In 2008 my son’s girlfriend Alisa, who would become my daughter-in-law a few years later, knit a lovely green hat for me for Christmas. I actually received the hat in July of 2009 because we were living and working in Hong Kong at the time and had spent Christmas of 2008 in Australia. When we came home to Manitoba for the summer we had a Christmas lunch with our son and his girlfriend and exchanged presents. My husband took this photo of Alisa and me after I’d received my hat. Over the last decade, that hat has been on all kinds of adventures with me.
I wore it when I was visiting the Colosseum in Rome. It kept me warm while I was hiking up to a glacier in Iceland with my sister
I wore it exploring the beautiful tablelands in Newfoundland’s Gros Morne National Park.
Here I am skating the Red River in Winnipeg in my hat. It came in handy on a chilly fall visit to Quebec City.
I wore it while touring indigenous cultural and spiritual sites at the Ancient Echoes Museum in Herschel SaskatchewanThis year my daughter-in-law knit me a beautiful new hat for Christmas. I love the new one and have already used it many times. I think I will keep my old hat though because it has so many good memories associated with it.
The Myrdalsjokull Glacier Hike
No Christians Fed to Lions and Other Things You May Not Know About the Colosseum
Skating the Red River
I just finished the novel Miles to Go by Beryl Young. Inspired by a true story it is narrated by two grade seven girls Anna and Maggie. They are best friends growing up in a small rural Saskatchewan community in 1948. Sadly right near the beginning of the book, Anna’s mother dies in childbirth. Anna who is just twelve must step in and care for her two pre-school sisters and the new baby. Anna has to keep house, make meals and do laundry. Anna is a promising student but she has to drop out of school.
Eventually, the father comes to realize the whole situation is untenable. He can’t afford to hire help, and he really wants his oldest daughter to go to school. His job requires him to travel and doesn’t allow him to assist with household responsibilities. The father makes the difficult decision to give away the baby for adoption and put the two younger girls in foster care. Anna is devastated her family is being split apart.
I think what Anna’s father did was fairly common seventy years ago. With birth control not available and knowledge about women’s health not what it is today, many women died in childbirth and families were left in the situation Anna’s was.
A friend of mine has written a memoir about her father in which she reveals his parents sent him to live with relatives for five years. His family would grow to include 13 children and his parents simply couldn’t manage to feed and care for them all.
Hopi woman with her children 1940s- image from the Digital Public Library of America
When we lived and taught on the Hopi First Nation in Arizona we learned about a custom in the past whereby women gave their childless sisters one of their own children. This was considered the right thing to do. We met a Hopi university professor who had been raised by her aunt and uncle in a situation like this and she had no hard feelings. She realized that in many ways she’d had a better life and more opportunities than her siblings because she was raised as an only child by parents who had been desperate to have children and gave her every advantage.
Making a decision to give a child away would be such a difficult thing to do, but in the past, it was something parents sometimes felt was their only option.
Common Threads- The Hopi
Thirties Prairie Portraits
Learning How to Write Historical Fiction
My Dad on the phone taking a medical call while we were in the middle of a birthday supper
Someone contacted me when I posted the picture above on my blog asking how it was that I had a colour photo that was an action shot from my childhood.
Making cookies with my cousin at the kitchen table in my grandparents’ farmhouse
The person commented that pictures from the 1950s and 60s tended to be in black and white and most were pre-planned posed pictures.
Waiting for our cookies to come out of the oven
People didn’t take many photos of everyday family scenes because cameras, film, flashbulbs and photo developing was expensive and most families lived on a tight budget. Colour film was especially pricey.
My sister and I have a tea party outside at our grandparents’ house
I replied that the reason I had colour action shots from my childhood was thanks to my Aunt Vi.
Reading stories with my Dad
My mother’s older sister wasn’t married and didn’t have children of her own so she took photos of her nieces and nephews.
Me and Aunt Vi 1957
Aunt Vi was a teacher with a reliable salary so she had money to spend on a camera and she enjoyed taking photos and having them developed.
Opening Christmas presents at my grandparents
Aunt Vi is 97 now and I take care of her affairs for her. In the process of moving her several times I have come across many of the wonderful colour photos she took of my childhood.
Mom singing and playing the piano with my sister and me.
It is a treasured inheritance.
Aunt Vi’s Autograph Book
The Easters of My Childhood
Visiting Aunt Vi
I found this photo while I was helping my Dad move this week. It’s my Mom with three of her good friends. The photo made me sad because my mother and her friend Agnes who are the two women in the centre of the photo have both passed away and Irene, who is to the far right has been hospitalized and won’t be returning to her home again. I met Lorraine the women to Mom’s left at a funeral this week and told her I had found the photo. Lorraine said she has a copy too and keeps it on her fridge so she can see it every day.
My Mom was blessed in her friendships. She had many friends who were near and dear to her. The other day I was reading through the many cards and letters we received after she died and realized just how many different people considered her a friend.
My Aunt Louise said in a letter to me after Mom passed away, “Dorothy had the capacity to create an atmosphere, an ambience about her that made everyone feel welcome in her presence. She was so interested in the life and activities of anyone and everyone who entered her space. She had a kind spirit, a friendly disposition and always so enjoyed the moment.”
And because Mom was a good friend to many they, in turn, were good friends to her. I remember all the kindness the women in the photo above showed to Mom especially during the illness that eventually led to her death.
My mother was blessed in friendships and they gave her life meaning and so much enjoyment. In our busy lives, we don’t always take the time we should for friends. My Mom is a good reminder that friends are one of life’s richest gifts.
My Mom’s Friends
Are Men and Women’s Friendships Different?
We just wound up our family Christmas on the weekend. Our children and grandchildren came from their home in Saskatoon for three days to join the rest of us here in Winnipeg so our official Christmas was in January. Here are some things that happened.
1. We went sledding at the Forks.
2. My Dad met his youngest great-granddaughter for the first time.
3. We had our traditional waffle breakfast and ate the better part of a 17-pound turkey.
4. We completed a jigsaw puzzle worked on by three generations.
5. My husband gave our oldest grandson his first chess lessons.
6. We sang carols.
7. My seven-year-old grandson read Margaret Laurence’s The Birthday Christmas Story aloud to us.
8. Our daughter-in-law made two kinds of delicious homemade soup for one of our meals.
9. We found out what was in everyone’s stocking.
10. People read the Christmas memory stories I had written for them.
11. Many games of crokinole were played on a crokinole board I inherited from my grandparents.
12. We all shared a highlight from the previous year and one thing we wanted to work on in the coming year.
13. My husband told his grandchildren lots of stories and I read them lots of stories.
14. Our grandsons watched their aunt knit. I received a new winter hat she knit for me as a Christmas gift.
15. We went on a sculpture walk in our neighbourhood and then warmed up at Forth coffeeshop.
16. Board games and card games were played.
17. A whole box of Christmas sweets made by my friend Debbie was consumed.
18. We had fun at the playground behind the Children’s Museum.
19. We had extended family over for faspa.
20. Many memories were made.
Puzzling- A Family Christmas Tradition
Christmas 2013 is Over
The Nun’s Christmas
Filed under Family, Holidays
One of the things I love about writing this blog is the connections with people it affords me. Recently I received a card and a letter from a woman who had known my grandparents. She was going through her belongings and found this charming Christmas card my grandparents had given their friends and family. It was not dated but from the apparent age of my mother and her siblings, I am assuming it was sent out between 1937 and 1939.
The name of the woman who sent the card is Agnes Samson. She told me everyone calls her “Bunny” and she is the daughter of my mother’s older cousin Edna Penner. Edna’s mother Katie Ewert and my grandfather Peter Schmidt were brother and sister. Agnes was going through some of her belongings and found this Christmas card my grandparents had sent out in the late 1930s and thought I might like to have it. She got my address from Joanne Ewert another family member who is a musician at my children’s church in Saskatoon and a frequent reader of my blogs. Talk about connections!
The house my grandfather built for his family in Drake Saskatchewan where Agnes went to visit.
Agnes writes about visiting her grandparents at their home in Drake Saskatchewan called Fairview Farm. It was just down the road from my grandparents’ house and when she was a little girl she loved to walk up to my grandparents’ farm to visit them. She says everyone loved going to “Uncle Pete’s” and my grandparents’ extended family members were all very close to one another. Agnes mentions how very fond she was of my mother and my Mom’s two sisters.
Agnes sent me her phone number and said she would be very happy to meet with me on one of my visits to Saskatoon. I will have to follow up on that.
I love how my blog connects me to people in my extended family and helps me to learn more about my grandparents and parents.
Two Stories About My Grandfather
Thirties Prairie Portraits
My Mom Starts School
Filed under Family, Holidays
My Dad’s grocery shopping bags are distinctive and easy to recognize.
Recently while visiting at my ninety-one-year-old Dad’s, I noticed his food supply needed a little supplementing. The freezing weather and icy sidewalks had kept him from making his usual trips to the Safeway near his home. So I took his two shopping bags from the front closet and went to the Safeway myself to buy him a few things. As I was going through the check out line with my purchases the cashier looked at me and said, “But these are Dr Peters’ bags.”
I smiled. “Yes, he’s my Dad. Do you know him?”
“Of course we know Dr. Peters,” she said. “He comes here regularly and we all enjoy chatting with him. Frankly, we’ve been a little worried about him lately because he hasn’t been in for a while.”
I told her my Dad was moving to an assisted living building and that beginning the following week he’d be having his meals in the facility’s dining room. “I don’t think he will be coming here anymore,” I told her.
“Well you say hello to him,” she said. “From everyone here at the store.”
I assured her I would.
My Dad loves to visit with people and so I wasn’t surprised that he’d made friends at the grocery store near his home. When my mother was having dialysis at the St. Boniface Hospital Dad knew all the other patients in Mom’s unit and loved chatting with the staff. Everyone there knew him too.
When I take Dad to a restaurant he likes to engage in conversation with the wait staff and at a concert or other community event he will greet everyone and offer to shake their hand.
Perhaps it comes from growing up in a small village as he did and knowing everyone that lived there. That made greeting people and visiting with them just a natural thing to do. Maybe it is something we could all do a little more often. It might make our world a friendlier place.
Saying Hello to People
I Want to be Like Anna
Hello in Other Languages