’t met very many French students yet, but we have some Swiss girls at our table who are lots of fun and very interesting.

Last night we went to a movie which wasn’t very good at all but the comments made during the show made it hilarious.

They serve a midnight snack of pizza so we decided to go and try it. We had six pieces each!! It was delicious but if we continue this way we won’t be able to waddle off the boat. The meals here are something to behold. I haven’t made it for breakfast yet, but there are a few who say it has everything. Lunch and dinner are both huge. There is always a big dish of hors d’oeuvres and pizza and spaghetti are a must. After all this plus a soup and a salad comes the main meal. Dessert is always some gooey confection which breaks your heart to turn down. Ormando, our waiter, takes great pride in the meals and is just crushed when we turn something down.

This morning in our French class I had to tel them all about Canada, en français. We try to talk French as much as possible in our cabin. I can understand the Americans when they speak French but I can’t understand the French.

Yesterday we attended a discussion on Algeria. There were some French and a Moroccan and Algerian speaking. Feelings really ran high and it turned out to be a very hot discussion. I gained a lot of insight into the problem by seeing how strongly they felt about it. There are so many nationalities abroad, we can get quite a variety of ideas. I’ve found out I’ve had many mistaken concepts of their countries, but on the other hand, they have some odd ideas about America too.

Gail is up learning Swedish. She is part Swedish, so she takes quite an interest in it. I was really lucky to get such a wonderful roommate. She’s the type of person who gets to know others easily and is always in a good mood. She’s always helping me and doing things for me. She’s going to be fun to travel with because she’s always full of energy and eager to see everything.

I’m sitting in the ballroom writing this, there are countless games of bridge going on with a piano at one end and a record player at the other. No one can really hear what the other people are saying.

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Family trip 

My mom has as her screensaver photos from our big family trip to Italy in 2009. A  group of extended family got together to go celebrate the wedding of my cousin. It was so much fun. I had never been before and I think I probably slept about 6 hours in the 10 days we were there – we were so busy eating and seeing everything we possibly could. 
I love looking at those old photos. We were all so happy (and thinner and younger) – Dad looked so good in all the photos. It’s nice to go back to a time when there was a lot of joy in the family. 

I remember lying on my back floating in the Mediterranean laughing with my cousin. We laughed so hard our stomachs hurt – it was so carefree and easy. I loved that moment. 

Trevi fountain 
I have realized recently that we have finally reached a place where our little trio has started to feel secure enough to want to reach out and explore again. As we have discovered that  we are finally feeling home and safe and secure, we are starting to talk about spreading our wings.  I’m so grateful the kids now have put down roots deep enough that they can grow. I’m grateful I’m getting my balance in a way I probably didn’t have before. 

There was a lot of happiness on that family trip. It reminds me how thankful I am for this tribe of people I was fortunate enough to be born into. 

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My hummingbird charm 

The other day I wrote about the little chapel I discovered while out walking around Old Town Albuquerque.  For some reason I was really drawn to that space. I had been feeling kind of upset and just being there had really calmed me and brought me back to feeling peaceful and grounded.

Yesterday I was wandering about looking for little souvenirs to take back for the kids and I came across a small hummingbird charm. Hummingbirds and I seem to be very drawn to each other. I am fascinated by their small size and yet their ability to travel long distances, the way they fight with each other (way more aggressively than I would have thought), and their simple beauty. The charm was only $2.50 and for some reason I was compelled to purchase it. It came with a little quotation about the spiritual meaning of a hummingbird:

When you see a hummingbird it is very lucky indeed,

because it is known as a healer if you’re ever in need

Despite its small size it flies great distances and even flies backwards too.

A reminder to have faith and enjoy all that you do.

It seemed to be a perfect reminder of where I was at in my life right now. Learning to have faith and enjoy what I’m doing is kind of my theme at the present moment.  I bought him, the lady put him in a tiny ziploc bag and I brought him back to the hotel. For some reason last night I moved him over to my purse, even though I intended to pack him in the suitcase. As I looked at my little bird in the bag, I thought about how he looked like he was suffocating the way he was locked inside that plastic. I felt upset about this, but I wasn’t quite sure what to do about it. I didn’t want to take him out and lose him, I had planned to put him with my special rocks at home.

However, when I was standing inside the chapel today looking at the small gifts and letters that other people had left there, I was compelled to take my little bird out and place him with the other offerings. I sat for a while holding him, seeing how I felt about leaving him there. All of my feelings seemed to guide me to the realization that this was where he was supposed to be. For whatever reason my little hummingbird did not need to go home with me, he needed to stay right there in that chapel.

So, I found a nice little spot for him in a pinecone, said a prayer of gratitude and I left.

My moment of happiness today.

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Sweet and salty (and a little spicy)

Like the rest of my life, today was sweet and salty with a little bit of spice. 

I walked around Old Town Albuquerque a bit more today. Even though it was a long weekend more of the shops were open so I did a bit of window shopping. The jewelry that is made in the area is so beautiful. I’m thankful I don’t wear a lot of jewelry so I’m not as tempted as perhaps I would be. Although I did fall in love with a Navajo rug that was the tree of life with birds on it. Then I looked at the price tag and moved on. 

I had a little sweet craving today and headed into one of the candy shops. They were selling green chile peanut brittle made from local chile peppers. After having a sample and feeling a wonderful tingle in my throat I headed back with a little bag to enjoy with my cup of tea. 

Because sometimes it’s small simple things that bring a happiness moment 

  

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