Category Archives: Childhood

I’m So Tired of You America

“I’m so tired of you America.” Those words from the song Going to Town by Rufus Wainwright came to mind yesterday when I heard about the school shooting in Texas.

I am tired of hearing about one mass shooting after another in America. One grows weary of the continual news about gun carnage because there is a way to stop the endless senseless killings. So many other countries have managed to do it. But in the United States, the right to bear arms trumps protecting the lives of innocent children. I find that totally incomprehensible.

Guns overtook car crashes to become the leading cause of death for American children and teenagers in 2020.

David Frum quoted Isaiah 1:15 in the Atlantic yesterday in his article about the Texas shootings.

“When you spread out your hands in prayer, I hide my eyes from you; even when you offer many prayers, I am not listening. Your hands are full of blood!”

Frum pulls no punches. He says everyone in the United States has blood on their hands because they have failed to elect politicians who would curtail gun violence like so many other countries have done.

There is no point in Americans saying they are praying for the victims and their families. Those prayers are meaningless. God won’t hear them. Political change, not prayer is needed. David Frum calls on people of decency and kindness to bring that change about.

I know many people of decency and kindness in the United States but are there enough of them left? One wonders.

Other posts……….

Guns

The Shady Area Between Violence and Non-Violence

Generation Lockdown

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Kids of Career Moms Are Okay

I returned to teaching when I finished my maternity leave after the birth of my first son.

In 1979 when I went back to my teaching job after my first child was born I heard lots of critical comments about the fact that I wasn’t staying home with my son but returning to the classroom instead. The implication was that it was better for children if their mothers remained at home with them at least till they started school.

The disparaging comments I received about going back to work came from relatives, my school superintendent, fellow church members and even the parents of my students. A colleague bluntly told my husband our son wouldn’t ‘turn out’ (whatever that means) if he went to daycare instead of staying home with his mother.

With a class of my students in the 1980s

A recent article in the Toronto Globe and Mail cites a study led by Harvard Business School professor Kathleen McGinn, that assessed 100,000 adult children across 24 developed countries. It found that children raised by mothers who worked outside the home were just as happy as the children of stay-at-home mothers.

Women who had been raised by mothers with careers were more likely to be employed, earn higher wages and have jobs with more supervisory responsibilities. Men raised by career women devoted more time to helping their partners with childcare and other domestic responsibilities.

Laren Bazelon who has written a book about mothers with successful careers interviewed adult children of mothers who had worked outside the home while they were growing up. The majority spoke of their mothers with admiration and affection and said they had felt bonded with their mothers as children and close to them as adults. They said their mothers had been role models for them.

I don’t know what the statistics are for Canada but in the United States, 60% of people still think it is better for children if one parent stays home to raise them. I don’t agree.

Of course, early bonding with a parent is vital and that’s why we are so fortunate to live in Canada where parents have the right to paid leave to care for their newborns. I also know many parents can’t choose whether one parent stays home with their children because it isn’t financially feasible and it is not ideal for a parent to be working outside the home when they would rather be home with their children.

But…….. many parents love their jobs AND love their kids and shouldn’t be made to feel guilty about that.

A great many factors can impact whether children become happy, healthy, and responsible adults. Whether their mother works outside the home isn’t one of them.

Other posts……….

Should Women With Young Children Be Politicians?

Tully

Does a Female Finance Minister Make A Difference?

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The House on the Highway- My First Home in Steinbach

When my family first moved to Steinbach in 1961 we rented a house on the #12 Highway. I took this photo of the house in 2020 when I was in Steinbach on a visit. We lived in the house for two years before moving to a house we rented on Kroeker Avenue.

My sister and get ready to ride to school on our bicycles. We are on the driveway of the house on the highway. My sister and I shared a bedroom that was located up over the garage of the house.

My parents slept in a large bedroom on the main floor. Here my siblings and I are playing hospital in their bedroom. Since my Dad was a physician in Steinbach my brother is using some of his surgical gear and his stethoscope. I am the patient with my arm bandaged and my sister appears to have some medication ready to give me. Although my sister did grow up to be a nurse my brother and I both had long careers as teachers, following in our mother’s professional footsteps rather than our Dad’s.

Here I am with my younger sister and my brother on the steps of that house on the highway. My aunt and my grandmother are visiting us from Saskatoon and from the way we are dressed we are probably heading off to church.

This photo of me playing the piano was taken in the living room of the house. Through the window in the dining room behind me, you can see the big toboggan slide that was in the field just behind our backyard. It was high and scary and probably not that safe but was very popular with the kids in Steinbach in winter.

This photo was taken at Easter time because I am wearing one of the Easter dresses my mother sewed for me. Most of the photos I have of my childhood were taken by my mother’s older sister my Aunt Viola when she visited us from Saskatoon and she was visiting us for Easter in 1961 and 1962.

This photo was taken by my aunt in the dining room of the house on the highway where we were dying eggs with our Mom for Easter. My sister and I have curlers in our hair as we always did on Saturday nights.

When we lived on the house on the highway I attended the old Kornelson School just a few blocks from our home. It was on the site where Steinbach’s City Hall now sits. The school was demolished in 1964 just a couple of years after I attended it.

My grade three class at the Kornelson School in 1961-1962. Our teacher was Mrs. Mary Kihn and she had forty students in her class. I can still remember the names of about twenty of my fellow students. I am second from the right in the second last row.
This is my grade four class at Kornelson School in 1962-1963. Our teacher was Miss Esther Toews. I don’t know why this class was so much smaller than my grade three class. I am third from the right in the last row.

I have photos of a birthday celebration in the house on the highway. I am not sure if it is my 8th or 9th birthday. I am sitting in the big chair holding my gifts with my brother on my left and my sister on my right. Judy Kehler is to the far left, next is Marilyn Barkman and beside her is Valerie Hiebert. I don’t know who is peeking out behind my brother. Behind my sister are Penny Peters and Betty Hildebrand.

My mother had decorated a table in the basement of the house for the party meal. We are wearing hats we probably made. From left to right Judy Kehler, me, Penny Peters, Val Hiebert and Betty Hildebrand. My Mom always went all out for our birthdays making them really special.

I have lots of good memories of those two years we lived in the house on the highway in Steinbach fifty years ago. I wonder who lives there now.

Other posts……..

My Old House Is So Beautiful

I Lived At the Hospital

My First Home

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I Went to the TV Church

Grace Mennonite Church Steinbach

When my family moved to the town of Steinbach in 1961 we attended a new church that had just been started there called Grace Mennonite. I was surprised to learn from the other kids in grade three at the old white wooden Kornelson School where I attended classes, that our church was commonly referred to in town as The TV Church. This was because quite a few members of the church had televisions and television was considered a sin by many people in Steinbach. There were also members at our church who drank alcohol, hence our other nickname The Party Church.

In 2002 I addressed my experience attending The TV Church in one of my regular columns on the Faith Page of the Winnipeg Free Press.

I attended the TV Church for nearly forty years before moving away from Steinbach.

Other posts…………

Feeling Excluded

What is Sin?

Grace Mennonite Church

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What Gift?

Opening presents at my grandparents’ house in Drake Saskatchewan in the late 1950s

I’ve been browsing through the old newspaper columns I wrote in the 1990s. My mother used to cut all my columns out of the paper and save them in photo albums, so I have hundreds I eventually took out of those albums and stored in envelopes according to their topic.

I wrote this reflection in a 1994 column as I began Christmas shopping for gifts for my sons who were nine and sixteen at the time.

Mom reading to us. My sister and I are in dresses Mom sewed for Christmas. You can see the stockings are hung.

What Gift?

Someday our children may travel faster than the speed of light to destinations we can only dream of

They will no doubt, sail stormy seas that are completely foreign to us

As young people have for generations, they too will boldly venture across the boundaries so carefully established by their elders

They are sure to see things that are beyond our ability to imagine

What gift can we give them for such a journey?

For their trip to the unknown landscape of the future no toy or game will do

We must give them a gift of lasting value, a gift we have hopefully received on our own life’s journey

A gift that is the product of our deep sense of responsibility to them and our unwavering faith in them

That gift is an unconditional love they can never question

In time, everything will change for our children

But not the construction of their hearts. 

Other posts………

The Advent Books

God Rest the Children

Two Movies About Children Who Change Adults

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A Sign of Affection From Grandpa

When I was visiting my brother in Victoria he and I were recalling the way our paternal grandfather showed his affection for us. We both remembered how he would rub his scruffy beard against our cheeks in a playful way. It hurt a bit and made our cheeks red but we didn’t protest.

On our trip home, I was reading Carla Funk’s memoir Mennonite Valley Girl. It is a collection of essays about the author’s teenage years in Vanderhoof, British Columbia. Carla is a poet and that shows in her detailed and descriptive writing. I was surprised to find in an essay titled Holding the Flame that Carla’s Dad used to show his affection for her in the same way my grandfather expressed his for us. Here’s how Carla puts it…..

He clamped my shoulders in a soft bear hug. He smelled like he always smelled in the evenings: sweat, smoke, and whiskey. His stubble chafed against the side of my face, like it did when I was small and he would pull me close and say, “What you need is a good whisker-rub,” then scrape his cheek against my own until my skin burned and pinkened and I begged him to stop.

I wonder if anyone else had a grandparent or Dad who showed their affection in that way? Was it a Mennonite thing?

Other posts………….

On My Grandparents’ Farm

Grandpa and Me

A Lesson From My Grandfather

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Old Friends

With my childhood friend Shirley Joy in her Vancouver home

During our short stay in Vancouver, we were fortunate enough to be the recipients of the warm hospitality of a childhood friend of mine Shirley Joy, and her husband Mark. They were marvelous hosts.

Shirley Joy and I were able to do lots of reminiscing- looking at old class photos, talking about our favorite teachers, things we’d done as children, and our mutual friends.

Our Grade Five Class in 1963 with our teacher Mr. Helmut Klassen. I am second from the left in the second row and Shirley is right in the middle of the first row.

I was the editor of our high school paper The SCEye. I am sitting in the middle. Shirley was one of my staff writers. She is behind me and to my left.
High school graduation photo with Shirley

Shirley recalled eating licorice and drinking Mountain Dew at sleepovers, listening to Carol King’s record Tapestry for the first time in the rec room in my parents’ basement, and playing school in the garage of my house with all the neighborhood children as our students. Shirley remembered that one day her Mom insisted she shell pails full of garden peas before she played school so we had to take our students over to her house to complete that task before we resumed classes. She also reminded me of a concert we once staged with homemade puppets performing songs from The Sound of Music. We talked about how we built forts in a glen of trees in the center of our hometown and how a siren went off at noon and six o’clock so we knew when to head home for meals.

Mark, Shirley’s husband is a good chef and made us a delicious jambalaya one night from a recipe he’d found in the Globe and Mail. He had hot from the oven homemade muffins ready for us for breakfast. Another night we took our hosts out for Thai food. It is so reassuring that BC has a vaccine passport mandate for restaurant eating just like in Manitoba.

We had great conversations catching up on our lives, retirement endeavors, children and grandchildren, travels, and books we’d read.

Grade Eight class with our teacher Mr. Ted Klassen. Shirley is in the center of the middle row and I am just to her left in a striped top.
With my high school besties Deb and Shirley Joy on our wedding day

It really is lovely to reconnect with old friends.

Other posts……….

A Reunion With Old Friends

Friend For A Moment

My Mom’s Friends

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Life and Death of A House on the Prairie

In 1925 the year my mother was born, her family moved into a brand new house in Drake, Saskatchewan. The house was of a mail-order variety. Large department stores like Sears and Eatons shipped out a kind of kit that contained blueprints and every single board and nut and bolt you would need to put the house together.

According to the house plans which my mother kept, my grandparents Annie and Peter Schmidt received their plans and materials for the house through the Saskatchewan Grain Growers Association and my grandfather hired a carpenter to help him build the house.

My mother described the house in great detail to me.

My Mom’s family on the verandah of their house

There was an ivy-covered verandah and you walked inside to the biggest room in the house, the dining room. A railing high up all around the room displayed fancy plates and other knick-knacks. A couch was near the stairwell to the upstairs and my grandfather like to lie on it and listen to his favorite radio shows. On one wall of the dining room, there was a buffet cupboard for dishes, and on the other a wooden wall phone.

Just off the dining room was the parlor where my Mom’s family had their piano and my grandfather’s writing desk. Couches and chairs in the parlor were for visits with guests.

At the back of the house was the kitchen with its wood stove. My Mom remembers the dumb waiter. It was behind doors and had shelves where you could place items like jars of canned goods and lower them to the basement cellar with a pulley rope system. You could also haul up vegetables kept in cold storage down there or coal for the stove. In winter my grandmother did laundry in the basement but in summer her washing machine was on the back porch.

My grandmother doing laundry on her back porch. Right behind her is an area called the shed on the house plans. It had a sink where the family washed up when they came in from the field.
The second floor of the house

My Mom’s parents had their bedroom on the main floor but the other three bedrooms were upstairs. One of the windows going up the stairs was stained glass and at the top of the stairs was an indoor bathroom something very few houses had in 1925. Mom said it had a washstand and a claw-footed bathtub. Her Mom heated water on Saturday and poured it in the tub and they all took turns bathing in it. They had an indoor toilet as well and her Dad emptied its pail every morning.

The house had a large expanse of lawn and beautiful flower gardens my grandmother planted from seed. In the photo, my mother and her two sisters pose in the flower garden.

Near the house was a large barn and in this photo, my mother farthest to the left plays on the farmyard with her siblings.

Before I was born my grandparents sold the house and their farm to their son. I visited the house many times as a child when my aunt and uncle and cousins lived there.

On my visit to Drake earlier this week one of those cousins took me to see the old house. After my uncle died in a tragic accident in the 1960s my aunt sold the house and property. The house was moved to a different location on the same yard where it was built and it is still standing.

It is so dilapidated that it didn’t seem safe to try to go inside, but we peered through the windows.

Many of them still have beautiful leaded glass pieces in them. I remember delighting in the way the sun shone through those prism-like window features and created rainbows.

Even though it is sad to see the house in such a broken-down state it is good to remember that the house served its purpose marvelously in its time housing several successive generations of a family and creating many memories for them.

My mother is the baby in the chair on the verandah of the house in 1926.
My mother’s family in the 1940s

Other posts………

First Day of School-1931

An 80 Year Old Christmas Card

Remembering My Grandfather

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Rejected by Chicken Soup- Running Away From Home

I have had quite a number of my stories published in The Chicken Soup series of books but I have had an equal number I’ve sent in that were rejected. I’ve decided from time to time I might publish the rejects here on my blog. Here’s one I submitted for a book about mothers. It is a true story as all Chicken Soup stories must be.

Me at six years old

I ran away from home when I was six. I was angry at my mother for making me go to bed at the same time as my younger sister.

     “I’m older. I should get to stay up longer,” I said.

     “But you’re in grade one now,” my mother tried to reason with me. “You need to go to bed early so you can get up for school in the morning.” 

     “It’s not fair,” I protested. I took out the blue suitcase we used for train trips to my grandparents’ house and hoisted it onto the couch in the living room of our small apartment. I yanked my school uniform, my Sunday dress, my pajamas, and pedal pushers out of the closet and flung them into the open suitcase along with my piggy bank and a few of my favorite books. To my surprise Mom didn’t stop me.  She just stood watching. I closed the suitcase, grabbed the handle and marched to the door. 

      “Good-bye. I’m leaving and going far away.” 

      “Have a good time,” said my Mom. “But if you change your mind remember you can always come back home.” 

       I couldn’t believe Mom was really going to let me go. I trudged down the long apartment block hallway and out into the evening air.  I plodded along the train tracks that ran behind our building dragging my heavy suitcase. 

      Soon I heard a train coming.  We heard trains all the time in our apartment. Their clacking and chugging provided a kind of lullaby as I drifted off to sleep beside my little sister in our bed that folded out from the living room couch.

But walking right beside the track was different. The train cars hurtling by sounded like a herd of angry bulls charging past me on pounding hooves. The wheels screeched and I had to let go of the suitcase handle and plug my ears.   I was breathless with terror and ran to hide behind a pile of coal beside the track. 

       And then I heard a dog barking. I was petrified of dogs. I tried to bury myself in the coal to hide. Finally, the dog was quiet but the sun was setting and I was shivering. 

        Dejected I turned back toward the apartment block, my face and hands and legs black from the coal. My cheeks had white streaks left from the tears I’d cried when I heard the dog. My mother had been watching out the window the whole time, but she acted surprised to see me when I opened the door. 

       “Why hello,” she said. “Looks like you need a bath.” 

       After my bath, she put white raisin cookies and chocolate milk on the table for a snack.  She read my sister and me a story, listened to us recite our prayers, and tucked us into bed. 

      “Welcome home,” she said as she bent down to kiss me goodnight. 

Other posts……..

Living at the Hospital

In Chicken Soup Again

Back in Chicken Soup

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Teen Targets

Someone told me a story this week about a teenager who had just started work at a Winnipeg cinema that had re-opened for business. The teen had already been bullied by people who didn’t want to follow the mask regulations dictated by the province. They became rude and angry when the teen requested they put on a mask before entering the theater. That brought to mind a conversation I once had with a group of my high school students about bullying.

Photo by Keira Burton on Pexels.com

Some told me they had been bullied because of their race. Some had been teased about their accent because English wasn’t their first language. Others had been harassed about their clothing or hairstyle or had their sexual orientation questioned sarcastically. There were students whose family background had been ridiculed and others had been the butt of jokes because of their unique physical characteristics.

But…….. the most common kind of unfair treatment surprisingly had come from adults who bullied them or treated them unfairly because of their age. 

One boy said he’d been browsing in a store when the business owner approached him and asked if he had stolen something. The young man said he hadn’t and turned to leave. The owner refused to let him go until he had searched him for stolen merchandise.  “He didn’t even apologize for falsely accusing me”, said the student. 

Other kids had seen people cross the road rather than walk by a group of teenagers. Teens had been the recipients of dirty looks for no apparent reason other than their age. Some felt discriminated against in the workplace where they believed employers felt freer to get angry with teenage workers.

Teen workers deserve the same respect as adult employees

Like the situation, I mentioned at the beginning of this post, customers sometimes feel they can treat teen employees less respectfully too. They feel freer to vent their anger at a teen thinking perhaps they won’t face the same repercussions because the teen isn’t as likely to retaliate or stand up for themselves. I know I experienced some of that kind of bullying treatment when I was a teenager and worked as a waitress.

As we slowly begin to enter post-pandemic life and start engaging with each other again in all kinds of settings we may need to remind ourselves of just how important it is for adults to be good role models when it comes to bullying or angry behavior. We need to accord everyone, including young people a full measure of respect.

Other posts………

Lessons Waiting Tables

Crossing the Line

A Display of Racist Anger

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